Would you still like me if I told you that I'm not perfect? I'm not talking about being an imperfect housewife (although I am certainly that). I'm talking about fears, failures, struggles, and doubts. Would you still like me if you knew?
A few months ago I was talking with someone about my battle with depression. He said that, when he talks openly about his depression, "people come out of the woodwork" to share their own stories. But nobody wants to bring it up first.
I think the reason for this is two-fold. We don't want to burden other people, and we don't want to reveal our own weaknesses. But, as Pete Wilson writes in Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?, "Regardless of its origins, the result is clear. People in churches often fail to bring their real problems to church. So often in our churches we don't hear about stuff until it's too late. It's as though nobody has small problems. As someone once described it to me, we only hear about the house burning down; we don't hear about the electrical problem."
"Stained Glass Masquerade," a song from Casting Crowns, is even more direct about it:
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
Lyrics | Stained Glass Masquerade lyrics
These two examples are referring to churches, but what about other communities--an extended family, a circle of friends, the blogging community, or another group? Are we free to be real in our interactions with people? What do we need to allow us to be authentic?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but I think the answer has been right in front of me all along: Grace. It's a beautiful thing. Here's part of a blog post I read today:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”How awesome would it be, to be in a community where people could "fully love each other, meet deep needs, affirm each other, free each other and be used of God to bring one another in from the cold"? In this kind of community, we'd be free to be real. We could be ourselves without the fear of being rejected, because grace allows authenticity.
After thousands of years of sincerely religious people bluffing and play-acting with love, God gives His children a new heart: completely new creatures, fully righteous, without any condemnation, who can actually live out this verse without it enflaming them to rebellion, like every other command had done before.
So, you’d think we’d automatically now fully love each other, meet deep needs, affirm each other, free each other and be used of God to bring one another in from the cold.
I'm blessed to be part of a community of grace, with a few close friends and in my church family. I've been in churches that weren't that way, though, and it makes me sad. As Christians, we have received a tremendous gift.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
When I think about my many weaknesses and failures, bad decisions and foolish actions ... and then realize that God has forgiven me for all of that, I'm simply overwhelmed. How can I not share that?
Everyone needs a place to be real. If you don't have a place like that, keep looking for one. Our time here is too short – the Word tells us, life is but a vapor (James 4:14) – to squander in less-than-authentic relationships. Make yourself available. Extend the grace that has been so freely given to you. You are a vessel that has been filled to overflowing – pour out all that forgiveness, acceptance and love on someone else.
Disclosure: The Plan B book title link is an affiliate link. Thanks to my friend Meri for her help with this post!