“I Am Not Mafia!”

Last night after the singing, we did the usual hanging out. Actually, lest someone in my youth group accuse me of dishonesty, I was not actually there for the singing part but instead listened to someone else singing–the Shalom Quartet. They were fantastic as usual, with a few songs that I had not yet heard them sing. Hats off to you guys: Willard, Eldo, Lyle, and John. I enjoyed it a lot and I feel fortunate to have experienced another one of your concerts while I was here on vacation.

My youth group is quite different than it was a year ago. As a rule it is quite a bit younger than it was. Cedar Crest youth group is morphing and it feels strange not to have experienced the actual morphing, but simply to jump into the midst of the “morphed” occasionally. It was really good to hang out with my youth group again and one of the things we did last night was to engage in a game of mafia.

I was the “narrator” most of the time and it was fun to observe and play the game. For those who have never played, basically the game consists of several “mafia” mixed in amongst the “townspeople.” The point of the game is for the townspeople to try to eliminate the mafia by figuring out who they are. And for the mafia to eliminate enough townspeople before the townspeople figure out who are in the mafia. That is a fairly short explanation of the game.

As the townspeople try to figure out who is part of the mafia, people are forced to defend themselves, mafia or not, and try to convince everyone else that they are not mafia so they won’t be voted out. Some of the kids hadn’t played before so the first round was pretty low key and a little boring. As people got into it, the ensuing rounds were very animated as the group became more adamant in their accusations and rebuttals.

One of the things you have to do when you are accused of being mafia, is act as normal as possible. You can’t act to defensive but you do have to be  forceful enough that people will believe you. It’s a fine line–especially if you have something to hide.

It was a lot of fun to watch, but after I left I thought of a fairly interesting application to church life. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I try to put up a front. In church, I often feel the pressure to conform and say and do what will get approval from other people. Sometimes I wonder if we’re all just sitting in a circle saying and doing things that try to convince the others in church, “I am NOT mafia!”

People are struggling with things. Yet, we all hate to look weak. We think it doesn’t look cool to those around us. We’d hate to look stupid. Yet somehow when someone bares their soul, very few of us start throwing stones. Seldom do we admire someone less when they share an issue they are facing. In fact, I usually admire them more, but somehow, rarely is the connection made between head and heart.

The masks we wear create a mysteriousness and a lack of transparency that really shouldn’t be present in the church. That said, it is really hard to do that because everyone has expectations of what we should be. I think when we try so hard to please others it is really hard to be the person God designed us to be. I think this is the first key to the removal of this haze.

It’s something that I have been learning to do differently– slowly. God doesn’t want me to be someone I am not just to please others. And yet, sometimes, people feel so much more real than God is, and it seems like pleasing them is more important. In the end though, they are not the ones that made me. It seems like I forget this so often.

I also have to remember that there is no way I can please everyone. It is most important that I please God by being the person He wants me to be. The best way to do this is to spend time with Him–a lot of time. That’s the way He can best tell me about His plans for me.

Please join me as I make this transition. Don’t let people try to make you something you are not. Their input into your life is valuable but don’t don’t value it over God’s input. Eventually, a life of trying to please people will run you ragged. People often misunderstand what God’s purpose is for your life. Spend tons of time with God so He can tell you the things for which He designed you. And while you’re at it, enjoy taking cues from the One Who made you for  a specific purpose and also knows what is best for you.


One comment on ““I Am Not Mafia!”

  1. Patrick Overholt says:

    Very intriguing food for thought. Too often I find mymyself in that same rut, and look to the people around me for stability instead of God. He’s still workin on me!

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