Call a French Fry a French Fry

02/21/2009

I sat across the table with a friend recently. We were discussing many things, having a great time together as friends do. During our talk, and trying to get to the bottom of some things, I grabbed a French fry off my plate and put it on the table between us…it was time to call a French fry a French fry…and so we did. And my friend left that discussion ready to face the “French fry” in her life, and do something about it.

What does this mean exactly? It means that in the world we live in today and with the things that all of us are going through in life, it’s time to stop playing games. It’s time to call things what they are and take care of what needs to be taken care of—otherwise we’re never going to make the progress we’d like to make, and walk the walk we’d like to walk with God. Instead, we’ll live in a land of make believe, and we’ll call a French fry a green bean, wandering around in the dark and believing it’s the light.

Sometimes we need a friend who is willing to call things what they are.
And all the time we need a friend who is willing to love us no matter what that thing is.

Why are we so afraid of the truth? Especially when Jesus said the “truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Is it because the truth gets clouded in the lies of the enemy? Probably so! But the lies of the enemy will not set us free; they will hold us captive behind barriers of deception. We’ll think we’re getting our way, that we’re fooling the world, or fooling God, and the only one we’re really fooling is ourselves. No one is falling for our calling a French fry a green bean, except for us!

How many times have we thought:

I have a right to feel this way…not admitting that we don’t.
A little lie is not a bad thing…not admitting that it is.
I don’t need to apologize…not admitting that we should.
Doing that is not dangerous for me…not admitting that it is.
I’m doing the best I can…not admitting that we aren’t.
I have no other “gods”…not admitting that we do.

“Am I the one they are hurting?” asks the Lord.
“Most of all, they hurt themselves to their own shame.”
Jeremiah 7:19 (NLT)

Instead, let’s be truthful and admit that:
I don’t feel loving towards that person…please help me love them Lord.
I have wrong thoughts about that situation….please help me think correctly Lord.
I’m not doing what I should today…please help me change directions Lord.
I am jealous…please help my feelings Lord.
I don’t want to apologize…please help me do what's right Lord.
I’m worshipping other things in life…please help me worship You alone Lord.

That’s the awesome thing about being a follower of Jesus Christ. We can be truthful, because we don’t have to be anything we’re not. We don’t have to be great, or wonderful, or mighty, or clever, or beautiful, or perfect, and we don’t even have to pretend we are…all we have to be is His and ask God for help, as God had me do this morning. Of course God wanted to show me up close and personal what He was having me write about. (He does this more often than not!) And so He took me right to the heart of the matter, my heart, and showed me how I wasn’t feeling right about some things, how I had some wrong thoughts, and some wrong emotions. I could have stayed there and wallowed in them. Not admit to them. My flesh wanted to. I wanted to feel bad, to feel wronged, to be upset…but instead I prayed, “Lord, this is how I feel, and I don’t like some of these things going on in me. This has hurt, and I’m feeling ugly, and I wish I could be different…” And after admitting the truth, I asked for God’s help to readjust my thinking…and He’s always willing to be there for us when we admit our failings to Him and our hurts to Him. Our Lord comes and comforts us. Most times it doesn’t change what is, but God’s love changes what’s within, easing our pain and unease—and really, that’s where we are set free in our circumstances. We can stay stuck where we are, holding onto our pain and hurt if we want to, but God calls us out of those chains. It might not be instantaneous, and we’ll feel it wanting to creep back in—but little by little, God will soften our heart to His way of thinking, and that will call us to a more Christ-like way of handling the tough stuff of life. He gave me the words this morning that I needed, not my words, His, to handle what needed to be dealt with. My words could have wounded, His words are healing. My words could have caused division, His words build bridges. If we’re not willing to be truthful about what is going on inside of us, calling things what they are even as ugly as they may be, then we won’t have the ears to hear God calling us to His way of being instead of our own.

