Will the real me stand up!
I am writing this blog in Cambodia. As I look out of the window in the lounge of the apartment I am in, I see a passenger boat gently moving along the beautiful river which the apartment overlooks. Phnom Penh is situated at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, once considered the “Gem” of Indochina and is the heartbeat of Cambodia. This mighty Mekong River rises from the Himalayan mountain of Tibet and gradually builds up as it winds its way through China, Myanmar, Thailand Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before flowing into the South China Sea. Looking out at the river in front of me, I hope that Joy and I will get a chance while we are here to take a boat ride along the river.
It was the front view of this apartment that attracted me to this place as I was looking at accommodation on Airbnb. It had such a beautiful outlook and had a lovely layout. However, when we came to the apartment, we found out where the apartment was located. We arrived at night. We came through the front of the apartment and it was located above a bar. We were taken into the apartment which was lovely and were introduced to its views. We were then given the keys to the door and to the gate at the back of the apartment block. When we were shown the gate, we realised that the apartment block backed into what appeared to be the red light district of Phnom Penh. Coming out of the gate, we found ourselves on a street lit very brightly with bars and nightclubs and patrons being entertained by Cambodian girls. We realised quickly that the front outlook of the apartment fooled us into thinking that it was a lovely place without realising that behind that beautiful façade is a kind of night life that I stay away from.
The next day we walked down the street to a lovely looking restaurant for breakfast. I smiled and greeted the waitresses there before sitting down and apparently, I was asked if I wanted some female entertainment (I didn’t hear it as I was focusing on something more important like ordering some breakfast but Joy heard it and told me and I was advised by her to stop smiling and be a bit more solemn).
The location of the apartment got me thinking. What is it that I keep hidden away, not wanting people to know or see. I want people to see the beautiful me, the kind me, the lovely me. That’s the part of me that I advertise. It’s the part of me like that beautiful river that people can admire. But then, what is it that I don’t want people to see, that I keep well hidden away. If people see that part of me, they won’t like me anymore. They might reject me. Just like if I had known where the apartment backed onto, I would not have chosen the apartment and would have looked for something else.
As humans, we have built-in survival skills. Our desire to be accepted causes us to hide certain parts of our lives for fear that if people knew they would reject us. We want to fit in and be socially acceptable. We are scared to let others see the real person. For some of us, we can’t even face our own selves. As a consequence, we try to hide parts of our self even from our own self and pretend they are not there.
Fear stops us from being real. We put on a mask so that we feel safe. However, the apostle John reminds us that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4: 18). God, who is perfect love, accepts us as who we are. He knows everything about us, the parts of our life we want to show the world and the parts of our life we choose to keep hidden. God’s love casts out the fear that makes us pretend about ourselves and allows us to accept ourselves for who we are. When we become honest before God about who we are, that is when He starts to change us and make us more like Christ.
Even more importantly than God’s love for us, John goes on to say in 1 John 4: 19, we can love others in the same way we are loved because God loves us warts and all. This is why church should be a safe place to be real. We all have faults and weaknesses and by being real to one another, God can help us find support and healing to be the true person God wants us to be.
So, as I look out at the river in front of me, it encourages me to be a person who is real and to love and accept people I come across despite their weaknesses and faults.