It’s not just my recurring dream (nightmare, really) but it has been found to be a common dream for much of humanity. You know the one I mean: I’m standing at a fancy party with either my pajamas on or no pants! In other words, I am NOT dressed for the occasion. How embarrassing!
And that’s why this is such a common dream of we humans. We fear being embarrassed! And why do you suppose that is? Hey, this is such a common malady among humans that they even have a scientific name for it “Social Anxiety Disorder.” Of course, this is when the fear of being embarrassed makes it impossible for you to function. But why are we humans so susceptible to this fear?
I’m convinced part of it is based on the reality that we humans are made in God’s Image and He is Persons in Communion. We were made to be in community. Innately, we know we are supposed to both interact, learn from, and teach each other. We were made for communion. And we fear not “fitting in” or finding our place. I’m also convinced this fear of embarrassment has to do with making ourselves vulnerable to others either out of fear of being hurt or let down by another. We, humans, fear what we most desperately need – communion. We fear the very vulnerability that will set us free from those embarrassing traits that make us afraid of being vulnerable. And, what’s more, we (wrongly and pridefully) assume we are alone in this fear!
So, how do we overcome this fear-based barrier to who we are really called to be? It all begins with embracing reality. But not just any reality! We must embrace the Reality of the Presence of God in the flesh and His gracious invitation to become like Him so that we will never fear again because perfect love casts out fear! (1 John 4:18)
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 22:2-14:
The Lord said this parable, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Our Lord tells this parable to show us the foolishness of ignoring His invitation to transformation SO THAT we WILL be properly prepared for His eternal “feast.” Look at this phrase and join me in contemplating the power of these words: “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.” (verse 8) Our fear of embarrassment is used by the enemy of our soul to keep us enslaved to this lack of worthiness, and this fear has to be seen as the weapon it is if we are to learn to escape its power!
Next, the parable finds the master of the feast inviting everybody he can to the feast and then he discovers someone still not “dressed” for the occasion. Notice, the master of the feast calls him “friend” (verse 12). Here again, we will never overcome the fear that keeps us enslaved to a lesser life without proper attention to our true calling. God does not reject us or hate us. He even calls those who foolishly choose to remain unattentive “Friend.” But He also refuses to “pretend” the state of our hearts doesn’t matter! As the newly recognized St. Paisios said “Struggle with all your power to gain Paradise. And do not listen to those who say that everyone will be saved. This is a trap of Satan so that we won’t struggle.” If we are to ever overcome this weapon of fear of embarrassment, we are going to have to settle in our hearts these two realities: First, God loves us and desires us to be with Him. And second, we MUST struggle against the inertia of our own delusions to press into the “beautiful wedding garment” of our baptism into Christ every day!
Today, are you afraid of being embarrassed? The answer isn’t to run and hide like Adam and Eve in the Garden. The answer is to face the wonderful provisions God has given you in His Church to “dress” you properly for His Eternal Wedding Feast! All you need to adorn your spiritual life with the beautiful wedding garment of love is found in the “ascesis” of a purposeful Orthodox life. Today, actively engage your spiritual life with joy and the reality that God will fill up every place where you are deficient if only you will push past your fear of being vulnerable and embrace His love!
P.S. O Lord of Glory, You have come to restore me to the “garment of light” Adam and Eve “wore” before the fall in the garden. You have come to “clothe” us in Yourself. And being baptized in the Faith means we have “put on Christ” so that we will be “dressed” appropriately for the Wedding of the Lamb to His Bride, the Church. Grant me the courage and the grace to stay focused on keeping my baptismal garment clean. Amen.