Category Archives: influences

Where Are You?

At first, the question “where are you?” seems a mere geographical inquiry. As though the only value in the question relates to a compass and a map. Yet, the question bears some deeper, nuanced consideration. It begs a sort of self-examination. Not unlike, “How are you?” or “Who are you?” These simple introductory questions can often be overlooked, but ought to give us pause.

Where are you?

To be fair, I’ll answer first: Where am I?

I am in that place where I wouldn’t be surprised if the glorious blazing ball of fury that seems so determined to destroy Texas in the summer, was revealed to be nothing more than a large light bulb. I have been exposed to the majestic reality of the Omnipotent Being, thus the great sky candle serves only to stand as a dwarfed microcosm of His greatness. The more I learn of my King’s glory, the less I am impressed by the things I am given to compare to Him.

I am settled in the mud, ever pressing up-hill. Life may not always be wonderful or grandiose, but it is life, and it is real… and it is great! I have discovered an abundance from which I can draw freely in Jesus. A well-spring of full-life with unimaginable graces. I’m in the place where life is real and delightfully full.

I am on the cusp of fame, resting securely and peacefully in my obscurity. That place where my voice is heard by any I impose it upon, while simultaneously remaining in the confident silence of a shadow in a world of searchlights. I am spinning round the mountain of God laughing freely with my King over the spoken voice of self-proclaimed rulers who have no power over my soul.

I am in the hands of a mighty King who declares love for me in spite of myself. A place where I can be “not ok” and know that I am not going to remain in such a state forever. Walking with the King of Glory through bramble patches and clear pastures only rarely needing Him to carry me (though I am sure it is more often than I imagine.)

I am in a community of faith that exalts our Lord and faithfully pursues the mission of God. We labor side by side, though imperfect in our expressions, exalting the King and advancing the gospel. We care little for the trivial concerns of this life and are consumed with the next. We are here, but we are not here. We build our castles in the eternal sky where no rules of architecture constrain! We are in the heavens with our feet planted firmly in the promises of God.

I am in that place where music is sweet and full. Where melody fills my days and evenings as songs of grateful praise echo in the throats of my children and flow from my own heart as well. Where every morning brings beautiful songs of creation and creativity as each new day brings more reason to sing. In that place, I feel overwhelmed by the song of my Creator. The song that is changing my soul to be more like Him and more like who I was created to be.

So, that is where I am… where are you?

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There is Something About a Watch

There is something about a watch. Something about that leather strap with a constant reminder of progression. The ominous silence constantly calling out the warning, “time is moving!” Yet, there is a sense of control over that time when we wear a watch. The watch keeps track of the time, still, I hold the watch on my wrist in some manner holding time in my hand. As if in by some mysterious magic I am capable of wielding the power of time. Somehow it becomes me to believe that wearing a watch gives me some modicum of control over time. Or at least control over its power over me.

Still, time presses on. On my wrist remains the constant refrain that moments are sliding by, the crushing reality that I have not seized every moment and made the best use of every breath. Still, in this moment I hold the marker on my arm. Such a time-piece offers an odd sort of comfort amidst dismay. There is just something about a watch.

Sometimes I would like to disregard the time. I’d like to believe that I have some control of the passage that my wristwatch chronicles for me. I know that I cannot hold back the waters of time. Paul says that we are to make the most use of the time, “for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). He describes the days as wicked and malicious against us. And so they are. These moments of unforgiving weight that records our wait. They propel us into a desperate need to “do” and a constant sense that we must be active and work. Yet, Christ calls us to rest. The watch can drive me to labor or… something else.

As I ponder the weight of time on the human frame- that slow back bending reality that each of us must submit to, I am reminded that the watch has not always bound me to a pressure. There was a day when the watch served to remind me of the glory of rest. “For six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it, you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:9-11). And again, “Above all you shall keep my Rest, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you!” (Exodus 31:13). The watch calls me to hold a vigil in anticipation of rest amidst our work. It brings to mind the sanctification of my soul by the LORD, simultaneously marrying the futile reality of this life and reminding me of the glory of that blessed rest to come.

