September 22, 1998
Health food advocates and most vitamin companies say artificial is not as good as natural. What about food? Artificial grapes often look better than real fruit, but no one eats plastic food. Silk flowers need little care but no one plants them in their garden. Astro-turf never needs mowing but few people put it on their front yard. What about sports or jewels? Links on the computer is fun but my muscles get a better workout on a real golf course. Costume jewelry is nice but cannot beat real pearls and diamonds. We want the “real thing,” whether it is jewelry, a game, flowers, grass or food.
Most of us like real people too. ‘Artificial’ could mean wax museum dummies, but we usually use that term for folks who, for one reason or another, have difficulty being themselves. They are aloof, closed, hard to get to know.
Related to that, Christian psychologist Larry Crabbe says we are like onions. We cover our real selves with layers because we are afraid others will reject us if they see what we are really like. We protecting our inner selves because we sense that peeling off our layers could bring tears.
As an example of a layer, Crabbe uses shyness. He says under this external behavior is a person who is afraid that self-expression will bring rejection or ridicule. For them, being shy is a better quality than being wrong or thought silly, so they covers their fears with shyness.
Most of us do not admit or even realize we use layers as protection for our self-esteem. For me, it is boasting or over-involving myself in something that I am good at — to draw attention to my good points. If those layers do not work, I might try retreating, or talking about someone else as a cover, anything to keep people from noticing my shortcomings.
Sometimes we are not as inadequate as we suppose. Besides, people as more accepting than we think they will be. However, there are occasions when we really are inadequate or have done something foolish or wrong. It is far more difficult to admit it than to hide under excuses, blame-shifting, or a lifestyle that belies our burdened conscience.
Whether from real guilt or imagined inadequacy, these layers can become very thick. When that happens to me, I notice my ability to relate to others drops to superficiality. At that point, I need God more than ever; He is an onion-peeling expert.
For one thing, the Lord accepts me just as I am without putting me into competition or rating systems. He says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Other people might ignore, dislike or even hate us for our flaws, but God is always ready to accept us because He loves us. The Bible says, “He loves us with an everlasting love.”
God proved His love by the price He paid for us, the life of His Son. No matter what we are like on the inside or on the surface, His great love can fill our need for love and acceptance.
He also takes care of our fears and inadequacies. We worry about all sorts of things and cannot live up to our own expectations, never mind meet the demands of others, but God, true to His nature, provides strength and every resource we need. In Christ, we are not only loved and accepted but equipped and made capable.
This is the secret of onion peeling. God comes into the hearts of those who trust Him. As He meets our deepest inner needs, the layers begin coming off. We find ourselves less and less concerned about what people think of us and instead deeply care about them.
If we have layers and want to be ourselves, we can trust God to help us. When we become what He intended — people without fear, open and layer-free — we are more like genuine jewels and less like onions.