As a kid, I remember seeing a plastic statue of Jesus on a bunch of car dashboards. My parents even had one. Jokingly, they called it their dashboard Jesus.
I guess putting a plastic Jesus on the dashboard was a way of asking God to keep them safe as they traveled. But as I grew older, it became a sarcastic metaphor for those ways in which we try to use God to find a sense of safety, but aren’t willing to go any deeper than dime-store religion. There’s even a song by Billy Idol called Plastic Jesus with the refrain:
With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car.
I never wanted to be one of those Plastic Jesus people. But in many ways, I bump into myself as I make God an idol for my pleasure instead of a Creator who formed and is shaping us with Infinite Love.
The other day while on retreat, I realized that along with my Plastic Jesus, I also have a Plastic Brian—an ever smiling, always proper illusion of perfection—a false image I’ve created striving to be someone I can never live up to; my small self that keeps trying to make-believe I’m someone I’m not; that part of me that tries to impress and take care of others so maybe they’ll love and affirm me in return.
As I met with my spiritual director and exposed my Plastic Brian, I realized I’ve been shadowboxing with this illusion for years.
“What do you think God’s deepest desire is for you?” my director asked.
“To be happy?” I answered after a bit of thought.
“Well, that’s true,” he replied. “But I think it’s deeper than that. I think God wants us to become fully who we are.”
His insight warmed my heart. “What would it be like,” I thought, “to stop striving to live up to the perfect altar-boy image I’ve created for myself, and simply become fully who I am?”
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I realized I can stop trying to be perfect because all I’m called to be is perfectly human—a unique human being, blunders and all, infused with and guided by the Divine Spirit of Love.
When our conversation ended, I went back to my room and jotted down some of the characteristics of who I really am—my Authentic Self. It was humbling and freeing. And I asked God for the grace to continue to help me open my heart to become whom I’m created to be.
I’ve decided it’s time to stop shadowboxing with Plastic Brian, because you can’t fight with someone you’re not. Instead, I’m becoming aware of when I’ve placed Plastic Brian on the dashboard of my life again. I’m finding it often happens when I’m filled with pride, thinking I have to fix everything and everyone—or wallowing in shame, rubbing my nose in my shortcomings and mistakes.
And in those moments of deeper awareness, I invite God and my Authentic Self to simply hold me, ground me in the Truth, and melt my Plastic Brian so I can become fully who I am.
—brian j plachta
We are each other’s teachers.
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