I love real people. I love the rawness and rough edges of someone comfortable with being who they are and who can say, “[bleep] anyone who doesn’t like or get me.”
I’ve always been a bit self-conscience, a bit insecure, and a lot introverted. I used to find people who were the opposite of me to be somewhat unlikable – what I found out later in life was that the unlikable ones were pretending to be someone they weren’t.
But the genuine ones, those are the people I love to be around. I have never asked anyone to change who they are so that I could accept them or hang out with them. (If I did, it was a lifetime ago and I hope I someday am able to reconcile with the person and restore a damaged relationship.) One of the most odd sensations is how quickly a conversation or even the atmosphere around an encounter can change when someone learns that I am any sort of minister. You can say “Christian” and people immediately start getting defensive, but “minister,” “preacher,” or “pastor” (not that I claim that, but others tend to refer to me that way), and things get weird.
Friends will even apologize for swearing in my presence… Whatever. I tell them I don’t want them to change, I want them to feel comfortable around me, to say whatever they have to say, however it is on the heart to say it. “I wasn’t always a minister!” I tell them. They usually chuckle and let down another guarded wall… Which is the goal, is it not?
I’ve actually resorted to using profanity to restore the ease of those I was around once after someone said I was a pastor. Go ahead and judge me if you feel the need to, no one I was speaking to was offended and I’m only saying it out loud now because I am comfortable with who I am and who’s I am.
It’s sad to say, but I am amazed by the number of people that say they have never met a Christian like me or been to a church like the one I attend – “outsiders” are actually comfortable there. They may not get all the terms we use or be used to the flow or spiritual aspects of what happens in our church, but they don’t feel judged or unloved while they’re with us.
I don’t want people to feel like they have to change to be around me or so that I will feel comfortable being around them – “come as you are” is a really real concept to me. I love you fat, I love you skinny; I love you raw, I love you polished; I love you intelligent, I love you ignorant; I just want the real you! If you feel you can’t trust me with the real you, it is something wrong with me. If you can’t give me the authentic you despite me not being judgmental or hypocritical, that’s on you.
A member of our church recently posted on Facebook about how she’s always felt like she had to work through her issues on her own, how she felt like she wasn’t good enough to be accepted and loved how she was in real life – but that wasn’t the case with us. She knows she is loved and accepted for who she is right now. She knows there are people who she can count on to encourage her and pray for her.
The one thing I hate more than anything is when people are fake and phony around me. Please, for the love of God, just be yourself. Let me in, let me know you, let me love you. If you do, you will see that I am the same as you. We may have a different skin color, different BMI, different IQ, different personality, different temperament, different knowledge, different everything, but we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are. Nothing down-played, put-up with or tolerated, just real acceptance for who we are right now in this moment in time, regardless of where we’ve been or where we’re going. That’s what I offer anyone who would take the chance to be open with me – real love.