We visited with some old friends yesterday and I was struck by the absolute contrast between the kind of people who live for God in word versus the kind of people who live for God in heart. I haven’t seen these friends in over five years yet I felt closer to them than friends I see all the time. Why? They are doing what I have been trying to do for so long and always seem to fall short of, and that is living in real-time with God.
Hours went by but they seemed like seconds. We didn’t spend much time talking about the externals like jobs, kids, or church stuff. Most of the time ebbed and flowed effortlessly, carried by the sweet Spirit of God. They weren’t trying to be deep or interesting or anything. They were just sharing from the inside out, rather than from the outside out.
I asked my friend, Ralphie, something I always want to ask guys but never do. He told a story of one of his clients asking him if he was a believer. Ralphie beamed with a genuine smile and repeated what he told her, “Yes! I love Jesus!” I was taken aback by the immediacy and the genuineness of his response. It didn’t feel corny or contrived. It felt totally and utterly real. I asked him a silly question that my inner junior higher wanted to ask, “Is it weird for a guy to say that he loves Jesus?”
He had such a great answer. He chuckled and said, “You know, it used to. But that’s because I didn’t really mean it. Now that I really mean it, it doesn’t feel weird at all.” I totally got that. There is that subtle, almost sliver-like, difference in the tone when people speak of things they care about that conveys how deep and real the sentiment goes. Ralphie conveyed authenticity in his tone, like he really does love Jesus and isn’t just talking about it. It was like a breath of fresh air. I got a glimpse of what it would’ve been like for the people who hung out with the disciples after the death and resurrection of Jesus. They probably felt like I did in that moment, inspired to get to that place where Jesus is my everything.
Eileen and Ralphie did what most of us find so strangely difficult to do. They shared their thoughts, feelings, struggles and joys. This is the essence of personality sharing. Many of us image share rather than personality share. That part of our internal being that thinks, feels, struggle against or fights for, becomes increasingly difficult to access and express in and with the world around us. I think that is partly why we feel so alone. We are not necessarily superficial in nature, but what we end up bringing to others is superficial. And it isn’t only one way. This goes back and forth until we just kind of give up on deeper fellowship with people.
But that is only one piece of the puzzle of why we don’t personality share. I think we aren’t experiencing God enough or yielding to his work enough, and that lack of spiritual vitality inhibits the authentic expression of our personality as well as our journey through life. When you run into people that are spiritually alive it is undeniable, and hopefully contagious. It was for me. I was also convicted. I am kind of like a turtle that hides away in her shell whenever I feel the slightest bit threatened, judged, or misunderstood. I have a code. If I feel safe with a person, I will be vulnerable and expressive. If I do not, I hide away. I know some of that is healthy, but as it often goes with human codes, it can easily become rigid dogma rather than an adaptable guideline.
A.W. Tozer wrote something in The Pursuit of God that has forever shaped me.
Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God. God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of the New Testament religion.
If God personality shares, than what holds me back from doing the same? He is Good and makes himself vulnerable to fallible humanity. I am not good yet feel too proud and self-protective to personality share rather than image share. And the truth is that genuine fellowship can only be preceded by genuine personality sharing.
I want to follow God’s lead as I do two things: Share from the patterns of my personality and rely on Him to be the Life which my personality flows. I think that is what I saw in Eileen and Ralphie. I think that is why I felt like I was in the presence of friends, not merely sharing space with image sharers.