On The Surface

On The Surface

“It’s all good.”

All too often that phrase is espoused as a posture to deflect or avoid conflict. Rather than confront conflict and manage it, the passive route is taken because it is the easiest one to take.

I was raised a cradle Catholic. Born into a Catholic family, I was baptized at the age of one and I attended Catholic school from K-12. In the span of that time, I did it all with regards to Catholic traditions. Alter boy, lector, eucharistic minister; I was so involved in my faith my aunt was convinced I was on my way to seminary.

Then I went away to college, making the leap from living in a Cuban-American bubble in Miami to the jazzy streets of New Orleans. To say my time at Tulane University was a culture shock is an understatement. To say I made the most of my first experience living away from home would be even more so.

Part of the freedom that came with living on campus and being on my own was deciding for myself if I was going to make an effort to attend Mass on Sunday mornings. When your Saturday nights consist of Bourbon Street, beignets, and beer chasers, there’s not much other than sleep that makes the priority list for Sundays. You could say my first year in New Orleans was like a Will Hoge song. Although I did celebrate my faith on occasion, the consistency and intentionality was nothing compared to what I exercised in high school.

Fast-forward fifteen years. I was recently separated from my wife and trying to do the best I could in a co-parenting situation. My daughter had completed her first communion and now I was sitting through the Parish-mandated parent meeting – again – in preparation for my son’s sacramental experience. The person conducting the training/meeting told a story about how she recently had an argument with her husband, she realized she was in the wrong, and when she went to bed that night, she kept her back to her husband in order to, “save face.”

Save face.

It was as if a switch had been flipped in my head. All of a sudden I found myself looking around the room and coming to the realization I didn’t know anyone there. Sure, I had said hello to them in the pews and perhaps greeted them out of obligation at the local Publix, but I didn’t know anyone in that room. I had never invited anyone over for dinner. There was no sense of fellowship with any of the other parents. From my perspective, I was not in community with any of the people at my church.

Wait. What did she say? ‘Save face’?” I replayed that phrase over and over in my head. I tuned out everything else she said and focused on the egregious and theologically flawed idea that the best way to handle conflict with your spouse, especially when you’re at fault, is to not seek reconciliation and basically lie through omission. There we were sitting in the house of God, a God who grants us mercy and forgiveness when we don’t deserve either, and the message being conveyed was, “just pretend it’s all good.”

I left that day and never returned. For me, that was the day I stopped being Catholic.

Three years later I found myself re-married and walking through the doors of a non-denominational Christian church for the first time. It was a first step in finding a way for my wife, who was raised Southern Baptist, and me to celebrate our love of God together. I maintain in all that time I never had a crisis of faith but rather a crisis of church. And it was at that church that I learned it’s not about what I do (salvation through works), but rather what’s been done for me (we are saved by grace through faith).

It was there that my eyes were opened to what being a part of a church community meant. It was there that I learned the importance of participating in my faith and getting involved with the other members of my church. It was there that I truly learned the more we serve, the more we grow in Christ. It was there that I first experienced real, authentic, ugly, gritty, tear-jerking, uncomfortable, thought-provoking, heart-expanding relationships, all of them bookmarked by the love and grace of Christ.

Gone were the facades. Gone were the pretenses. Gone were the ideas that having it all together and ‘saving face’ were things to be celebrated. It wasn’t “all good,” but at the same time, the experiences and new relationships were all so very, very good.

We serve a real God who loves us and wants us to be joy-filled in all we do. Despite our pasts, in light of our flaws, and because of our imperfections, He loves us. And it’s been my experience the more honest we are with ourselves, the more we can really plug into a relationship with Him.

You see, once you accept that God cherishes you just the way you are, there’s no need to make others think you’re something you’re not. Once we pivot from doing things for our benefit to doing things for His glory, then can we say with confidence, “It’s all good.”

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.Galatians 1:10 NLT


The Courage To Write

If there’s one word I really hate it’s ‘facade’. The word itself and the slyness with which it’s usually said conjure up images of movie sets for old westerns. You know the ones. The buildings are merely planks of plywood painted to look like actual structures; thin 2×4’s the only thing keeping them up in the back.

Facade. I bet your reading of the word makes you think of someone whom you feel is fake. Someone who is not anything close to genuine. Someone who tries their best to make you think they’re someone they’re not.

We live in a world of facade. We live in a world where style almost always trumps substance. We live in society that embraces flash, worships immediacy, and cowers to political correctness. Honesty is not only a lonely word, it’s a forgotten concept.

But then you have moments when you come across people who are striving to be honest individuals. People working hard simply to be authentic. Who would have thought it could be an ordeal to just be yourself?

I am fortunate and blessed to live with a person like that.

Watching my wife on her journey of authenticity has been and continues to be an inspiration for me. It also serves as a reminder of what courage is. As I’ve been privy to most of the feedback she’s received from her writing, I’m reminded of what it takes to write and publish your thoughts, feelings, and emotions for all the world to see. Blogging in the manner which my wife does takes a type of courage very few people posses.

It’s not like writers of editorials who are paid to take a position on a subject and express their opinions with words. It’s not like a talk radio host who must be both entertaining, informed, and always one step ahead of the audience. It’s also not like other bloggers who are, on their own scale, Internet celebrities and whose blogs are more a commercial vehicle than a portal of introspection.

My wife’s blog is none of those things. If we’re lucky, it never will become one of those things.

The road to authenticity begins with a realization that there’s a whole lot of distance between here and there. It also begins with the conscious decision to take what’s been given you, both the good and the bad, and to make the most with it not just for yourself but also for the greater good. It’s akin to playing poker and having all your cards dealt face up. You can’t bluff your way through a hand. When life is good, you take the pot. When it’s not, you take your loss and wait patiently until a new hand is drawn.

The admiration I have for my wife, as well as the many other writer’s out there who pour their heart and soul into the words they create, is hard to describe. The rawness with which they write is mesmerizing. Their ability to make my eyes tear and my heart ache is breathtaking. Through all the chaos, noise, and superficiality, their voices serve as a compass that reminds me of which way I want to go. It’s a moment of focus in a whirlwind of blur.

There’s a lot in this life to distract us. There’s a lot in this life to make us think we’re bigger than we are. If, however, you ever feel the desire to take off your shoes and feel the earth underneath your feet, I invite you to find a blogger that inspires you, and to latch on to that person’s work.

Better yet, if you really want to explore the inner workings of your life, take a moment to write down what you’re thinking. You don’t have to post it online or share it with anyone. Write it for you. Write it for the experience of being your authentic self.

You want to live your life? Get real.