I still vividly remember my first trip to New Orleans.
If you knew how many times I'd been there since for work you might find it surprising that all the trips don't just blend together (the rest kind of do). But on my very first trip standing in the drizzling afternoon rain outside of an accessory store some well-meaning student on a spring break mission trip told me I was going to hell.
I had literally just purchased a cross necklace. I was fully clothed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a zippered hoodie. My hair was pulled back in the most unattractive bun to protect it from the weather. I racked my brain trying to figure out what prompted her to make this assumption. But being a new high school youth leader at the time I listened patiently to her attempt to share the gospel after asking me nothing more than my name. When she finished I was ready with a mental list of everything she did wrong in an attempt to help her fix her approach. But as soon as I opened my mouth to respond I heard the sound of a whistle blowing and just like that the group of teens scurried back onto their charter bus.
Years later I still wonder about that girl, that group, that church. Is that the face the world sees when they think of Christians? Is that the uncaring and condemning voice they hear when we speak? I thank God that she stopped me that day because if I hadn't already loved Jesus I probably would've written off the judgmental representation of Him I'd encountered and become a Buddhist or something. Who knows how many people they pushed further away from Him on that trip.
I think the lack of transparency in many churches has caused us to create a generation of believers that think cookie cutter perfection is the only way to honor Jesus. They forget that He called each of us from brokenness and we need to use our redemption stories to reach others. I had a period of time where I thought I had to be perfect. I was in a perfect church, with perfect two parent families, who lived perfect lives in their perfect suburban homes. I was embarrassed to admit that my upbringing was a little less perfect than all of theirs. I was terrified to admit the things I struggled with because everyone seemed to have it all together. Then finally somebody got real and that moment of transparency completely changed my life.
I was reminded of that moment when I read the following blog post on Authentic Womanhood.