This week’s read-along assignment was to read chapters 1 & 2 of Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans. Chapter 1 was hilarious. I could feel her sarcastic pain. Chapter 2 made me want to puke. SOOOO much to talk about,
I’ll have to choose just a few points. UPDATE: I’m only talking about chapter 1 in this post so it doesn’t become wayyyy too long. I mean, we’re already around 1000 words here. I will deal with chapter 2’s business in another post today or tomorrow. I gotta go for a run right now…
Rachel talked about her early years growing up and how she attempted to win the “Best Christian Attitude” award at her private elementary school. I was cracking up at this. She mentioned her “strategy” for winning several times, which she said included things like keeping extra pens and pencils at her desk to loan to “needy students”, allowing classmates to cut in line at the water fountain, and making a point to mention “the plight of the poor, homeless and heathen” during prayer-request time, while all the other students were focused on lesser matters such as their sick pets. (pg 36) She won the Best Christian Attitude Award 4 years in a row. She didn’t make it past 4 years because they moved to public school. I wonder if she was a little relieved not to have to work so hard for that anymore?
The whole thing reminded me a little of the “Most Christ-like” sticker (I think that’s what it’s called) in Upward sports. My niece used to cheer for an Upward basketball team and every week when the stickers were handed out, it always seemed to me that the kid who didn’t get any of the other ones for the week ended up getting the “Most Christ-like” sticker. Sorry, kid…you don’t have any real athletic ability and you have no concept of the whole teamwork thing, but you didn’t cuss and you didn’t punch anyone, so I guess we’ll give you this sticker…
Later in the chapter she talks about her “strategy” for dealing with fellow classmates at her high school in Dayton, TN. Everyone there was basically already professing Christianity, so there was no one to “evangelize.” (Pg 41) She dealt with this by being overly friendly to everyone and “always looking for openings in the conversation that would naturally lead to a discussion about substitutionary atonement.” (I laughed/snorted really loud when I read this!! She’s flippin’ brilliant!)
Isn’t that just so like us?? Striving and creating strategies to deal with life and people? We all do it. Sometimes I guess it’s necessary, like creating a strategy to deal with a toxic person in your life, or a strategy to stay away from something that is detrimental to you. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but when devising a strategy to look good on the outside becomes our focus, we become exactly what Jesus talked about: white-washed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but are full of dead men’s bones. Making ourselves into a white-washed tomb should not become a conscious effort.
What I loved most from this chapter was her admission of being in a constant state of tension between being “discovered” and “found out.” (pg 37) She wanted to be discovered (or maybe recognized?) as a do-gooder and praised for her efforts, but underneath it all she was worried about being “found out” as a fraud who was only out to do good so she could be praised for her efforts. I have to say that I struggle with this tension a lot. Being the baby in a family of 7 siblings, I was doted on and was always the center of attention. That shaped my personality as a loud (even obnoxious!?) extrovert in the truest sense. I grew into a life-of-the-party kind of girl in my teenage and college years, and as you’d expect, that self-centered, “look-at-me” attitude got me wrapped up in some seriously awful experiences in life. Since devoting my life to Christ, I can see both the good and bad sides to this trait. On one hand, I’ve learned to take risks and put myself out in front of things that I’m meant to lead. It’s a natural fit for me, most of the time, and it comes with the benefit of being able to use my gifts in the way they’re meant to be used. But on the other hand, that little girl inside of me still twirls around in my floofy skirt insisting “look at me! look at me!!” and I have to make sure that I don’t allow her too much free rein. So I am constantly questioning my motives and asking God to search me out for that shred of the little girl who wants all the attention for herself, when it is God who deserves the glory for any good in me. On that note, I’ve come to realize that this can also easily be used as a weapon of the enemy, when it’s twisted up in my mind to make me shy away from doing things I am supposed to do. Sometimes I don’t end up accomplishing my given task for fear that I am just doing it for attention. I worry that I’ll be “found out” as a fraud who is only trying to get a pat on the back. It’s a crazy tension that I just have to count on God to work out in me. I suspect we all have our own type of this tension.
I want to say thank you to Rachel for her stark honesty and for her humor in this book. My brain is going a thousand miles a minute after reading these pages. Writing about chapter 2 might just take me out. Yikes.
Even if you’ve not read the book, these are some questions you can think about:
Who in your life might deserve a “Best Christian Attitude” Award? (really!) What traits do you see in them that make you think that? And how to they compare to what Jesus himself was like? Are they things you see in him or things that we’ve made up as “good” Christian ideals?
Have you recognized yourself at all in this explanation of living in a tension between being discovered and being found out? What’s behind that? Is there a central message that’s been spoken to your heart over the years that creates this tension? (Check out chapter 4 of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge for more on The Wound and the Central Message)