It was an early morning for the residents of Turlock who attended the 25th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Friday, but the wake-up call was well worth it as inspirational speaker and author John Lynch joined Mayor Gary Soiseth to share the importance of simply being yourself.
Since 1994, the breakfast has grown to mean something special to the community, serving as an event where Turlock can pray for local government leaders, public safety officials, the city’s youth and both the town and nation as a whole.
During Friday’s celebration of prayer, guests were treated to a performance by the Turlock Community Gospel Choir, and local business leaders led the group in prayer for children — that they are heard and loved — and for families in town, especially for broken families who may be dealing with addiction.
Soiseth took time to talk about the power of not only prayer, but diversity as well during his opening remarks.
“Turlock is very diverse, with houses of worship representing almost every religion, with Assyrian, Mexican, Portuguese dance halls, and with residents that can trace their heritage back over 100 years living side-by-side with immigrants and refugees that have moved to Turlock just six months ago,” Soiseth said, who said his Christian faith was a main driving force in making Turlock a welcoming home for refugees. “By conversing with and loving members of all different cultures and faiths, my own Christian faith is not threatened, but it’s actually strengthened.”
At last year’s prayer breakfast, former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt mentioned a man who changed his life – a man whose book, “The Cure,” helped him work on being his true, authentic self around others. The man Affeldt referred to last year was John Lynch, and this year, he shared the same message with the crowd gathered at the Assyrian American Civic Club.
In “The Cure,” Lynch writes, “God wants us to live authentically – fragile believers learning to trust Him and each other in relationships intent on love.”
Authenticity was the theme that Lynch shared with breakfast-goers, and through his journey of ultimately finding God after an early life of drugs and doubt, he shared that being true to one’s self isn’t always as easy as it seems.
Even as a pastor, Lynch found himself pretending to be wise even when he wasn’t, he said, and he was afraid to admit his struggles because he felt that he had to be perfect. But, limitations are what allow us to be loved by both our peers and by God, Lynch said, pointing out that the Bible tells us to bear each other’s burdens.
“When I hide and put on a mask and act like I don’t have limitations…I never get loved, and the person who loves me never gets to love me,” he said. “When I wear a mask trying to convince you that I don’t have limitations, only my mask gets loved.”
The common reaction when we sin is to hide, but Lynch added that confiding in others when you feel the need to sin can help end the cycle of hiding, in essence removing one’s mask. This is where a support system, like family or friends, can come in handy.
“What a powerful gift to have safe places that can protect me, where they know me so well that I might actually quit that thing I was going to do,” he said.
No matter what mistakes we make, God will love us through it by His grace – which, Lynch pointed out, is not the same as a set of laws.
“Laws are disobeyed, but grace is not a law,” he said. “This theological shift in my way of thinking has transformed me into no longer wanting to hide.”
In closing, Lynch left Turlock with a challenge.
“What if this is the gospel? And we could courageously begin to nurture relationships of communities with grace?” he asked. “A place where Godliness is not based on appearances or how many wrong things you do not do, where we applaud exposure and we don’t reject those who have failed, where the environment is safe enough for me to try out my faith instead of morphing it.
“You are the lights that get to go into this community and convince them that this is the way they can live.”