Moving from mannequin to man
Have you ever seen the movie "Mean Girls?"
In the movie, this sweet, innocent, wholesome girl who grew up globetrotting with her highly-cerebral (and largely overprotective) parents moves to the northern suburbs of Chicago. It's her first time in a real school, and high school is a bit of a shock. This is especially true when she encounters 'The Plastics.' Led by Regina George, a totally self-absorbed - almost cartoonish - character, these girls are obsessed with appearances. That's all that matters in their world, what's on the outside - how they look, how much they weigh, what clothes they're wearing and what boys will think about them. They're plastic. They're not real. There's nothing inside.
Well, last night at Mass, the priest had an excellent line in his homily: "We're all on a journey from mannequin to man." Wow. Think about it: As kids - and even as adults - we focus a lot of undue attention on the exterior things. When I was in elementary school, everything was a fad. You had to have a Starter jacket - until it didn't matter. You had to watch this show or listen to that music. Even as an adult, we want to have the nicest car, the nicest house, the biggest TV, the newest iphone. In many ways, we've been conditioned to believe that our value is dependent upon what others see when they see 'you.' But that 'you' is a mannequin. He or she isn't really 'you.'
It's in this journey from mannequin to man where we begin to see our true self, and eventually, crack the plastic shell and allow others to see what is inside, what is real. It's not easy. It means being vulnerable, which isn't always a cross we take up willingly. It means allowing the people we love to see our fears and anxieties, our worries and insecurities. Yet, it also means opening others to know our hopes and dreams, our talents and gifts. We allow others to see what is real, not just the shell.
As seekers and believers, we have to go below the surface, not only with one another but with the God who loves us. We have to let one another know we're there for one another in the joys and struggles of life. So too, we have to know that God is there for us at those moments, walking alongside us, hand outstretched.
For the past five
In his book, "With an Everlasting Love: Developing an Intimate Relationship with God," Jesuit Father William Barry compares intimate or authentic relationships with a great dance. When you're dancing with your partner, you anticipate one another's moves, because a bond has formed and while you may be two off the dance floor, in that moment you are acting as one in the dance. You also can't really hide anything from your dance partner. He or she can always tell by the look in your eyes - or the grimace on your face - whether you are truly enjoying the dance and whether you are living in the moment, or whether you are preoccupied by something else. Your dance partner knows you, the REAL 'you.'
So today, look at the long list of friends who've been waiting on your dance card. Break your shell, allow those people to see what's real and get out on the dance floor of life. Whether it's the foxtrot, the tango, the whip or the nae nae, a spontaneous phone call, a genuinely compassionate text or a lighthearted Snap, allow others to hear your song and join in the dance that is the life God gave you.
"Will you love the 'you' you hide, if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside, and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?"
-John Bell, "The Summons"