There’s a story about a man who is unemployed and desperate for work. He hears that the local zoo is hiring, and goes there to apply for a job.
“Well, it’s a little unusual, but I do have something,” says the zoo director. “Our gorilla died sometime ago, and we haven’t had the money to replace him. If you’re willing to wear a monkey suit and impersonate an ape, you’ve got the job.”
It didn’t really feel honest, but the man figured a job’s a job, so he signed on. After a few awkward days he began to get the hang of it, and soon he became one of the zoo’s primary attractions. One morning he was swinging from one vine to the next with a little too much animation and inadvertently swung himself right over the wall into the cage next to his–which was occupied by an enormous African lion.
The man knew he was a goner. He could feel the lion’s hot breath on his face. Reflexively, he began screaming for help, when suddenly the lion whispered urgently to him, “Shut up, you idiot, or we’ll both be out of a job!”
I think we all know what it’s like to sometime wear a mask, or pretend we’re something, or someone, that we’re not. It may be out of fear or insecurity or shame, but we all have the tendency to hide. Back in Genesis 3, even in that perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve “hid themselves” after they sinned. As someone has said, we’ve been hiding ever since.
Psychologists sometimes speak of the “impostor’s phenomenon;” that is, the universal sense that at some level we’re faking it, that if others knew the truth about us, the jig would be up. Sadly, we as Christians are just as prone to this as those who don’t know the liberty that comes in Jesus. And so, the focus of our lives becomes impression management, rather than living sincere and genuine lives for Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 3, of the freedom and authenticity that should characterize the life of the Christ-follower. He retold the story of Moses meeting with God on Mount Sinai, and how his face glowed afterwards, so much so that he had to wear a veil to cover up the shine. Later, when the glory began to fade, Moses continued to wear the veil, perhaps to cover up the fact that he wasn’t shining quite so brightly any more. Sound familiar?
Paul goes on to remind his readers that we are to live with “unveiled faces” in spiritual authenticity because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” His point was, because of Christ’s work in us, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in us, we are free to be real. We don’t have to hide any more.
May each of us at The Church at Shelby Crossings live authentic lives, without masks or veils or impression management–or even monkey suits–free to be who God has made us to be in Christ. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I do hope to see you Sunday.