This weekend was a big weekend for me. I was to lead a workshop and preside over the table at a women's retreat in Myrtle Beach, preach and lead worship where I pastor and, go out with an elder to do homebound communion and drive 2 hours to be home to watch the Super Bowl with my brother. My weekend had some upsets. I had a recurring illness that rendered me in much pain and/or extremely drowsy or nauseous, when I wasn't using my waining energy to do the bare minimum of my weekend responsibilities. My sermon was 1 page. I forgot a lot of things I was supposed to say or do both at the retreat and at worship. I didn't make it to the Super Bowl Party. If I hadn't spent the last two weeks falling in love with Cam Newton, I could say "Well at least I'm not Cam Newton.". Those words might give someone who had a rough weekend a bit of consolation but that would only be if they didn't understand the humanity of Cam Newton.
I'm a North Carolinian and at times even proud of that fact. However, I am not a Panthers fan. I am a Saints fan, for no other reason that I lived in New Orleans when I was 23 and enjoyed the way the city rallied around the Saints( even though it was an Aints year) in the face of real hopelessness and despair 2 years after the storm. If I am a football fan at all, I am in the toddler years. I sort of know what's going on but not really, and everything is new. I am the person who will come up to a mature fan and say "Did you know there is only one quarter back on a team?". Because I live in North Carolina, I got caught up in the hype of the 2015-2016 Panthers. I was indifferent most of the season yet, happy for my friends who are actual fans and for the thousands of people who got discounted Bojangles and Krispy Kreme because of the Panthers. It is because of Cam, I know what it is to "dab".
When the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl, as a North Carolinian I hopped on the bandwagon. I looked at some over-priced merchandise. I hashtagged "keep pounding", I learned a few players names. I also read a lot about Cam. I like to dance. I like people who have infectious joy. I think smiling is a good thing. I envy people who have as much confidence and self-assuredness in their God-given abilities and I like people who think about others. Cam does all of that and does it well! I guess with the anonymity of the internet and, the media's attempt to rally everyone around division... turns out some people really don't like Cam. They say he is a whole bunch of adjectives and stereotypes I'd rather not repeat. From my understanding Cam Newton is unapologetically Cam Newton- a talented football player who remembers that football is a game and games should be fun, that there are things worth smiling about, that joy can spread, that a simple gesture like giving a kid a football can make someone's day or life. Cam Newton is authentic. I like authentic people. It is why I follow Gayle King on instagram and love Dolly Parton.
My workshop this past weekend was called "The Otherside of Praise: Authenticity and Lament as Worship". With a bunch of women, we used the metaphor and the literal symbol of a mask to discuss what hinders us from being authentic and what stuff we carry in anger or sadness, what do we masquerade around with myths of who we ar,e thinking this is what the world wants, and what God wants. One woman spoke about the pain of living authentically. It means you'll get hurt; it means people won't like you. It made me think.. is being authentic really all that liberating? is it really worth it? I know God wants all of me: those feelings of unworthiness and the anger I harbor towards others. She wants all of me: because in my weakness She is made strong. That sounds real great and all but it also means that I might get hurt even more. Authenticity is a risk. It is a risk for Cam Newton. It would be easier for us the anonymous masses if he did what we wanted him to do, toned down his celebration, suffered through interviews and scrutiny from his opponents all so we could think he was a role model. But Cam Newton risks being authentic, which is to offer himself up to be critiques and to be prodded at and picked apart. To be authentic is to allow ourselves to be human. To be human is going to mean we fumble, we get sad. It also means because no one is above the vast array of human emotion: hurt and sadness, mistakes, and fumbles- to be human is to testify that we are not God. There is the freedom. There is the liberation. There is the celebration. WE ARE NOT GOD. That is the beauty of authenticity. When we take off the mask, when we risk authenticity, we risk saying we are human. We also risk accepting these crazy things like grace and forgiveness and love. Cam has sacrificed his body on the field, and his emotions -good or bad have been laid bare for us. From one human to another human, may we give and receive grace,forgiveness, and love. And may we find a way to get up this moment and the next and take off another layer of the mask and risk authenticity.
Thanks Cam for teaching me that I am human and thus not God. Thank you for inspiring me to take off the mask and be wholly Thine, wholly God's. Thanks for reminding me in your dabs and in your sadness that our authentic selves are who God created and as the ole pastor says, "God don't make no mistakes".
Lord, make me real. Real human and in real need of You.