Kiara messages a girlfriend this Sunday morning before church with a daring idea. “Should I come to church without a hat on?” she asks, knowing her friend will be honest.
Her scars are still visible through her cropped hair and, worse than that, the bare patch at the back of her head is still exposed. She’s just turned fourteen. It’s a brutal world out there with gushing adults, tactless kids, and potentially judgmental peers.
She wants to believe that church is a safe place to reveal her imperfection, but what about the ones and twos who would be turned off, even grossed out, at the residue of her painful past?
Growing up in South Africa, there are some remnant manners and cultures from the influences of our British heritage, one of them being that we should not “air our dirty laundry in public”. When something is unwell or unformed, we tend to keep it hidden from view.
And why should we expose the weaknesses and faults, the sins and shortcomings in our lives? There is a danger to “hanging it all out there”. What will they think? Would not even God prefer us to be private? It’s not just our reputation on the line... we are called by his name. Is he not ashamed, too?
We confess our faults to God, so that we may be forgiven (1 John 1:9), but we confess our faults to each other, so that we may be healed. (James 5:9).
Kiara’s head has been covered for too long. She has been in hiding for too long. There is only so much healing that can happen while her skin is kept from the fresh air. It is time.
Her friend replies simply, “Yes!!” with a red heart for love and a smiley face for encouragement.
Kiara walks through the gates and onto the property, a bit fearful... but determined. Within minutes she is engulfed by friends. Perfect love casts out fear.
And the adults gush a bit and, sure, some kids are looking at her crooked. But she looks back at them, raising her one working eyebrow and they laugh and continue their play.
All morning, fresh air is playing with her hair, and fresh eyes are watching her beautiful. They do not focus on her faults, although they are exposed. They see right through to her heart, and they heal it. She has risked. She is known. It is worth it.
The church has been tested: Can we be ourselves here? Can we be honest about what we still lack?
And the church has shown itself beautiful.