In my last post, I wrote about this great longing we all have to be fully known and fully loved. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is one of our greatest desires. And yet, as I said before, I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to having this deep need met, because we rarely reveal our true selves to others. How then can we be fully known and fully loved if we hide behind masks?
Honestly, I think unbelievers do a much better job with authentic relationships than we believers do. After all, we have an image to uphold and we know what Christians say about people who don’t “walk the walk,” so to speak. I’m sure I’ve been part of those conversations before, much to my own shame.
Not long ago, I was talking with somebody about our attempts to be genuine and authentic. We talked about the sort of sharing we do in Bible study groups and Sunday School classes and small groups. There is a level of safe sharing that seems authentic and genuine — well, to be fair, it is authentic and genuine — but it stops short of being really, deeply honest.
It’s fairly safe to admit to a small group, “I have super messy closets! You just would not believe the junk I have jammed in there. Please don’t ever come to my house and open a closet door ’cause you never know what might come tumbling out on you!” Ok, so we’re admitting a weakness, a tendency toward messiness, something some would consider a flaw. But messy closets are a pretty safe thing to confess.
I have heard plenty of women talk about how they sometimes lose it and fuss at their kids or how they tend to nag their husbands. I’ve heard guys jokingly talk about their struggle to avert their eyes when young women are dressed in revealing clothing. And I’ve heard people talk openly about wrestling to understand the purpose of a difficult situation — a job loss, a death, a sickness, a serious crisis. But there are things we tend to not discuss as we’re going through them, big things we only discuss later, when we’re giving a testimony about how the Lord already worked it all out, after we’re all healed and restored. There are things we don’t discuss when we’re in the middle of the brokenness.
Why? Because I’m thinking that it is at those lonely moments of brokenness and temptation and struggle that we most need a community of believers surrounding us. But we have created these ideas of how believers are supposed to act and supposed to appear, and those notions leave little room for real wrestling with sins that we’ve categorized as “bad” or “big.”
Just last Sunday I was in my Sunday School class of all women and the topic was breaking bad habits or finding freedom from those sins that so easily beset us. The dear lady teaching the class (and I do love her) kept using the example of the temptation to eat chocolate cake. Ok, so I know this is a pretty universal temptation common to most women I know. But as I sat there, I kept thinking, “Really? Eating chocolate cake? That’s the big, bad temptation? Eating too many pieces of chocolate cake is the horrible sin that traps us? Maybe I’m the only one, then. Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with serious sin. I wish my only struggle were eating too many pieces of cake.”
But then I remembered. I’ve known believers in recent years who have battled dark days of depression. I’ve known Christians who have struggled with addictions to pornography, alcohol, and drugs. I’ve known Christians who have committed adultery, Christians who’ve walked away from marriages, Christians who’ve been trapped by eating disorders. I know believers who wrestle with guilt and shame and fear. So I know I’m not the only one.
Yet if you sat in on my Sunday School class, you’d think the biggest temptation we have is eating chocolate cake. If you listened in on the many groups of Christian women I’ve been involved with over the years, you’d think our greatest sin was messiness or occasional crabbiness with our husbands and children.
And so we fight our great battles alone. We wrestle out our salvation privately, hidden safely from view. Because we have a reputation to maintain. We have an image to uphold. We don’t want to disappoint anybody, and we don’t want anybody saying mean things about us behind our backs.
Meanwhile, our deep desire to be fully known and fully loved remains unfulfilled.