But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from the evil one.
And we are confident in the Lord that you are practicing the things we
commanded you, and that you always will. May the Lord bring you into an ever
deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:3-5 (NLT)

Satan is the prince of this world; circumstances will always be here for as long as we share this world with the enemy. “But the Lord is faithful”…He will always be here too, guiding us safely Home to Him! We can be confident in the love our Father has for us, the help He is offering to us, and the eternal life that is our inheritance. Then, and only then, can we start to live fully free in all our strengths, and in all our weaknesses, in all our mistakes, and in all our accomplishments, in all our poor days, and in all our rich ones, in all our dumb days, and in all our smart ones… As God’s child, can we face the truth, really admitting it, and understanding that the truth doesn’t harm us but instead sets us free, because it opens us up allowing God’s wisdom to guide us. It allows Jesus to lead the way in our life instead of the enemy.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Psalm 51:6 (NIV)

The absolute Truth is found in God’s Word, and as Rick Warren puts it:

The Bible says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Truth is not a principle. Truth is a person; truth is Jesus Christ…This is what separates Jesus Christ from every other leader of every other faith. Other leaders have said, “I’m looking for the truth” or “I’m teaching the truth” or “I point to the truth” or “I’m a prophet of truth.” Jesus comes and says, “I am the truth.”

Remember back in High School, and how difficult it was to truly be ourselves? We so wanted to fit in, to be cool. We tried so hard to be someone we weren’t a lot of the time. Have you ever wanted to go back to High School, knowing what you know now? I sure have, and then I realized, I’m doing just that! I’m back in school, with a bunch of young women not much older than High School age, some having even graduated High School early to attend beauty school—and there I am, 52 years old and sitting right in the midst of all this youth each day. What fun! To know what I know now, and have so many things just not matter anymore. I don’t have to act older than I am, because I am old, in their eyes. And I don’t have to be offended that I’m not in the “Cool Row.” Yes, it’s true! We have a “Cool Row,” with an actual sign the girls put up…but it’s not my row! And I’m really okay with it, in fact, I’m really okay that I don’t speak the young girl’s language, or get invited to their parties…or even be in their “Top Five” on their cells phones. And yet, despite all these things, we have a blast together! I’m accepted for who I am, a mom, a grandma, and a student who is learning to be a hairstylist just like them! We laugh together, we figure out haircuts together, we study together, and we congratulate each other on our accomplishments. I can be real, and I can be accepted. What a concept!

As we grow older, hopefully we start to sense God’s Truth deep in our inner parts, and God filling us with His wisdom for each day. That doesn’t mean we do everything perfectly. I don’t wrap every perm perfectly, or cut every hair with precision…but it means that no matter what we face each day, we can face it with Jesus as our Guide. We can know that God’s Holy Spirit is with us, living in us, and leading us. It allows us to walk into an environment that at first might seem totally foreign, and begin to build relationships with others in a way we never thought was possible. Why? Because we can see a French fry for a French fry, and be okay with it…not only our own situations in life, but in the lives of others around us. We can be truthful with what we’re doing, or what we’re thinking, or who we are…and not walk around in darkness, unaware of the deceptions we might be living in.

When we can see the “French fry” for what it is, seeing things in life as they are and not just how we would want them to be, it’s then that we can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When we can face things head on and not be scared, and not run away, but stand confidently on Who our Lord is in this world and what He would have us do, we can begin to walk in His light. It comes from being truly confident in how much our Lord loves us even in all our ugliness. Then in all our imperfections, we can allow His love to shape us and form us into His image—which is His plan and purpose for all of us!

Rick Warren wrote:

A lot of people say, “I think Jesus was just a great teacher.” But he couldn’t be just that: No great teacher would claim to be God if he wasn’t. Either Jesus is conning 2.3 billion people who believe a lie, or he was nuts, or Jesus is who he said he was.

With the Truth of Jesus in our lives, we never need call a French fry a green bean. We never need skirt around the truth, or be something we’re not. With Jesus, our worst mistake is forgiven when we ask Him for that forgiveness. Our worst thought can be made new in Him. With Jesus our most embarrassing moment is known, and He loves us anyway. Our greatest temptation He has also faced, our worst nightmare He has already lived through, our biggest hurt He has felt, our greatest loss He has endured… Jesus walked this earth and knows our struggles, and Jesus was never anyone other than Himself. He never had to be, because he never walked in anything less than total Truth and Love. When we look to a Savior who set such a high standards, we can know we’re focused in the right direction when we want to be like Him.

