"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Remove that mask and be real!

This year isn't even a month old, but it seems already a lesson from God is taking shape: be real. Just within the last couple of days I've been reminded by it as I read a blog post and moreso the comments about backbiting and another that dealt with God wanting us to be honest. Like Andrea wrote I'm rather private and find it difficult to share my weaknesses and admit where I struggle.

In Wild Goose Chase, Mark devoted a chapter on "the cage of guilt" and shared how confessing our sins is actually a biblical thing to do according to James 5:16. I'm not saying we blatantly share them as if we were proud of our sinful deeds, but when we truly want deliverance from things, why not share this with others? Marks said as a pastor he has heard a number of confessions and they used to surprise him. But now, he said the thing that surprises him more is when people actually confess. My own pastor said he'd much rather sit across the desk from someone who admits he is struggling with pornography or drug addiction than someone who pretends everything is fine in his life while this battle rages privately. As my pastor says, the church is for the sick! It's for those who need help from God and support and love from the people of God. Don't think you have to be all holy and cleaned up before going to church. It's there where we should find help for our struggles.

But all too often the people of church wear masks. We smile. We shake hands and greet our neighbors. We look great dressed in our Sunday clothes, while inwardly we are hurting and crying and struggling with all sorts of things we would never ever want our fellow churchgoers to know. What would they think if they knew my family wasn't perfect?

What a shame.

We are all humans, yes? And last I checked, all humans go through troubling times with either a wayward child, a hurting spouse, an ailing friend or even an addiction-laden self! Why then do we think we have to project perfection?

Do you really think the Bible characters had it all together? Maybe if they had written their own stories they would have edited out the ugly parts. You know that whole adultery-and-murder thing with King David or the running-away-from-God-and-being-swallowed-by-a-great-big-fish experience Jonah went through. I mean, how humiliating is that? And Moses - the wonderful man used greatly by God -- lost the right to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God and hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Ugh. I would have written my story differently. Does the world really need to know of my selfishness, my grumbling, my struggles, my unkindness in responding to others?

God didn't sugarcoat the Bible. He showed His people, warts and all. Why then do we pretend with Him? And with others?

Let me add that I don't mean this confessing of "well, that's just the way I am so there" attitude. This is some people's attempt to justify their backbiting and hateful attitudes when they have no desire for God to change them. I've heard people say this before and it was basically their way of saying, "I'll slander and be unkind in how I respond to you because that's just the way I am so deal with it." Eh, that's not a Christlike attitude. For sure those may be natural responses (Hello, I have those, too!), but like Jesus they are not.

And if our goal is to be like Jesus, we need to quit justifying "that's just the way we are," and seek His help in responding in a different way.

Boy was this a rambling post . . .

Do you find it easy to confess your faults and weaknesses to others or do you tend to sugarcoat yourself (and you family) so others see a well-put-together you? Why do you think people are scared to be real and share with others within the church? What are your thoughts about this thing being between me and God so why would I share it with anyone else? Have you ever found confessing something to be freeing? Do you think one result of keeping things quiet is making others believe they are the only ones going through this same thing? Any other thoughts or questions on this topic?


Stacy K. said...

I will readily admit that I have faults, but I have a hard time actually sharing intimate details of my struggles for the most part.
The Biblical example of David is one that demonstrates how God can be pleased with a person even after they have made some pretty serious mistakes.

Amber said...

'Do you find it easy to confess your faults and weaknesses to others or do you tend to sugarcoat yourself (and you family) so others see a well-put-together you?'

It's *hard* to confess that I'm not perfect. I mean, people should just accept that I am, and move on. Why do they insist on inflicting me with reality? But really, I think it's a combination of pride, and the drive to not be seen as 'defective'. We're presented with the image of 'perfect' and we want to *be* that, because they seem so happy, but those people aren't real. Real people are never going to be perfect. But admitting that is hard, especially when we're talking about our actual problems.