The slow, constant click of the faithful chronicler I have chosen to bind on my arm serves to draw me into eager expectant waiting. Waiting for that day when my Lord will return to set aright all that my watch has recorded. Waiting for the day when rest from labor is constant and purified in the wake of my King’s return. Waiting with each tick of the hand pressing me further into the pursuit of Sabbath joy.

There is just something about a watch. It can propel one to dismay or joy. There is just something about a watch.

6 Helps for Meaningful Conversation

Conversation is a dying art in our culture. Eyes are unfocused, words are undisciplined, and attentive engagement is often non-existent. The majority of our conversations are hidden under screens of constant social media and shallow treatment of life and community. Our ability to see each other in thorough and delightful conversation lies buried under the mask of self-image and projected self-worth. So, what are we to do? How do we have good conversations that engage with the community while simultaneously freeing us from the constraints of social media? Here are a few simple practices to have a good conversation.

  1. Put your leash (phone) away. Most of us have a phone that tethers us to a fictional world. If you want to have a good conversation, you need to put this leash away. Set your phone to airplane mode when you begin a conversation or at least turn the volume off. Anything that is definitely in need of your attention will still be there when you turn it back on. Most things do not need your immediate attention. So, take the leash off for a bit and enjoy the moment. The better thing to do is to leave the leash at home. Let yourself run in conversation and let your mind race in response to boredom! You’ll find yourself enjoying people a little more and being a little less anxious.
  2. Listen to others and assume they bring some value to life. Stop trying to be the smartest person in the room. Most of us enter a conversation for what we can contribute. Instead of listening well and considering the ideas of our conversation, we plot the next thing we are going to say. In order to overcome this tremendous gulf, we must assume that the other person has something to contribute. Recognize that everyone has a unique experience that can contribute to your own life in some way.
  3. Overlook the ideological and tribal affiliations in favor of honest discussion. Honest self-reflection is in short supply these days. We are tribal people who determine our worth and value by those to whom we find a connection. Often our discussions are stifled because we connect ourselves or others with a tribe of people and therefore all the ideological nuances assumed about that affiliation. However, people are not numeric collections of data. They are individuals with unique thoughts and individual ideas that may or may not be informed by their particular tribe. Assume they are individuals who come by their ideological affinity honestly and strive to investigate those points with integrity.
  4. Talk about ideas, not people. It has been said that great people talk about ideas. Try to focus your conversation around deep thoughts and ideas. Stay away from talking about other people. I am a pastor and spend a great deal of time counseling with people. Often it is my goal in these sessions to get the person to move from identifying people to identifying the deeper root issues. I will ask questions that will attempt to lead the other person to identify the “why” of a feeling and this can lead to some incredibly constructive conversation about ideas and ideology. In like manner, when you are having a conversation with someone, try to press past the “who” and get to the deeper more philosophical questions. This will lead to a deeper and more productive conversation.
  5. Ask unassuming questions. For example: ask, “how are you doing?” and not “are you ok?” Ask, “what’s one thing you’re excited for this year?” rather than “what have you been doing?” Ask questions that allow others to talk about themselves with a broad spectrum of specificity. Avoid questions that assume something negative about the person or are narrow in scope. “Are you feeling ok” is not a good question unless you think the person is sick. “What are you reading?” is a great question, if the person reads or if you have a book you’re wanting to talk about. Better questions are ones that engage the person’s mind and are open enough to allow for variation. Some conversation questions I like to ask are: “What is your favorite Jesus story?” “What is one thing you’re excited about this year?” “What is one of your most prized possessions and why?” and “what is your favorite activity for relaxation and why?”
  6. Finally, try to see the other person. Your goal in conversation is to reveal the person to whom you are speaking. Try to SEE them. Try to know their condition. I have some friends who are really skilled at doing this. I will call them on the phone and before I know it, they have asked questions that have revealed my personal struggles and thoughts and I have spoken for about an hour. They have worked hard to see me and know me. Often these conversations end with me saying something like, “Man! I talked the whole time! Next time I want to hear about how you are doing!” This is refreshing and uplifting to me, so I want to do it to others.

