Of many and varied faces

I just came back from the liquor store, and my brother-in-law saw me and said hi on the way past. It’s always interesting to witness their family’s response when I mention or they see me with alcohol (they don’t drink). What occurred to me, though, was also what the cashier might have thought – someone with waist length hair, wearing a hoodie that says “This message is illegal in many nations” and Romans 1:16, purchasing several bottles of spirits – now that might have seemed a little incongruous! Incidentally, she didn’t check my ID, which according to store policy apparently means I look over 30. I’m not sure whether I’m happy about that or not.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

But it got me thinking about the many faces we tend to have. We portray these not just by our speech and actions, but by our body language and clothes. My wife, bless her, very much wants me to wear a suit, or at least khakis and a button up shirt (I never even owned khakis, to my memory, before she took me shopping for them) to church on Sunday. I’ve never been comfortable with this. Back home we pretty much came to church in what we felt like, I guess. I mean, if we were going to the beach afterward (or if we’d been before), I remember turning up in boardshorts and a singlet. Actually, I’ve turned up to church before in full hippy attire, replete with flares, hair brushed straight down all around, John Lennon glasses, in a three piece suit, basketball shorts and jersey, a tux, disco attire with stretch skin tight denim flares and semi-open shirt, in a medieval ankle length cloak, and I’m sure a few other strange things. I’m not talking about for costume on special occasions, I’m just talking about normal services. To be honest, I feel that for me to dress up in ‘Sunday best’ for church would be very much more for men (or at least for my wife) than for God, and as such, if I’m doing it for that reason, then I shouldn’t be doing it. I can (and do, eg in the shower) pray and worship sans clothes, so I don’t really understand the idea of dressing up out of respect for God on a Sunday.

Yet we would be judged (by some people) on our godliness by our Sunday morning attire. I don’t like that, but it still makes me think of the number of faces we (I) have. Not in a bad way, in fact it makes me think of Paul in Corinthians talking about being “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” I’ve made an effort over recent years to not carry a facade like I used to. Sure, I hide my sin and exaggerate my holiness/godliness – I think we all have a tendency to do this, at least to other believers, if not to ourselves. But what I mean, and it’s had a bit of a working out since I moved to Texas, is that I’ve been very open about my appreciation (that’s a good word!) for various spirits and wines, and alcohol in general. I’m sure I will post about my thoughts on alcohol (or at least link to some articles that well summarise them), but that’s not what this post is about.

We all have faces. Many of them. We’ll talk about sports with some of “the boys” (if you’re male). I’ll talk about knitting with the ladies. I’ll talk about physics and engineering and aerospace stuff with the lady in my small group who’s an aerospace engineer. If you’re into certain types of music, I’ll talk about those with you, from classical to heavy metal, because my tastes are pretty ecclectic. If you like coffee, I’ll encourage you to try kopi luwak if you can get your hands on it (I’m working on getting some more…it is amazing). If you like fantasy fiction, we’ll go there, musical theatre, there, if you’re actually musical, let’s jam, if you want to cook, let’s cook, if you want to play video games, I’m game. My point is that we’re all fairly eclectic in our interests, when we get down it it. I may be more so than some, but that’s exactly where I see this maybe more than some people – I subconsciously, even without hiding my faith in any way, present different faces to different people. All the time. If I’ve been talking to you about heavy metal, operatic metal and physics, then I’ve very much not been talking to you about musical theatre, ballet and knitting. Things I love.

Now I think of the phrase “two faced” and it’s got excessively negative connotations. But I think I’m multiply faced, without conscious intention, all the time. And I’m wondering if that’s a bad, dishonest insincere thing, or completely genuine natural thing?

Paul talks about being all things to all men. He preached differently to different people in different places (as Jesus did, if we want to compare them), and addressed different issues with different people and churches. And I see some of that in myself. Not that I’m the Pauline-apostle-evangelist, but I can get on with most people because we have one thing in common or another. I can hold a conversation about the representation of women in the Bayeux  Tapestry (I actually wrote an essay on that in my university days), theology, wines and liquors, physics, quantum mechanics and the results that claim the discovery of the Higgs boson, Coppelia and the Phantom of the opera, how annoying ribbing is because you can’t knit it on autopilot, my enthusiasm for any number of foreign foods, we can talk culture, theology,  military history and strategy or just play Call of Duty. I think that’s much more of a good thing than a bad thing. As long as I’m not making a habit of actively concealing elements of my lifestyle, because I’m afraid of what people will think or because of guilt, I think I’m fine.

The next issue is the second half of that verse, that by all means I might save some am I at all, or how to, leverage my varied interests that He might use me to reach some? I won’t promise a next post on that, because I don’t have the answer.

Still it does bear thinking about, and consideration. Am I being two-faced, or just putting forward one part of a bigger face at a time, with more to come later? And if the latter, how can that be done in a non-duplicitous manner? We’re taught that half-truths are untruths, but are they always?

Incidentally, because it was highlighted and recommended at the store, I tried Largo Bay Spiced Rum rather than my usual Captain Morgan, and I like it – I’m tasting vanilla and maybe coconut, and…I’m very impressed, for the price!


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