Each day at school, when possible, we gather together at the end of the day for a little Bible study time. After months of getting to know these young women, God put it on my heart to see who would be interested in spending some time in the Word when our day is finished. There can be between 4-7 girls who join in, and what we enjoy most is the time it gives us to focus on what’s important, it brings some peace back into what may have been a very busy, chaotic day. I was never a leader in school, I don’t feel like much like a leader now, but I know Who the Leader is, and that’s Who I can rest in. I don’t have to be cool; I don’t have to be smart. I don’t have to be anyone but who I am…I just have to spend time with the One who is the great I AM, and go from there. I don’t have to have all the answers, I can say, “I don’t know” when certain questions are asked. I can say, “I’ll look for an answer.” God doesn’t require that we be all-knowing, because He is. All that God requires is that we be ourselves, seeking His eternal Truth, giving our heart to Him. God doesn’t ask for perfection, He asks for openness and trust towards Him.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145:18 (NIV)

God will never fail to help us when we call on Him with a sincerity to be with Him and to know Him. We will see amazing displays of His love for us, and His help, and His perfect timing in all things. Oh, sometimes we would choose a different timing, a different set of circumstances, different people to be with, but that’s because we don’t know all things as He does. God knows deep into the heart of every person on earth, nothing is hidden from Him. He knows the total Truth of every matter, and it all matters to Him. He sees everything for exactly what it is, and loves us all anyway.

Young people are trying to find their way in this world, the aged have a deep path already carved out, and I get to experience both as I learn with the young, and serve many of the old. Our clients at school, many of them, come in from the retirement homes and from their grown children’s homes as they are driven to the beauty school, no longer able to drive on their own, Many come with walkers, or in wheelchairs, although we have those even in their 90’s who are still quite quick on their feet. Most come because we offer what they need at a price they can afford. It’s an interesting combination, as you might imagine, when the tattooed and the pierced work on the white haired and the frail. And then there’s me, in the midst of learning, in the midst of the ages, in the midst of my life and starting a new career. It’s challenging, it’s invigorating, and it’s ministry! Yes, ministry! It let’s me see the reality of life up close and personal as the aged tell me their stories, and the youngsters tell me theirs…it’s an opportunity to practice standing solidly on the Truth and not be swayed, to love when love might not be easy, and to share the Good News when surrounded by some difficult situations. The old are sharp, the young are sharp, and without the Word of God being sharper than a two-edged sword so much could take a person down. Instead, God builds up, He loves through, He brings comfort, and allows friendships to form. He brings laughter and teasing, help and comradeship, questions and answers…and so it goes. God is not afraid of any situation, and when we yield to His ways, He makes a way through what might seem most impossible.

In Bill Hybels’ book, “Just Walk Across the Room,” he writes, “Living in 3D involves developing friendships with the people right around you—many of whom are living rather far from God. But it doesn’t end there. Once you look up, really seeing into those eyes that you encounter day in and day out, the next step is to intentionally discover their stories. Learn what life has been like for them. What they dream about. What is going well in their estimation and what needs work. And as you might guess, these discussions don’t occur at arm’s length. You have to throw yourself into people’s lives and earn the right to have these types of conversations.”

We have to get real with people…we have to be real, and we have to be able to listen to their reality also, being willing to see things as they are, and not back away, and not back down. We have to not be afraid to be quick to listen, and slow to speak… to maybe even hear things that aren’t all that comfortable for us but need to be worked through before the “French fry” is revealed…uncovering where God’s comfort might be most needed.

An example: (Story has been changed to protect my client’s privacy.)
One day I had a woman sit in my chair, wanting a haircut. She began to talk about many things, things that can be uncomfortable for those of us who call ourselves Christians. We can quickly jump in before the whole story comes out, due to the subject matter at hand. On this day, I began to hear about a card reading she had gone to, and also an adulterous situation going on. Having noticed a quote from Mother Teresa on my mirror, I wondered later if I was being “baited” to see if I would bite or if I would love through the discussion at hand. I listened and cut her hair while she talked…saying very little. During her story telling, she asked me if I liked Mother Teresa, and I said, “No, I like who she serves…God.” So then she said, “So you don’t like Mother Teresa?” I assured her that that wasn’t what I meant, of course I like her…and the conversation continued. Slowly, the discussion turned to a very serious, emotional matter about the death of someone she cared very much about, and what she should do concerning a particular part of healing through it. Having experienced something very similar in my own life to what she was talking about, I was able to comfort her and offer some suggestions. As she left that day, with tears welling in her eyes, she thanked me and said she now knew why I had Mother Teresa on my mirror… I told her I hoped to see her again, and to hear how the story turned out.

