And, ever since making my big return to church life back in 2011, I have a whole new set of judgments to consider. What if people doubt my faith? What if people think I'm being "difficult" or "divisive"? What if people decide I'm not worthy of ministry?
Oh yeah, just to add another layer of self-doubt and second-guessing to the mix, I'm a ministry student, so I have people in my life who are very protective of my spiritual condition. I don't want people to wonder. I don't want people to worry. If something's "wrong," some folks want to "fix" it. And I have to love them for that, but like the mother I mentioned recently, who spoke up about the hurtful, well-meaning attitudes toward her child with disabilities, I can't help but see all the points being missed in some responses to certain areas of disconnect.
I will never tell you you'll receive a perfect response from everybody just because you're following the Spirit's leading to speak up about your struggles. We're imperfect people dealing with other imperfect people, and we'll keep stumbling and stepping on each others' toes til Kingdom come. People come along and open up and hurt each other and leave all the time. That sucks. Personally, right now, God is leading me to step boldly into the places that hurt, and to say, "This hurts... and I'm not leaving this time."
There are blessings in this place that I cannot even describe to you. The deeper God draws me into this place of vulnerability, the more comfortable I become with the struggle as God's means of strengthening. A friend of mine preached recently that it's not always about seeking deliverance; sometimes, it's about building dependence. God uses pain to develop perseverance. It's not about getting out of my current circumstances or even "feeling better" about them. It's about being whatever I am, whenever I am, and letting other people rest there, too.
There is both physical and spiritual healing in owning up to our sin and temptation. It heals our wounds. It makes us better and stronger. It helps us recover. This curative effect of confession is central to all Twelve Steps recovery programs. In step four the person makes 'a searching and fearless moral inventory' of their life, confessing their true state. The chains of addictive behavior are often connected to hidden past resentments. There is healing and freedom in bringing another into the quiet sanctuary of our lives and making a full confession to them, receiving their affirmation that God has indeed completely forgiven us." (Drury)
I'm not going to pretend I didn't have a few days of apprehension over going live with my first blog post last week. But it was no great surprise to start receiving the private messages and face-to-face comments saying, "I needed this," "Me, too," and "Thank you for sharing." I know what that's like. I know that feeling of thank God, I'm not alone. I've been on the receiving end of honest confession. I've been blessed through the ministry of vulnerability and particularly the vulnerability of disclosure. That's the only reason I have a message to carry today. I wouldn't be here if not for people who are brave in their wounds and weaknesses. I would not have salvation in Jesus Christ if not for folks who looked at the gross and squirmy parts of my ugly inner being and said, "Yup, me, too."
Sure, it can be intimidating and risky to talk about our secret, shameful selves. I can pretty much guarantee you'll run into someone who doesn't understand or doesn't know how to process what you're going through.
In particular, you will run across certain people with whom you should always remain quite guarded. The writer of Proverbs says, 'A gossip can never keep a secret; be careful around people who talk too much.' Scripture writers caution people to use wisdom about what they reveal. In particular, don't do deep disclosure with an untrustworthy person. You can get badly hurt. There is a place for guarded communication. But that's not where true community lies." (Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them)
Even there, face to face, proper disclosure comes with real-world risks. Sometimes, people will say stupid, hurtful things, even when they want to be helpful and supportive. So will you. Part of the ministry of vulnerability means letting other broken people be clumsy with the broken pieces we give to them to look at. Then sometimes, someone dares to give us one of their pieces in return.
The vulnerability of disclosure—confession of our sins, confession of our pain, confession of our confusion, confession of our anger, confession of our need—is the biggest stumbling block between us and God and other people. We can't share each other's burdens if we're all keeping them to ourselves. We can't love our neighbors if we're pushing them away or holding them at a distance. It takes courage to take down the wall. We will be misunderstood at times. But we don't need the understanding of people who haven't been through what we've been through in order to minister healing words to those who have.
When a man comes to you and tells you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven. And when you are forgiven, you are healed.” (The Spirituality of Imperfection)
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