There are a lot of things that are beautiful from a distance. I've seen so many pictures of the infamous Hollywood sign. It's pretty cool from a distance. But once you get up close, it's broken down and quite honestly, a piece of junk.
There a lot of things that smell good from a distance. Like that food at Dollywood that smells irresitable, then you take the first bite and regret ever thinking that buying that $7 fajita was a good idea.
Last year, the theme for our student ministry was "Peel the Orange". An orange is beautiful on the outside. It's bright. The texture is smooth. It stands out, and from a distance, is very appealing. However, when you decide to start to peel back the orange, it's not near as appealing. The pith (the white lining) doesn't look very appetizing and it can be pretty messy. It tends to peel away in pieces and can oftentimes be frustrating. But then underneath that messy pith is the best part. The fruit. It takes work to get there, but it is totally worth it.
The idea of "Peel the Orange" revolved around our need to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is oftentimes the birth place of joy, belonging, love, creativity. It embraces the idea that you are imperfect but you are worthy of community.
Over the last couple years I've gotten a lot better at being vulnerable. There are people that I have invited into my life to hold me accountable. To challenge me. To encourage me. In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Deeply seen. I needed to allow people to see the pith and to walk with me through the mess. Peeling back my orange and being vulnerable was a challenge, but I've found an even greater challenge.
In order for connection to happen, we have to be willing to see others. Am I willing to peel back someone else's orange? Am I willing to embrace them? To see their pith and walk through their messy circumstances? Do I take the time and energy to dig deep enough to get to the fruit?