As difficult as it was to transition from my last small group to my current one, it has been a wonderful experience. I have had the opportunity to meet several new people and have remained connected to old friends. With the new relationships come lots of sharing; the good kind that allows us to know one another. Through small group as well as encounters before and after the services, I have heard a few stories about others’ spiritual journeys as well as their current place on their walk. Although there are lots of triumphs, victories, and joy, there is also a lot of pain.
The act of telling our story seems to dig up a lot of gook, much like dredging a marsh. The verbalization of where we came from and how we got to where we are seems to send us back to another place in time where our faith was weak or non-existent – where we were lost and felt harshly judged and unforgiven. It seems to take us to a time before we knew God. As we talk about those things, we get fidgety and emotional and begin clasping the locks on the floodgates that are holding back the tears until the pressure forces them open. The tension on our backs is then released as the weight of the world is lifted from our shoulders. Amazingly, as the tears flow, we get real. The authentic self is revealed. And those around us love us and embrace us for our openness. They know that the sword of judgment is not theirs to swing. They are grateful for our courage to share as they see and feel how our honesty lights a path that leads to the foot of the cross – the place where we lay our burdens down and receive His unconditional love.
As Casting Crowns tells us in Who Am I:
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt? Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for my ever wandering heart? Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again? Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?
Before the service today, I ran into a sister and exchanged pleasantries with her. She is strikingly beautiful, but as I watched her during our conversation, there was something that was obscuring her natural pleasant appearance. I asked her was everything okay and told her that her eyes were telling me that something was amiss. She sighed! She then took off the masks of murkiness and ambiguity as she exposed herself through openness and authenticity. She explained that she was struggling because she had recently collided with people from her past that brought back difficult memories and unresolved issues that she had previously put away. Her loved ones, who knew about the experiences in the past and were negatively impacted by them, stood in the intersection with her and exhibited the utmost dignity and grace. Without a hint of anger, they reminded her that the damage to the relationships had long ago been repaired. They even embraced the other folks, seeking closure on her behalf and for everyone’s sake.
The sister was struggling because as she peered into the mirror on her wall (one that beckoned an admission that she was not the fairest of them all), the reflection she saw was herself in the distant past. However, her family saw her through the eyes of God, as the beautiful and wonderful person she has become. I saw her for the human she is and loved her even more for showing me, through sharing her experience, the rewards of complete honesty. Psalm 103:9-18 teaches us: The Lord is kind and merciful. He is patient and full of love. 9 He does not always criticize. He does not stay angry with us forever. 10 We sinned against him, but he didn’t give us the punishment we deserved. 11 His love for his followers is as high above us as heaven is above the earth. 12 And he has taken our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is as kind to his followers as a father is to his children. 14 He knows all about us. He knows we are made from dust. 15 He knows our lives are short, that they are like grass. He knows we are like a little wildflower that grows so quickly, 16 but when the hot wind blows, it dies. Soon, you cannot even see where the flower was. 17 But the Lord has always loved his followers, and he will continue to love them forever and ever! He will be good to all their descendants, 18 to those who are faithful to his agreement and who remember to obey his commands.
Typically, we don’t invest the time to confront our struggles. We don’t’ talk with one another as souls holding hands, supporting each other as we wade through the sludge that life brings our way. Instead, we tuck it all away, only to be confronted by a repressed reflection from the past at inconvenient times and on terms not our own. You see, we have created earthly standards about how we should look, think, feel, and act. We then make unrealistic comparisons of ourselves to imperfect examples – other people. When we realize we don’t measure up (Duh! We are each on a different path with a different purpose to live out), we feel inferior, like failures. Dealing with it at that point becomes nearly impossible. Let’s think this through: if we were facing some legal battle, we would hire a lawyer who would listen to our case, apply the relevant case law, and talk it over with others in the firm. When facing a spiritual battle, why don’t we share the experience by talking with others, seek wise counsel, gain guidance from His word and obtain advice from our spiritual supporters? It took an uncommon courage for that sister to talk through that struggle with me. My hope is that I was able to encourage her in a way that is helpful and healing. Acts 18:9-10 tells us: 9 …“Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t quit! 10 For I am with you and no one can harm you. Many people here in this city belong to me.”
As I reveled in the incredible heart attitudes of the sister earlier, I now toss and turn as I confront the judgmental and unforgiving reflection in my own mirror. Walking the gauntlet towards my unresolved issues is treacherous. So before I step out, I will first reach out for those in my safety net, to place hands on me to steady me on this walk. Prayerfully and carefully, we will strike out towards resolution. As my sister has been a guiding light for me, may I courageously be the same for others. May sharing my story lead others to Him.
I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow. A wave tossed in the ocean. A vapor in the wind. Still You hear me when I’m calling. Lord, You catch me when I’m falling. And You’ve told me who I am. I am Yours, I am Yours.
As I tussle with my own struggles, the experience has me here:
- Regardless of the issue, bring it to Him.
- We were made in His image but He knows we are human.
- There is no perfection; but in all things pursue excellence, in His name.
- Reflect positively and in the present
- Be the courageous example of openness and authenticity
Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done but because of who You are.