Sugar Coated Spirituality
I was apart of a sugar addicted generation. I mean, we ate things like Pixie Sticks, Fun Dip, and Baby Bottle Pops, which were basically sugar covered sugar utensils... it's like the candy industry all of a sudden decided to stop being creative in how to put sugar into things, and instead just pushed a bowl of the sweet stuff to our side of the table and said, "eat up." In previous generations though, sugar was used to mask the taste of gross things, a spoonful of sugar does help the medicine go down after all. Even today in modern pill forms of medicine they will layer the outside with a bit of sugar to make it more palatable.
I am really thankful for anything making pills easier to swallow, because I am a wimp when it comes to taste buds and gag reflex. But what if Christians, me included, do the same thing with our lives? But instead of covering up the grossness of a pill making it appear and seem much easier to swallow, what if instead we cover up the brokenness within our souls, lives, families, and churches making them appear much more desirable, enviable, and lovable than they truly are?
Going to school for Christian ministry I learned a ton about leadership, but I learned more than I knew how to apply. So when I landed at Mosaic Church in Orlando I was fresh out of seminary and ready to lead men... the only problem was I still felt like a boy among them, so I began faking my spiritual manliness by answering questions eloquently (I thought), constantly evaluating how I came off, how much I talked in a group discussion, how spiritual I sounded... At least one guy didn't buy it. I'm glad he didn't. Instead he always seemed resistant and put off by me. So I kept working to please him, impress him, listen to him, whatever I could do to earn his approval.
Nothing worked. So I pulled him aside one day and begun asking him if there was an issue that had caused his resistance, after a few minutes he politely opened up about how I came across inauthentic, measured, and fake. He didn't assume the worst in me, but it was obvious he was not about to become the Samwise to my Frodo, following my leadership wherever it would take us.
That conversation was like a gut punch for me because this guy was not attacking (which would have made it easier to throw away the comments) but instead he was blunt and honest and told me that I was living out Sugar Coated Spirituality. Covering up my fear of other's opinions with an outward shell of a spiritual Superman.
But if you notice in the above story, I wasn't thinking about Jesus a whole lot, I was trying to get me the recognition and respect I craved. At the heart, that was my biggest problem. In my spiritual agenda of being impressive I was making me the focus not God. There was a crew of guys known as the Pharisees that were very similar, they stalked out Jesus looking for ways to contradict him because THEY lived "pure lives," they believed that by putting on a spiritual show of how awesome and pure they were that the world and God would be impressed. But here is what Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV).
The Pharisees were living Sugar Coated lives. Outwardly, they were looking pretty sweet, but inside they were decaying. The reason? Their hearts were filled with fear! Have you ever thought of that? The Pharisees were terrified of what others thought. They wanted to be respected, honored, adored, but this desire is actually rooted in fear of rejection, abandonment, and mediocrity. So Jesus explained that while their spirituality might be Sugar Coating themselves to the world, God knew what was inside.
Since moving to Shanghai, I have struggled with anxiety and depression. I have sought counseling and medicine, and for the first time I let anyone who would pray for me in on it. I refused this time to Sugar Coat my brokenness. Jesus has taught me that I am worth much more than a sweet exterior, instead as a follower of Jesus I am meant to put my brokenness on display and allow God to heal me through the help of others.
So I don't write this out of a place of figuring this all out, but from a place of my own flaws and brokenness.
Stop Sugar Coating your life.
If you follow Jesus, stop living in the darkness. I see too many brothers and sisters struggling with monsters they think are hidden from the world but the claw marks are evident. I see too many church staffs that are filled with dysfunction, but put on a show of honor and respect, while they can't even make eye contact when they get off the stage.
Brothers, Sisters, Churches. Stop.
My friend was right for calling me out for being inauthentic. I was, and sometimes I still am. But as Don Miller writes, Grace only sticks to our imperfections.
So wipe the sugar coating off of yourself, because let's be honest, too much sugar is a bad thing and rots whatever it touches.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:9-10 ESV).