Safe Sharing

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Safe Sharing

  1. Lucinda

    Great thoughts Jen! Could it be that as Christians we do not think that others would understand us if we admit to having guilt, shame, addictions, etc? We are fearful of being judged instead of being loved and knowing that others would be of comfort to us in those times of weakness. I will admit that I have had those thoughts before. There were times when I did not want to admit, be truly honest, because I was fearful of being judged or I thought I would lose this person that I think is my friend. It also could have been that I did not want to admit to myself that I was struggling with certain thoughts or feelings and if I spoke these to someone else then it will make it more of a reality and I would have to admit it to myself which would make me have to deal with the issue. Thank you for talking about this topic it makes the rest of us aware that we are not alone in our thoughts and struggles. Others do have the same issues and if we are honest with ourselves and others we can find help, security, honesty, and love.

  2. Lucinda, I think you are right. We so want to be known and loved; but we are afraid that if people really knew the truth about us, they wouldn’t love us.

    So many of us, especially those of us who grew up in the church, have a performance-based brand of Christianity. We focus a great deal on our actions and outward appearance and we value the good reputation we gain from having the right sort of outward appearance. And as we parent, we often fall into a pattern of performance-based parenting, in which we focus on our children’s actions and outward appearance. So the cycle continues.

  3. I was raised (even long into adulthood) to not take sin very seriously. It was mentioned, but we never took time to really identify it unless it was a “big” sin. Those issues haven’t been my problem, but I have had immense struggles with thinking God was small, unbelief, doubt, identity issues, seeking my own comfort/safety, etc. I have held back from being who God has over and over again challenged me to be.

    Until we take sin seriously and truly deal with it in whatever form keeps us from right relationship with God and others then we will continue to just voice that eating cake is the issue. Transparency is hard to do, but sometimes the lack of openness on the part of others to receive it can make continuing on even harder.

    Thanks for the great thoughts!

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