In a recent blog post, my friend Zoe wrote:
I need to be comfortable in my own skin and stop trying to wear the skin that makes everyone else comfortable.
Zoe’s post forced me to ask myself, am I really comfortable in my own skin? Am I really comfortable with who and what I am? Do I accept that this is the real Bruce Gerencser? Or am I still trying to wear a skin that makes everyone else feel comfortable?
I have shared before that who I really was was swallowed up by the church, the ministry, and my devotion and commitment to the teachings of the Bible. The Bible said that I had to die to self, that I had to crucify the flesh, if I wanted to be a follower of Jesus. Unless I was willing to do this I could not be a disciple of Jesus.
Churches are filled with people of varying personalities and character traits, yet Evangelical Christianity does its best to eliminate the differences between people. Evangelical pastors promote a cookie cutter style approach to life. Conformity, rather than diversity, is the norm. Those who refuse to be a one-size-fits-all Christian are viewed as rebellious or out of the will of God. If they would just submit themselves to the work of the cookie cutter Holy Spirit, all would be well, right?
I entered Bible college as a rambunctious, carefree young man. I suspect these traits are what drew Polly to me. The quiet, reserved church girl was looking for a “bad” boy and she found her “bad” boy in me. (bad, in the sense I did not fit the typical preacher boy mold) I loved life and I found taking risks thrilling. Yes, I wanted to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher, BUT I wanted to enjoy the thrill ride called life too.
I am sure someone will suggest that I was young and I just grew up. Perhaps, but I think it is more than that. As my theology and understanding of the Bible changed and I became more immersed in the success oriented, on-fire-for-God world of the ministry, the Bruce Gerencser who entered Midwestern Baptist College in 1976, began to die.
Over time, I became consumed with the desire to totally die to self, to totally, completely, and without reservation submit myself to Jesus. The only thing standing in the way was me. And so, bit by bit, Bruce Gerencser died, and I began wearing a skin other than my own. I wanted people to see me as the successful, Holy Spirit powered, always in control pastor. Perception became reality and the façade became the building. I lived my life this way until I left the ministry ten years ago.
After I left he ministry I began to founder. My entire identity was wrapped up in the ministry and the church. I had no idea of who or what I was. In my mind, I thought, I am wearing the skin of Jesus. I am, after all, following in HIS steps, right? Right? Except deep down I knew I wasn’t. In fact I knew that NO Christian really followed in the steps of Jesus. We were all playing a game of make-believe, each of us trying to more like Jesus than the other.
I came to the place where I asked myself…who am I? Who is the real Bruce Gerencser? As I moved farther away, both physically and metaphorically, from Christianity, the real me began screaming to be let out. He was there the whole time but he had been hidden from view by the skin of Jesus I was so fond of wearing.
When the Jesus skin began, like a walker in Walking Dead, sloughing off my body, my real self could once again breath. Over time, the Jesus skin peeled away and what was left was the naked, vulnerable, complex, and contradictory Bruce Gerencser. This was quite frightening at first. I had lost my identity and purpose for living and now I was forced to come to terms with who and what I really was.
I owe the counselor I see a great debt of gratitude for helping me to see who I really am. Like an onion, the layers of my life have been peeled back layer by layer. Each peeled back layer reveals another part of my personality and character that had long been swallowed up by the Way, Truth, and the Life.
I have come to see that Bruce Gerencser is a complex, at times, fucked up, human being. I find to refreshing that I no longer have to hide behind the skin of Jesus or the skin of the expectations of parishioners. I can be who and what I REALLY am.
The new me scares some people. They don’t know what to make of me. People who are Christians think I have gone off the rails or I am mentally imbalanced. (and I am, at times, both) Family members aren’t sure what to make of the new me. All they have ever known is the Jesus skin wearing Bruce. I hope, in time, they will accept me as I am. I will not go back to wearing someone else’s skin. I am done trying to make everyone happy, be it Jesus, church members, or family members. Life is too short and this skin of mine will soon be burnt to a crisp in the flames of the crematorium. Since I have no hope of a life beyond this one, I might as well try to live this one as the real, authentic Bruce Gerencser.