A friend of mine sagely observed that “no one gets through this life unscathed”. As I get to know people I find out that the smiling “I’m fine” response often masks deep and sometimes unimaginable pain. That is why I have such a passion for healthy Christian community. When people feel safe in a community of believers they reveal hurts and fears and doubts. The key word is safe. No gossiping outside the group, no rush to judgment and abundant grace keys that feeling of safety. All of this was prompted by a song from Natalie Grant on the morning stroll with dog friend Hannah. Her song “Perfect People” played on the iPod and I related to the words.
Never let ‘em see you when you’re breaking
Never let ‘em see you when you fall
That’s how we live and that’s how we try
Tell the world you’ve got it all together
Never let them see what’s underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But it only lasts for a little while
I often quote my friend Bruce McNicol of Truefaced.com. Bruce says “there are no together people…just some people with whiter teeth”. His point is well-taken. Through hiddenness and acting you can present the “perfect” and “together” Christian. Much of the time we would be living a lie.
Have you ever done this? You are angry, petty and bitter during the week or even on the way to church. As soon as you walk through the church door you are beaming like a homecoming queen during the parade. We can fool the congregation but we cannot fool the Creator.
The fellowship of believers should be a place where honesty is encouraged. Where shortcomings ought to be accepted. Church should be the place where you can say without fear, “I am struggling, I hurt, I need help.” But for some reason the opposite happens far too often. Two people who are really in pain could have this conversation every week in church:
“How are you doing?” (Insincere query… too busy to really care)
“Great, how are you?” (Dishonest reply… perfunctory courtesy question)
“Fantastic, great to see you. (Really dishonest reply… safe dismissal salutation)
Am I advocating dumping our woes on everyone we meet? Of course not. I know that too many have been wounded by unsafe places. That breaks my heart. But there are rooms of grace that exist. Don’t give up. Please.
My fear is that we have created a culture where we feel there is something wrong with us if we are hurting. If I am struggling I must be doing something wrong spiritually. Shouldn’t God meet this need? What is wrong with me? The fact that God created us with a desire to be in community tells me that part of His plan is for us to be helped by other members of the body of Christ. Natalie Grant tells the truth with this chorus.
There’s no such thing as perfect people
There’s no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scared
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God
Amen. Perfecting comes only from a perfect God. I cannot do it. Being broken and scared is like spiritual soil prep for the seed of grace to grow.
Yet for years I chose to stay hidden. I believed that if my walk with God was exposed I would be excommunicated from the faith. I was so dry that I feared any spark would set my anger and emotions aflame. Satan convinced me that I would be rejected if I dared to let other see the truth behind the person. Perhaps some would reject me. To be honest I have been wounded at times. But I want to be willing to take a chance to be real. I want to be authentic and see where that takes me. I can’t find that authenticity with a painted grin and phony reply. I chose and will choose the risk of community. But, to be honest, I did not take that risk again until I was tired and broken enough to finally trust God and others with me.
What does it look like to allow God access to everything? The next stanza has a pretty good description.
Suddenly it’s like a weight is lifted
When you hear the words that you are loved
He knows where you are and where you’ve been
And you never have to go there again
I think that is exactly what Jesus was taking about when He said his yoke was light and the burden was easy. We have somehow inferred that life would be easy or at least easier if we follow Him. That has not been my journey. I like the way The Message translates this familiar passage.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:29-30, The Message)
So let’s review.
- You are forgiven.
- You are loved.
- You have unmerited favor because of Christ.
- You are righteous because of Christ.
- You have power to not “have” to sin.
Trust me. Understanding those things make the yoke several hundred pounds lighter.
Can we trust Jesus enough to drop the perfection ruse? Can we trust him enough to be authentic? Not needy and demanding. Just honest and real in community and, of course, with Him.
Look up the “one another” verses in the Bible. Here is an example from Hebrews (10:24, NIV):
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Who lived and died to give new life
To heal our imperfections
So look up and see out let grace be enough
Be changed by a perfect God.
God does the changing. Let Him.