… because I might change my mind.

Reunions and the burden of false appearances

OK it’s been way too long since my last post. Sorry about that. I’ve been working on this one for about a week — hence the backdating. I hope the SEC doesn’t inquire about that! [Investment humor? Only DA will laugh at that. I hope.]

Jen and I went to our 15th college reunion last weekend. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been out of college for that long. We went to Asbury College, a small Christian liberal arts college in Wilmore, Kentucky. While we were there, the women’s soccer coach asked me to come out and kick around with some of his players on Saturday morning. He has given them a set of challenges they must meet to make the team. Some of them asked him to come out to help them. So I went out there. There were 5 girls out there. They were working on chipping the ball first. They need to chip it 40 yards as one of the challenges. Not an easy task. I was chipping with this girl for a while. She was working up to trying the longer distance. I was standing at the 40-yard distance to show her how far she had to go. She was getting close at around 33-35 yards. Where I was standing, it was a little muddy from the previous day’s rain and the regular watering they are doing to reseed the field. On one kick, I went to chip it the 40-yard distance. I knew I would need to give it a little more leg than I had been for the shorter chips. With the mud, my plant foot slipped, and I fell right down on my hip. The girls erupted in laughter. Then they asked if I was OK. I’m sure they’re asking me this because I am so old. I give them a hard time for laughing at an old man — especially because I could’ve broken my hip in the fall. More laughter. (I’m old, but apparently, I’m funny.) Later, we’re getting ready to leave, and one of them points out how dirty my shorts are and asks again if I’m OK. I assure them I’m fine, and tell them I’m just glad that the hip didn’t give out on me. More laughter.

We went to school with “kids” from a variety of backgrounds. Some kids went from Christian high schools straight to Wilmore. Others had gone to public schools but found their way to Asbury through their local churches. Some went because long lines of relatives always went to Asbury and that was the only place their parents would pay for them to go.

Being a Christian school, there were certain things that were required of students and certain things that were off limits. We had curfew. We had chapel three times a week. The men had to wear collared shirts to class. The women had to wear skirts unless it was freezing outside and then, pants were permitted. It sounds sort of puritanical. I guess it was (actually mid-way through our time there, the skirt rule got dropped — so progressive!). But it’s not like we had no idea what we were getting into. The college made us read the student handbook and sign a pledge to abide by its terms.

Our reunion got me to thinking about how we all reacted to life in Wilmore when we were in school and after we graduated. Some felt the pressure to do all that was expected and avoid all that was off limits. Others approached it as a challenge to get away with as much as possible. The ones that stand out most to me are those who went to great lengths to look like they were only doing what they were supposed to and avoiding what was off limits. But several stories surfaced during school and after graduation about people who succumbed to the weight of the burden of false appearances. It can be overwhelming to constantly worry about hiding one’s flaws.

I don’t think that lesson applies only to those with whom we went to college. I think at some point, we’ve all had those times where we put up a front to protect our reputation or our position. We need to be more authentic about who we are. We aspire to be better. To live a Christ-centered life. But we’re not perfect. None of us. Even that person you’ve always held on a pedestal. You know the one.

The revelation here (for me and maybe for you) is that no one thinks we’re perfect. If you have friends who expect you to be perfect or whose friendship is conditioned on you being perfect (or appearing to be perfect), it begs the question whether they’re truly your friends. Friends don’t care that you screw up or that you get depressed or that you regularly double dip your chip or that you chew with your mouth open (OK they might care about that — and a friend should tell you to close your freakin‘ mouth when you’re eating!). I would venture to guess that they love hanging with you even more when you let your guard down and reveal your flaws. A lot of people will love hanging out with you more if you’re not afraid to show that you have struggles like the rest of humanity. It’s hard to ask someone for help when you think they’re perfect and don’t struggle with life.

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