Four Things Seminary Did Not Teach Me.

Before you read this list, I want to say Seminary was wonderful and I learned a ton from seminary! My professors were amazing and I was prepared for ministry because of Seminary. Further, this post is my own experience and is not intended to be a criticism of Seminary. Others may have learned these things in Seminary, I did not.

I am a 37 year old pastor of a small church plant in south Texas. I have been in vocational ministry for over 15 years and have served at some level of leadership in a variety of churches since I was 14 years old. When I began in ministry, I recognized my need to learn. I entered Seminary with a deep desire to learn everything I could and I did so with a fierce and steady methodology. I took seminary slowly and strove to soak up everything I could from my professors. I coveted opportunity to learn from older pastors and professors who had proven track records.

I learned a great deal in Seminary. Necessary Biblical training and historical understanding of the church has served to shape me and improve my own life. I believe my seminary studies taught me much of what I need to know to serve and lead a church well. That having been said, I did not learn EVERYTHING I needed to know from seminary. There were some things that I had to learn on the job.

  1. How to plan for church events and yearly schedule.I’ll never forget the first time I was asked to present a schedule for a youth group for the year. I was informed that the staff had a meeting on Sunday night with the other leaders of the church. I began to panic. I walked across the hall to the associate pastor’s office with as much composure as I could muster and asked him to clarify what I was supposed to present. He graciously walked me through a basic understanding of what to do. Over the next 8 years in that position I developed a pattern of planning in advance. I would prepare sermons months in advance, events were planned almost a year ahead, and the general calendar of the youth ministry was completed in September. My fellow pastors suffered as a result of not being able to sit down and plan. So I resolved to be ahead and as a result I was often available to run events for them as well.

    Now, I am always about 4 months ahead in planning for worship. I can usually tell you what I am going to teach and where the teaching is headed 8 months in advance. I can preach the sermons about 4 months ahead of time. I plan events months in advance and I have a pretty good grasp on how to schedule and plan in general.

    Seminary did not teach me how to plan. I had to learn on the job. I was fortunate to serve with ministers who knew what they were doing and had experience in leading organizations. In short, here is how you plan. Pray, lay out a calendar, put your schedule down with some flexible dates, start with the easiest event to plan (most often something you’ve done before that does not need to change), then work from most common to most unique. Don’t fall into the trap of doing the soonest first. If you will plan the most common event first and then work your way to the most uncommon (or new events), then you will find momentum and you’ll enjoy the work a lot more.

  2. Conflict resolution.Being a pastor means that you are a shepherd. Funny thing about sheep… They bite. People are sheep. We bite, jockey for position, shove, and butt heads when we do not get our way. Seminary does not teach your pastor how to deal with Mrs. Contentious when she has upset Mrs. Overly-dramatic. The difficulty of these conflicts is that it rarely ever works out in a room with all parties present. Most of the time, conflict resolution involves talking to each party individually and slowly leading them to make decisions that help to grant grace.

    To be honest, I’m still not an expert in conflict resolution. I know what the Scripture says, and I try to follow those principles. But conflict resolution is rarely an issue of HOW I read Scripture and often an issue of getting others to READ the Bible. In my inadequate amount of knowledge on conflict resolution I’ve learned four things that help me in dealing with others.

    First: Remember, unless it is genuine heresy, it is not as important as we think. Do not make a big deal over secondary issues.

    Second: Address confusion, gossip, and rumors immediately from the source. This is sin. So when gossip or rumors surface, address them immediately. Grant grace and be casual about the address, but do not leave sin unaddressed.

