Several years ago members of my choir applauded me on my recent accomplishment:
“We heard you finished your thesis. Congratulations! What’s it about?”
“The title is ‘Culture Shock in Vietnamese Adolescents.’”
“Oh. What does that have to do with music?”
Confusion covered their faces. They assumed music was my only expertise, my only gift, my only interest, my only layer. Surprise!
I am often amazed when I read the eulogies of brothers and sisters in Christ. Back in the day before age and illness caught up with them, they were roller skating champions, ballroom dancers, or surfers. Those talents certainly weren’t evident in the life I knew about, the person I was aware of.
I know the usual metaphor is to look at people as an onion with a multitude of layers. But I would rather look at them like the layers of a cake. Of course, under the frosting can be the same flavor, layer after layer. You know what you’re being served. No surprises. You can be sure of what you’re getting.
I’ve been to weddings, however, where there were different flavors in each layer, all hidden under the same frosting. That’s the way some people are. Just when you think you know everything about a person, you find something new, something you are “tasting” but aren’t sure what flavor it is. Something that either makes you smile or brings tears. Something that shocks or delights.
I like to think I’m more than meets the eye. More than that first layer of the cake. At the same time, I want to be the same person. If you cut into that last cake layer you will find my faith in the Lord Jesus. But I don’t want you to have to dig that far to know what’s there. I want my faith flavor to show in every layer. How it has influenced the layers and years of my life.
Whether we’re a plain vanilla through and through or a festive variety in every layer, what counts is how we use those flavors for others and to God’s glory. Because those flavors are the gifts we’ve been given, especially that gift of faith.
What good is it if I’ve hidden my faith. Certainly I’m still a saved child of God. But it’s not doing anyone else any good. I’m supposed to put that flavor, that faith, that light on a stand so it benefits everyone (Matthew 5:15). Not so people applaud me or what I’m gifted at or what I’ve accomplished, but to glorify my Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
Still people hide their layers for different reasons. They don’t want to seem boastful of their accomplishments. Some are insecure on how they will be judged, or they are ashamed of secret layers. Still others could be hiding something that reveals their true motives and character, who they really are. That’s a layer I’m wary of. One I don’t really want to bite into.
But most hidden layers need to be nurtured, recognized, and applauded. There may be layers that can strengthen our company, our organization, our family. Perhaps, when we look at the whole church, or business, or family, we can begin to celebrate the beauty of all the layers that have come together, all the individuals who contribute to a spectacular achievement. That body of Christ with all its flavors!
I often wonder, though, what layers I’m missing in people I know or am working with… students, employees, coworkers, family members. What interests and passions do they have? What talents and gifts have never had a chance to shine? What else don’t I know about them?
I also wonder what else I don’t know about my Savior? I know I can be reading something I’ve read before in the Bible and I’m hit with a new revelation. It’s like I’m reading it for the first time. That’s because my Lord Jesus is full of delicious surprises!
And He has many layers: first as a baby.. later as a teacher and miracle worker… then as my crucified Savior… finally as my Risen Lord who promises to return just as He left for heaven.
It’s time to get to know our Lord Jesus better. Time to taste the full flavor of who He is. Don’t get stuck on the first layer. He’s more than that baby in the manger!