As Christians and the Church, we like to talk about pains and hurt after the fact. We like to talk about all that God has done, our victories in Him. It’s easier to talk about things in the past because it’s safe to do so. In the present, there is the looming fear of the unknown; the risk is too steep. What if He doesn’t come through or doesn't come through in the way we think He needs to? In churches, we declare publicly what He has saved us from--a life of addiction, disease, depression. It’s celebrated, and it should be, in HUGE ways! The grace of God is AMAZING and POWERFUL! But in the now, while we are fighting for our lives, we ask for prayer from one person, in secret, or not at all. It seems too dangerous when we are in the middle of the battle. Especially when it's an invisible battle, a battle of the heart. All too often, nobody knows the deepest pains that manifest in our hearts and we show up to church on Sunday morning with our hands in the air, smiles on our lips, praising Jesus for all He has done. But on the inside, we are dying. We all do it. And. nobody. bats. an. eye.
As a Christian who grew up in the church and now works in ministry, I see this far too often. We come forward to celebrate when we are on the side of victory (and if we are being honest, I think we are celebrating relief more than victory. Another conversation for another day), but we don't share when we are in the trenches, when our hearts are being ripped out and lied to by the enemy. This is NOT what the church was meant to look like. We are called to carry the burdens of our brothers and sisters, but we can't do that if we don't share them! We all know we can't fight the enemy and win on our own and that we aren't "made to do life alone." That's why we have small groups (or connect groups or community groups or whatever the trendy term is that we use) and Bible studies and prayer meetings. But without bothering to look up statistical data, I feel confident to say that the gross majority of us just show up, smile, and leave. We don't share the truth, and we aren't truly authentic. How are we supposed to overcome the invisible battles, that we know we can't win alone, if nobody knows about them? There is a quiet strength and power in being vulnerable. It's the scariest thing in the world, but the freedom that comes with it is unlike any other. But so many of us have never experienced it. We haven't bothered to step out and say, "yes, I struggle daily with ______________" because it's too risky and scary.
We hear about affairs after the fact. We hear about drug overdoses after the fact. We hear about porn addictions after the fact. We hear about relationships, friendships that have crumbled after the fact. We share so much pain after we have "dealt" with it. But what would it look like, what would the Church look like, what would we look like, if we stepped out in the middle of our mess? Admitted that we feel like our hearts are being tormented. That our pain consumes us. That we don't know which was is up sometimes. That we feel lost, alone, confused. What if we were actually honest?
I think the person across from you would simply reply, "Yeah. Same."
What if belonging and freedom weren't out-of-reach concepts? Is it really so crazy for acceptance to be common-ground? Church, wake up. Start talking to each other. Not the run-of-the-mill Sunday morning small talk chats at the coffee bar before the service starts. Not a quick text that says, "what's up?" And not a superficial response of, "I'm great! Everything is fine!" Everything is not fine. And if it is, do not get comfortable there, my friend. I guarantee it won't be long before things are not fine. Because life is messy.
Now I know what's probably going to happen: you are going to read the article, nod in agreement, then go on with your life and change N O T H I N G. Because that's what we do. We read an article about getting healthy, think, "Oh yeah, I SHOULD eat more leafy greens," then buy four king size Reese's instead. We hear an amazing sermon about forgiving others, say AMEN, and then continue to act bitterly towards the people who have done us wrong. We think and act differently ALL THE TIME. So I am willing to bet that you are agreeing with me, that we need to be more transparent with one another, but won't have the necessary honest conversations. I do it, you do it.
But what if this time was different?
What if you invited a friend over, said you need to talk, really talk, about some stuff going on? Or what if you ask a friend how they are and then press in after their automated response?What if you let someone in, even just a little, and told them the inner challenge you are facing? What if "authentic" was more than just the smiles and peace signs and Instagram filters, and the "I'm greats" we want people to believe are real?
Even if you are in a season right now where things are actually going super well, PRAISE GOD! I LOVE mountaintop seasons because you, my friend, were just at battle. It is a time to celebrate and praise God for his goodness in that last season. But keep these two things in mind: there are people around you in the valleys of life and sooner or later, you also will be there. We were never promised a life free from pain. But we are promised a life where God will never leave us nor forsake us. So let's be that for those around us. Let's show up, let's be honest, let's listen. And then let's press in. Let's get to the heart of things, where life is real, where we find safety and comfort and love in the "yeah, same" side of vulnerability.