    Third: Accept that some conflict is just going to be around and you’re going to have to learn to live in that tension. In a church that I served in for several years there was a particular man who just did not like me. I would try to be polite, earn favor, and do a good job in effort to somehow garner his approval, but to no avail. Eventually I just accepted that he was not going to like me and I moved on. There was no overt sin to address and he stayed in his area of ministry without causing issues elsewhere. Once I accepted that I was not going to be liked by everyone, this particular conflict stopped bothering me. I wish I had some great reconciliation story for this one, but as I said above, “Sheep bite.”

    Fourth: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Seldom is anyone just being selfish or rude. Most of the time, in the church, people believe they are doing what is right. They don’t mean to be hateful or malicious. Recognize that and treat people accordingly.

  3. Humility.I love seminary students, I really do. They are filled with zeal and they often know the right answers. I love seminary students… especially AFTER they graduate. When I was in Seminary I was trained in how to find the answers I needed in Scripture! I know the languages of the Bible and I love to study old dead guys. I went into ministry with a tremendous grasp on theology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and every other ology! I felt as though I had answers.

    While my professors worked hard to teach me that I did not know the answers to every problem, the critical environment of Seminary inadvertently taught me that I am right! I was taught to identify problems in the church and offer theoretical answers to those issues. Seminary was intended to produce a servant who would labor to display the character of Christ in the midst of fellow Christians. The result of my own arrogance produced a young man who needed some chips knocked off his shoulder.

    It took me several years to realize that I am not. It took me years to learn that I needed other leaders who could walk with me through difficult circumstances and give counsel. It took me years to learn that I needed the voices of other leaders to call me out when I was in error.

    The church I serve now has a plurality of elders who hold me to account. They know me well and I loose a lot of battles to those guys. I trust them and as a result, my confidence is bolstered and humility is honored.

  4. How to define successI was one of those students who could read the book in a day and write the report that evening and make an A on the paper. If a professor favored content over grammar, I was going to make an A+ in the class. I could make a B with little effort and found seminary to be a long, but enjoyable experience. With all my work in seminary, I never learned how to define success. I learned how to fail and what it meant to work your way back from the bottom. I failed Hebrew twice and worked hard to overcome failing Hebrew 1 eventually make an A in Hebrew 1, Hebrew 2, and Exegetical Hebrew. I knew what failure way, and I knew how to press on to overcome failure. But I did not know what success was.

    Seminary does not teach you how to measure success in ministry. I did not know if I should measure myself according to the numbers in attendance or if I should find another metric. Eventually I landed on another method of judging success, you can read about that here. (article also linked below.) Whether you judge success in numbers, or life transformation, or personal devotion, strive to learn how to judge success in your ministry. It will be the catalyst for purpose and your ministry directives.

When I first began to seek a full time position at a church my first question for every church was, “can I learn from your pastors?” I was fortunate to meet a man who had been in ministry and was serving as an associate pastor. He was not a seminary grad or a wise old seasoned pastor. He was a genuine pastor who knew some things I didn’t. I credit him for much of what I do in ministry. We sharpened each other. If you are considering ministry. Find a guy that is a little further down the road from you and learn what you can from him.

HOW TO JUDGE SUCCESS

We Hide From Conflict; Ways we Rob Ourselves of Joy, Part 2

The time had come to address the issue. My stomach seemed to drop beneath the ground and my head began to spin. The weight of conflict landed heavy on my shoulders and made my fight or flight reflexes begin to wrestle with unrivaled fury. I knew this issue must be dealt with and I also knew I did not want to do what was necessary.

As I entered the room and sat across from the man I needed to speak with, my legs felt like jello and I could see on his face the same weight was heavy on him. Small talk and light banter covered over our awkward attempts to dance around the issue. Then, one of us spoke of it.

This sort of encounter is normative in communities. People are fragile. Relationships break and fracture. Often these confrontational meetings are necessary. However necessary they may be, we don’t like them and we often try to avoid them. We convince ourselves that we can just sweep the issue aside and persist in a false sense of harmony. Overwhelmed with the prospect of effort it will take to overcome the conflict, we run from the opportunity for joy! You see, when conflict arises, we are given a rare opportunity to press hard into the community and find joy. We are granted the grace to test our faith community and see the grace of God. We are given the chance to trust God in the midst of our failures. We are given the opportunity to love and know God more fully.

