I remember the first time I tasted a kiwi, the slightly tart incredibly sweet fruit surprised me. I was a bit standoffish about this fruit, it was green, it had black seeds, it was different. I was a real standard issue fruit girl. Apples, oranges, bananas, berries. Offered a kiwi at a breakfast gathering, it would have been too impolite to turn my nose up, I was pushed out of my produce prejudice into a wildly wonderful experience. I relished this new taste, I couldn’t wait to share it. When I searched for the fruit at the grocery though, all I could find was a rough dirty brown colored egg-shaped offering. This was no longer appealing. Great effort was required to remember just how delightful the inside was, the exterior was not luring me. Still, I gave the store kiwi a chance and we have been in love ever since, over 30 years now. That tough skin protects what is precious, I get it now. That shell keeps the uninitiated, the fearful, away. More for those of us who are daring, who are willing to go deeper. The lesson of the kiwi could have saved me many years of shame and hiding, I am a very slow learner.
I listened last night to a presentation at church from an elderly woman who has been doing prison ministry for many many years. She sees a need and figures out that she can meet it and then brings some friends along. She makes new friends and brings them. She does ministry at prison because as she said, “Jesus told us 6 places go in His name, go to the prisons.” She spoke with passion barely contained, told her story in a meandering way because her stories are so plentiful. She raves about her ladies, the opportunities to touch lives that have been forgotten. She brought along one of those lives, a woman who had served 16 years inside and now is living freely, productively, assuredly. This woman told her story as well, not that we had any right to hear it. Still she shared it and she also told how critical it was for people who don’t have to tell you that you are worth something to do so. She explained how forgotten people can drink up those words and begin to believe them if they hear them often enough. How that can change the outcome upon release. She was brought as evidence. I was sitting in the audience as evidence, not many knew it. She was brave, I felt like a coward. I applauded her peeling off the hard shell right away, getting to that fruit immediately, showing the world how worthy she is without waiting to be discovered.
How much time has been lost, what could I have achieved if I had peeled off my hard coating, hiding behind what I thought was protection of a new life? I see now that each time I was terminated from a position because of that box you have to check, that secret agreement you make with the employer, that was an opportunity to remove the whole coating and just bear the fruit of my story, of my soul. Instead, I cowered, I wailed, I cried out to God, how could this happen again? I didn’t see He wanted me to be free of the shame that only secrets can bring, He wanted it all out in the open so I could live fully. Fear stops us from trying new food, fear stops us from being who we are. So I was given many chances by God and ugly people who did mean things not know God was going to turn their stuff to good, each time a bit of the outer covering was nicked off. A scrape here, a scratch there. See the shining soul within? That’s me. Finally brave enough, desperate enough, exhausted from hiding, I just ripped it all off and discovered that I am worthy still. Slow learner here.
Here’s the thing though, not all of us go to prison and have horrible histories and try to conceal who we are. Some of us just have not so great histories and try to hide. Others have not great todays and put up fences or wear masks. Regardless of our stories, we all do it. We are caught in the lie that no one will love us if we tell the truth, if we uncover what is really going on, how much we are hurting and what we, gasp! have done. IT IS A LIE. It is a complete fabrication that shields us from being picked up in the produce aisle, unwanted fruit with our tough exterior, and cherished for our sweet souls.
We are doing it to ourselves. We ignore the opportunities when we get that first scrape of hardship to share our hurting. We add more makeup and carry on. When everything is going to hell at home or work or with our children, we put on a new outfit and present the world with a tough exterior that hides the true story. We cover and cover and cover until the layers themselves become so heavy we can’t find our souls ourselves. The weight of our secrets toughening our resolve, we forget that all those run-ins with tragedy are meant to be shedding times. Is it any wonder that the tough exterior is called a hide? God wants our souls laid bare, our secrets out so we are no longer covered in new shoes and fresh eyeliner, the us He created unmasked and vulnerable so love can seep through. And then really go out. Because just like that first taste of kiwi, I couldn’t keep it for myself. I shared that delicious fruit with my family, at every gathering. I offered it to all who would dine at my table. “You have to try this, it is amazing.” Amazing indeed, to be real, open, me.
As we enter the hardest days of the Christian calendar, the days we really would like to rush through to get to the promise fulfilled, I know my Jesus was unmasked. He was laid bare at the cross. He was naked and vulnerable. This is how He went to His Father. I see now that He wants no less from me, from you. Broken, peeled, bared for all to see that they might come to Him also, encouraged by our truths, giving grace to each other, shining Light on the One who knows our secrets and has already forgiven. Will you dare sacrifice your mask at the cross? I would so love to know you, really know you. Together we could shine more Light. Together we could taste the sweetness of authentic lives. I wasted too many years covered in shame. Don’t waste a minute more. Your soul deserves to be seen and shared. Trust God to handle the rest.
By the way, have you ever tasted a kiwi? Please join me in the produce aisle. I know it’s ugly, trust me. Together we are going to find a real treasure inside.