Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:
I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween. The Halloween party we had last Thursday was so much fun. Once again Jason wins best costume. You should ask to see the pictures. He makes a good Jesus. I can’t help it. I love Halloween. Ever since I was a kid I have loved dressing up in a costume and going from house to house to get candy. I loved singing the songs of the season: “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!” Even though I don’t go trick or treating now, I love to be the first one to answer the door when the goblins, ghosts, and ladybugs come by. (Yes, we had an adorable lady bug stop by.) I so enjoy the fun of seeing kids all dressed up and the joy of giving away treats that make them smile. Lord knows I can’t wait till Noah is big enough to go around the neighborhood.
I think the fascination for me has always been the opportunity to pretend to be something or someone else, to exercise my imagination in creating a fabulous new identity. It was always so much fun to dress up. One of the things I have learned over time is that many of us expend a lot of energy playing “dress up” everyday. I know I have. It’s not that we put on costumes before going to class or work, but we do make sure we project an image of ourselves that we want others to find attractive and believable, or at least an image that is acceptable to ourselves. I used to do this with a smile. My motto was, “always be nice, never be mad, and always look happy.” People would comment on how I was the happiest person they knew. In reality, the smile I wore often hid my real feelings. It was easier to put on a smile than to admit to myself and others that I didn’t have it all together. That’s just an example. People hide all kinds of things about themselves for all kinds of reasons.
I think of Mr. Rogers. When I was in seminary I would come home everyday from class and watch his show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I think it was therapy for me. I was finally having the mask of happiness peeled away and was very uncomfortable with what I was seeing in its place. But everyday I would hear those words from Mr. Rogers, “I like you just the way you are.” I was learning that it was okay to feel sad, mad, and drab. It was okay to need help. And I was also learning that while not everyone is like Mr. Rogers, some people are.
I like to think of the Wesley Foundation as a part of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. We’re not fancy, but everyone who comes through our doors is important. It is a place where “Just As I Am” is more than an altar call song, it is the invitation to the family. Come just as you are. Come and share your burdens. Come and share your boredom. Come and share your real self. Because once you don’t have to spend so much energy pretending to be something you are not, you miraculously find the strength to really experience true joy.
By the way, the real Mr. Rogers is Jesus. In His neighborhood, or shall we say Kingdom, everyone is important and highly treasured. Every person’s feelings are respected. And each one of us has the space needed to learn how to be like Him. There are no unreal expectations of us in the Kingdom of God except the ones we bring with us.
I pray that today you will feel the joy of being accepted for who you are. I pray that you will experience the freedom to just be yourself. I pray that you will know you have a home you can come to where you will be liked. If you don’t come to the Wesley Foundation, I pray Jesus will lead you to another place that is also part of “the neighborhood.”