I'm of the opinion that a single persons sin does not just harm them, but has the potential to harm others. To that end, it is the business of the church, especially if it is a sin that causes public scandal. Think the 'Catholic' politicians who support abortion. Their Bishops have an obligation to correct them, and if they don't correct their behavior, then there are consequences.

I have, in both personal life and religious life, found confession to be freeing. The 'confession', to a parent, for example, of the thing you did wrong takes away a huge heap of fear, of worry for 'when are they going to notice' or 'can I keep it hidden?' Religiously, while God knows what you've done already, I find the acknowledgment of my wrongs to be... freeing as well. It's a matter of knowing what I did wrong, and getting advice, sound, spiritual advice, on how I can keep myself from falling into that sin again.

You know I personally find the fact that the people in the Bible, patriarchs, prophets, kings, common people, are all shown to be real people to make it all more believable. I find comfort in the fact that, despite their flaws, God chose them and used them. Knowing, ahead of time, that they would fail in being perfect, but that they were still *worthy* of the charge He laid on them.

Sarah said...

I love it when people are real. However I find it harder to deal with when there is no apparent point to it and they just want to wallow. It is best to be real and also constructive.

I actually have the opposite problem to you, I am too much of an open book and I quite readily share my struggles. One of my biggest faults is that I tend to wallow!! My other blog used to be all about that. Now I try not to do it so much. No-one wants to hear it. lol.

On WWR, I used to share some of my moral struggles in password-protected posts but it never felt very freeing because people seemed to not know how to react. I guess a lot of people are not used to such honesty. It didn't really help me to do better, anyway. Maybe I just shared with the wrong people. In the end I have deleted most of those posts.

But there again, I am still quite honest in my public posts about the struggles I go through with religion, and a lot of people have said that I've voiced thoughts they have too but have never voiced. I think there is good in it. I think constructive sharing is a good thing, but for some people there is a limit to how much sharing they can take because it is so unfamiliar (and that can be discouraging).

Susanne said...

Stacy, so true about David. I'm like you, I think. It's not so easy to share details. I'm all about vague admissions though! Er, I think! :)

Amber aka Ms. Perfect, I love what you shared: confession as freeing - ah, good stuff. And, yes, that's what I love about the Bible as well! I have a harder time with Islam because their prophets are so stinkin' perfect! :) The Bible shares how God can use us IN SPITE OF our flaws. It shows how gracious and powerful He is! Thanks for your comment.

Sarah, I've always loved that you were so honest. I never read your protected posts except the last one because I wasn't part of your group until later. So I don't know what you shared so who knows how I would have reacted. But I think it's great that you are willing to "confess your faults." Great point about not wallowing though. I don't find the Bible telling us to wallow in our faults. In fact James 5 says to confess them so we can pray for one another and be healed! Healing is not wallowing. :)

I'm glad you share about your religious struggling as well. Definitely I believe others are helped when we are honest in our "wrestling" with spiritual things. It's how we are challenged to think and grow.

Thank you all for your comments!

Sarah said...

I'm rethinking this whole honesty thing. It seems overrated. Or maybe there's a time and a place and it's not on a public blog. What do you think? I'm really undecided what to do.

Susanne said...

It's tough to be totally real. I'm gathering you are finding this because of your sharing honest thoughts on your blog. Not everyone agrees and it's hurtful sometimes to get negative feedback. But share whatever you want. I like that you are real. I'm sorry it's been a struggle for you lately. Hugs!

Sarah said...

Thanks. And thanks for never telling me not to be so opinionated about Christianity!

I am finding it hard with the blog. I guess I still think being real is good - I certainly don't believe in being false - but you can keep some things private without being false. Boundary issues... I never had enough readers before to have to worry about causing offense!

When it comes to admitting weakness I think you have to be prepared for people turning round and kicking you while you're down. Or else, only tell people who you can trust not to do that. :)

Susanne said...

Best wishes with all that. I know it's tough to separate our emotions from some people's comments. At least I am that way! :) Keep on blogging though. I enjoy reading your honest thoughts.