I share this with all of you because it reminds me daily that when I’m putting rollers in my mannequin at school, or studying my book on manicuring, or cutting someone’s hair…it’s not about the hair and it’s not about the nails. It’s not about where we all work, and what we all do. It’s about who we are with and how we are loving God and then loving others each day. Are we able to listen to others’ stories and still see them for who they are underneath the junk this world piles on top of our lives? Are we willing to listen when someone is full of “beans” until we get to the “French fries,” the real truth of the conversation?

We are a people who want and need love and attention. We need to listen to stories long enough, and to care deeply enough to not get stuck in the “shock value” of the story, but instead find the love God has for each person, and then comfort the hurt they are feeling—to react to others the way Jesus would react. To see the French fry for exactly what it is, and not let it get in the way of knowing that God is bigger than anything the devil can set before us. God didn’t bring this woman to me on that day to have me condemn some of the things she was telling me…some of the blah, blah, blah…we’ll fill the air with—but rather to love her through that stuff and into the latter part of the conversation where true emotions were shared, true hurt was revealed, and true comfort could be given as only a loving God can do. He’ll love others through us if we let Him. His love is patient, His love is kind…

Jesus didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery how wrong she was. He told those around her to cast the first stone if they were innocent, which they weren’t, and then He sent her on her way forgiven, loved, and encouraged to walk a different path in life. How much more powerful that must have been to her in a world that is so quick to see our faults and condemn us for them instead of loving us through them.

C. S. Lewis observed, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because he made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

Jesus is our Best Teacher, because He is THE Teacher! He didn’t just read these lessons out of a book, He wrote the Book through a very chosen group of people! He didn’t look away, fearing what He saw in humanity, He looked all of humanity square in the eye and called things for what they were and loved us anyway. He is Truth, and He can help us deal in Truth when we know Him. Jesus casts out all fear, and lets us be who we are—not perfect, but loved and forgiven because that’s what He died to give us. When we begin to realize that, and live like that, then those around us will start to be more real with us, trusting that we’re not going to slam them down with Bible verses, but rather pick them up with true stories of those in the Bible who lived on this earth just like we do, and grew in their faith just like we are, and made mistakes just like we will, and still do… Heaven isn’t for perfect people; Heaven is for people who are following in the footsteps of a perfect Master.

Let’s call God’s love God’s love, and not human kindness, human strength, or human wisdom…because it’s not. On our own, we would be lost, unable to be truly loving or kind or strong—unable to admit the truth at all. Remove God’s love from this world, and it would be a world of chaos, confusion, ugliness, and lies. Even those who don’t love God are affected by His love. Even a world that has turned its back on God benefits from His goodness and His truth. God continues to call to us, urging us to walk in His wisdom each day.

When the Truth of Jesus starts to take root in our hearts, we are able to fall into the loving arms of our Savior and say “Thank You for all You’ve done for me! Thank You for Your help in all things.” We no longer need to be a scared people, afraid of our own shadows, or afraid of the darkness others might be living in. We can start to dig deep and lay it out there, surrender it up, hand it all over. Then when God’s light shines on any darkness in our lives, we can see it’s not so bad after all, because God is able to love us and change us through it. God even uses the ugliness to make us beautiful in His own time. God first loved us so that we can know what real love is.

With God, we don’t have to live in the land of make believe to make things work out right. Things have already been worked out right through our Savior, Jesus Christ. All we need is Jesus and His salt to flavor the “French fry” thoughts and conversations in our lives. Then life will taste as it should, instead of a bland, flavorless replica of the real thing.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

Until we meet again,

Diane