Can I be honest with you?
That’s not a rhetorical question.
Is it safe for me to be honest with you?
Last week I wrote about the weight of the mask we wear and the exhaustion of keeping up appearances and playing the role we think we have to play. I wrote about it in the context of Robin William’s depression that ultimately led to his suicide.
I’ve been writing these weekly newsletters for more than six years now. In those six years, I’ve never written anything that elicited the response that last week’s newsletter did. Many of you wrote me, sharing your own battle with depression and your own reticence to be honest about struggle.
In one way or another, many of you were asking “is it safe to be honest about what I’m going through? Can I trust that people will still love and accept me if they know the real me?”
We use the words “authenticity” and “transparency” often these days to gauge the depth and legitimacy of a relationship. And for good reason. We are relational beings. Our three in one God who has eternally existed in perfect fellowship within the Godhead made us in His image. He created us with a longing to be fully known and fully loved by others. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are certainly fully authentic and transparent with one another.
And so, created in His image, we long for that kind of love and acceptance in our own lives. But at the same time, each one of us is aware of our own darkened heart. We know the reality of the blackness in our soul. And we’re convinced that if others could see the reality inside, there is no way you could still love or accept us.
So, we smile and say we’re fine, we’re great, we’re doing okay, because we think if you knew the truth, you either wouldn’t like what you saw and heard, or worse yet, you wouldn’t care.
At Redeemer, we have borrowed Paul David Tripp’s helpful description of the kinds of relationships that the Bible calls us to. We want our relationships with one another to be Christ centered, grace based, intentionally intrusive and redemptive. We want to foster an environment where it is genuinely safe to be honest with one another about who we really are and what we are really thinking, feeling and struggling with in our lives.
And if that’s ever going to work for us, we have to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and evidencing the fruit of the Spirit in how we relate to one another. Healthy, authentic relationships can only happen when we are living Spirit controlled lives.
Here is what I think that means for those who are experiencing struggles and burdens in life that ought to be shared with others.
It means you are aware of and sensitive to the fact that the people with whom you are sharing have burdens and struggles of their own.
It means you don’t share with an expectation that because you have shared your burden, the person you shared it with is now obligated to come up with some kind of a solution.
It means that you don’t assume that sharing your struggle should somehow solve your problems.
It means that your hope remains in God, and that you’ve not transferred that hope to someone else.
And it means that we must be ready to hear some hard things from those who love us. It may be that some of the burdens we are sharing are our own doing. When we share, we need to be ready to listen to those who would speak the truth in love to us about sin patterns they may see in our lives.
And at the same time, here are some things I think each of us needs to keep in mind in those times when someone does share his or her struggles and burdens with us.
We are called to be burden bearers. We can and should pray faithfully and regularly for those we know are struggling.
When someone does open up and share something that is risky and deeply personal, we must listen and respond carefully and with a truckload of grace, mercy, compassion and kindness for whatever is shared. The person who is sharing needs to know you are a safe person to open up to.
Before you offer any advice, wisdom or correction, you should first you should first consider how you can identify with what is being shared. Ask yourself how you can relate as a fellow sinner, even in a small way, with the struggle being shared?
And before you say anything, be like Job’s friends, who were a great help to him when they wept with him and simply sat with him in silence.
And if you must speak truth to someone (and there will be those times), be sure you have a spirit of meekness or gentleness as you seek to rescue, redeem and restore someone who is in pain. Remember what Isaiah said about the ministry of the Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not extinguish.” Make sure whatever you say doesn’t break your bruised friend.
I’ve often quoted Pastor Matt Chandler who says that he wants the church he pastors to be a place where it’s okay not to be okay. But at the same time, it can’t be a place where it’s okay just to keep on being not okay.
I hope Redeemer is that kind of church. A place where it’s okay to be intentionally intrusive in each others lives because when we are, we are full of grace, mercy and compassion, and because our mutual goal is Christ likeness.
As we get ready to re-launch our small groups this fall, I hope our groups will provide each of us with a place where we can be honest with each other. Authentic. Transparent.
This Sunday is an important day for every woman who is planning to go to Indianapolis for the True Woman Conference in October.
RCC is covering the cost for the bus trip. But this is the week for you to turn in the money for your hotel room. This week. Now. Last chance.
You can give Terry Morledge your check made out to RCC on Sunday morning or mail it to Nancy Arnold to be received by Monday. (12100 Cave Creek Road, Paron, AR 72122).
Here’s the cost for your two night stay:
1 person per room $312
2 persons $156/per person
3 persons $104/per person
4 Persons $78/per person.
By the way, it is not too late to sign up – there are still seats on the bus and empty beds in the hotel. But we must have your money by Monday, August 25 to hold their room.
This fall, you have an opportunity once again to make a difference in the life of an elementary school student, help out a teacher, and be an instrument of God in the lives of students and staff at McDermott Elementary School.
For one hour each week on Wednesdays from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., a team of Encouragers will meet at McDermott to spend one-on-one with for 30 minutes with two different students. Teachers will provide you with material that the students need help with. The only requirement is that you are High School age or older, and that you can attend a short training session before the tutoring begins.
The program will begin on September 24 and we will wrap up the semester on December 10, resuming in mid January. McDermott is located just up the street from RCC on Reservoir.
This is a wonderful ministry opportunity. If you think you can help, please contact Deb O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 417-425-1192 soon. If you would like to be involved, but can’t be an Encourager, ask about others ways you can help.
A couple of quick miscellaneous items:
If you need a clothes dryer (“it’s old, but it works!), the Minnie’s have one for you. Contact William or Erin at email@example.com
Alex Stauffer is about to play 100 holes of golf in one day. He’s participating in a fund raising effort for the Spark of Life Foundation, a ministry that provides grief recovery retreats at no cost for parents who have lost a child. If you’d like to sponsor Alex ( .25 cents a hole? .50 cents? A dollar? More?), contact him and let him know you’re on his team. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find out more about the Spark of Life Foundation at www.sparkoflife.org.
September is always a busy month for our church. We’re making plans now for a Baby Dedication as part of our morning worship on September 15. If you have a child you would like to have dedicated that morning, please send your name and the child’s name to email@example.com.
Small groups will also be re-forming and starting up again the week of September 15. We’ll have sign up sheets in the lobby a week from this Sunday.
And we’ll be hosting our new members classes beginning later that month.
More info soon.
This Sunday, we conclude our study of the life of Abraham. And next week, we jump into a verse by verse walk through the book of I Thessalonians.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!