Better than Real?

Spring has sprung where I live in Lincoln, Nebraska and many trees are filled with white, purple, and pink blossoms that point to new life in the days, weeks, and months ahead! Unless you are allergic, I’d imagine that you, like me, are celebrating the bright symbols of fruitfulness. The trees really are quite beautiful.

You can imagine my surprise then, when I saw a beautiful blossoming tree with it’s perfect flowers that, even at 10 yards away, looked a little too perfect.

Tree

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was indeed too perfect. Lo and behold, in downtown Lincoln is a sculpture of a tree that is masquerading as a flowering emblem of life and yet, it’s just a pretty amalgam of plastic, metal, and lights.

I can imagine the artist pitching the design:

Think about it: at Christmas, we’ll put white lights on it, illuminating a perfect silhouette of a tree that has shed it’s leaves. In the spring, we’ll string it with cherry blossom lights that will look so real that people will think that they’re in Japan or Washington DC! At night we’ll turn the lights on and then it will be even more engaging! And…no one will be allergic to these flowers! It will be better than if it was real!

Or that’s how I would have pitched it. Better than real. Except that, it’s not. Bolts are no substitution for roots and plastic isn’t better than the fragile feel of a flower petal, no matter how you spin it.

                                    tree, base                      Tree, blossoms

I couldn’t help but think about how frequently I have been like this tree. I have made editorial decisions about how to present myself, based on what I think others would like to see. Perhaps I’m afraid that my real self isn’t desirable or will cause others problems. I doubt I’m alone in this. We may hold back our beliefs, thoughts, or feelings because we are afraid that others may judge us, reject us, or not like us.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem with this. At the very least, it’s dishonest, but I think that it’s even worse. It actually shows a pretty significant lack of trust. When we don’t trust others with the gift of our authentic selves, we are showing too little faith in one another. And, we are thinking too little of ourselves. To put a finer point on it, I also think that it denies the work of God in our lives and in the lives of others that God has brought alongside us. Sharing the authentic gift of ourselves is really at the heart of the privilege of what it means for us to love one another, which is the second command of Christ, second only to loving God. Sharing authentically then of who we really are is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

The plastic/metal/lighted tree is pretty. But at the end of the day, it’s not real. I’ll take the risk, the beauty, and even the possible sneezes during allergy season any day. Real is always better.

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About ashleealley

I am the Clergy Recruitment and Development Coordinator for the Great Plains United Methodist Church. I particularly enjoy helping people see what God is calling them to do and knowing how to respond to that. I'm an ordained deacon in the UMC. When I'm not deacon-ing, I run, or read, or spend time with family or friends.
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3 Responses to Better than Real?

  1. steverankin says:

    Yes. It takes real courage to be vulnerable. The paradox of vulnerability is that, in exposing our true selves, we feel powerless, yet Christ-induced vulnerability is power, the power of faithful witness.

    • ashleealley says:

      Thanks for posting, Steve. I preached during Holy Week about the very thing about which you spoke. I spoke about how Jesus’ weakness in the Garden when he prayed, “Take this cup from me, but not my will, but your will be done,” was actually power. And the weakness of he disciples falling asleep was a totally different kind of weakness. We get these two so confused, but intentional vulnerability may be the key.

  2. Meg calvin says:

    Ah, my psuedo-self has taken the lead for WAY too long.lol. I feel every year I grow a little more comfortable in the way God wired me. Real is always best! Excited to continue to learn from you through your blog. 🙂

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