JUD WILHITE Guest Post: Getting To A Place Of Honesty With Each Other

In the very beginning of the biblical story, right after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit and ushering sin and death into the world, they realized they were naked and felt vulnerable. That started the first game of hide-and-seek. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. They were exposed. And they didn’t want God or their partner to see.

This is a perfect illustration of the daunting challenge of becoming honest with God and each other. It’s like getting naked. It’s the deepest form of vulnerability, dating all the way back to seconds after the Fall.

Most of us carry at least two fears about sharing our pain and struggles with another person. One, we fear being exposed, being truly known by our struggles and faults, not just by the front we usually put forward. Two, we fear being rejected. Like Adam and Eve, we think that if God were to confront us in our total vulnerability, he would be appalled to the point of distancing himself from us and punishing us or shunning us.

So we do what Adam and Eve did. We don’t just hide; we try to cover our nakedness. They did it with fig leaves. We do it by pretending we’re not hurting and putting on a happy face despite feeling dead inside. We do it by trying to
make up for our faults with self-righteousness or lying to cover ourselves.

God did not accept the leaf coverings. They didn’t work. But he didn’t reject Adam and Eve. According to the Bible, he covered them himself using animal skins. The message is vivid and clear. We can be covered, but something must die. God’s providing animal skins to cover the first humans’ nakedness is a picture of God’s providing the sacrifice of Jesus to cover our sin.

The lesson is challenging but simple: if we want to experience the joy of unity, of relational connectedness, of the glory of God, we have to risk showing our true selves to God and others, and we have to be gracious coverers of one another with the good news of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.

The beauty of this is that the more reliable we are with grace, the more reliable our communities will be with honesty.

THE PRACTICE OF HONESTY
Getting to the place of honesty with each other can be difficult, but there are few things more rewarding-and healing. There is a divine catharsis in unburdening ourselves of sin and painful experiences. It sets us free and allows the burden to be shared, if not lifted. Why do you think they call it “getting something off your chest”?

Of course, this is a risk. It can be a disaster to fall into the hands of insensitive, insincere, or just flat-out mean Christians. Many times we are reluctant to share what’s going on in our lives because we’ve been burned in the past by gossip, judgmentalism, bad assumptions, terrible theology, or even ambivalence or stony silence. Nevertheless, God calls us to know and be known. He wants us to be a living picture of the reconciliation he offers between himself and us. And we can’t do reconciliation if we don’t get real.

You may want to begin by identifying one Christian you can trust with the difficulties of your life. This person could be an accountability partner, an older believer whose wisdom and insight you respect, or perhaps a pastor, counselor, or therapist. Getting one on one is the first big step toward later sharing with multiple people, perhaps in a prayer group or small group or support group of some kind.

Identify cultures of grace. Are there pockets of Christians where you can see that lives have been transformed by the good news of Jesus, where sin is spoken against but sinners feel loved and cared for and not condemned? Can you see acceptance and belonging? Do you see honesty already taking place? Does the place feel warm and welcoming? Hopefully you have located this culture of grace in your own church or at least in certain groups or gatherings within your church.

When life falls apart, to some extent we all feel like we’re the first to experience it. So I know that tentativeness and unease will be there regardless. But take the risk!

If you lead a small group or community group of some kind at your church, or if you work with a group of volunteers, strive to create a safe place for honesty. This probably means you will have to go first. When someone goes first, it breaks the seal of fear and discomfort that prevents transparency. When someone goes first, it immediately tells others in the group that they are not alone. And we are more likely to get honest with others when we don’t feel as though we are alone. But somebody has to go first.

Will it be you?

God is faithful. He will meet you at every point with the grace you need and the healing you long for. And once you can be honest with him and find in him not rejection or condemnation but acceptance, your fear of people will gradually dissipate, giving you the confidence to get real with others too. You’ll be able to let them see how you are
torn, which will start helping you recover.

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