My best friend Emilia came down from New Hampshire to visit, and on Monday we went to a lecture at Andover Newton Seminary. It’s an annual lecture she loved attending when we were students so we made a fun trip out of her visit, going to New Haven early to eat at Pepe’s Pizza and visit the Beinecke Library. I drove and got us to our locations just fine. Though leaving the library and attempting to find my car downtown was another matter. We came out of a side street and I scanned left and right, trying to orient myself to the neighborhood. I said, “Do you remember where I parked?” just as I was about to walk up the street to the right. Em just began to laugh, saying “You are brilliant, my dear. But spatially aware, you are not.” She pointed to my car parked off to the left—my car that you could literally see from where we were standing. I began to laugh so hard I was nearly crying. Mostly because she and I have had these moments together so many times.
It was an especially familiar moment in our friendship because she is someone who truly knows me to my core. There’s no playing it cool with her even if I wanted to! And this to me is a mark of a good relationship–authenticity. Whether we are thinking about friendships, parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, grandparent-grandchild relationships, co-worker relationships, the relationship among spouses or partners, etc. good relationships are ones where two people are authentically themselves. We can show both the good and bad sides of who we are. We don’t have to be some polished version of ourselves that we think others need or want to see. We are real. We are genuine. We are even vulnerable in authentic relationships.
And this is what I’ve always thought that God wants from us too. An authentic relationship where we bring our full selves to God, flaws and all. It reminds me of a time when I was leading a women’s retreat and I joked with those women that I had contemplated a ritual of footwashing to end our time together. Some gasped and said, “Well if you ever plan to do that, you had better tell us beforehand so we can get pedicures!” I get that. Footwashing can be vulnerable. Our feet aren’t always pretty and polished. And Lord knows I would be right there with them getting a pedicure if I had advanced warning! Though the disciples didn’t have time to clean up before Jesus washed their feet. In fact, their feet must have been so gross—walking around in sandals all day along the hot and dusty roads we still find in the Holy Land. Yet in that dirt and grime, we see Jesus stooping down, pouring water into a basin, washing the disciples’ feet, and wiping them with the towel that was tied around him.
When we come to God in worship and prayer, maybe God does want us to be our authentic selves—even when we’re not especially polished and pretty. Just a thought, for this week.
(This Week’s Thoughts 11.15.18)