Yet, given the opportunity to walk through difficulty and feel the grace of God, we often deny ourselves the joy in favor of complacent comfort. There are numerous reasons for this avoidance, here are four common reasons why I have avoided conflict:

1. I was afraid of the outcome. Indeed, the end result of conflict terrifies us. We convince ourselves that vulnerability will result in our own self-destruction. We look across at the other person as though we are in a contest that must result in the death of someone or something. However, death is not required in conflict. Indeed, if you have trusted in Christ, death is not on the table. Conflict will not result in your demise, only your betterment. Romans 8:28 is true! God works all things for good. In the midst of conflict, we need to remember death is not on the table.

2. I don’t trust God’s grace and sovereignty. In general, it is safe to say that most people believe that God is all powerful and CAN do what He desires to do. While some may argue over the self-imposed limitations or the preservation of free agency, Christians agree that God is actively playing a role in the world and in our individual circumstances. If it is true that God is actively involved in the world and that His involvement is good (Romans 8:28), then it stands to reason that the conflicts we face can be used by God for our good and His glory. When we avoid necessary confrontations and difficult discussions we deny the truth that God is good and we fail to trust that God is at work in our circumstances. We fail to trust God.

3. I fear I will be fully known. Most people do not have close personal friends. Indeed, many are living rather lonely lives even in the midst of crowded spaces. In truth, we don’t want to people to know who we really are. Self-identity and thorough self examination are terrifying to our sensibilities. We want people to think that we are perfect and that we have everything together. However, there is great comfort in being known. When someone knows us, we need not fear that we will fail to live up to expectations or disappoint through conflict.

4. I misunderstand the value of conflict. Conflict is inherently valuable. It is through conflict that we grow and produce valuable means of grace and maturity. It is often through the greatest conflict that God develops the greatest soldiers in the Kingdom.

Here are three ways to press through conflict and grow.

1. Remember this is not the end, take the long view. My dad used to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff and if you back up far enough, everything is pretty small.” Remember there is a great deal more to life than this one issue. Gain some perspective and realize that this is not the end. Indeed, for a believer, none of this life is the end. Heaven awaits and this is merely a training ground. So, if this is not the end, then press on towards action. Instead of dwelling on and dealing with past offense, move forward. Make plans of how to move forward in the relationship. Ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, offer forgiveness when wounded, and make plans to advance the Kingdom of God. (A truly practical way to do this is to make specific plans to hold eachother accountable for gospel work. Commit to pray for specific gospel opportunities for one another. This way we turn conflict into conquest!)

2. Remember grace given to you, Jesus overcame the ultimate conflict for you. Often, in times of conflict, we forget the grace that has been given to us. A “woe is me” mindset begins to set in and our ability to see the reality of our circumstance is skewed. But God has granted us grace beyond our own ability and has rescued us from certain death! In Jesus, He has taken the punishment for sin upon Himself and forgiven you. You who were an enemy, He has made His child. Can you not extend grace to someone else? Is this conflict going to result in your literal crucifixion? If not, I think you can bare a little tension and struggle for the betterment of your community. Extend grace to the other person. Don’t take things personally, even if they are and go ahead and let yourself die for the other person. After all, if Christ is in you… then you have the power to do so.

3. Remember to cherish life. Through storm comes life. The aftermath of storms is devastating. Houses are destroyed, lives are lost, and even nature seems to be crying out in despair after a hurricane or tornado. However, when we return to the sight of a storm years later, houses are built stronger, lives are restored, and even the ground seems to have blossomed with a life-ferocious. Storms may bring pain, but they also strengthen the resolve to live. When conflict comes, do your best to preserve life, remembering that you will be stronger on the other end. Confess your wrongs, own your faults, take the blame (even if you’re right). Let the storm land on you so that you can preserve and protect the other. IN this way you will be stronger and the other will be loved.

Are there things you do to press into conflict? Share them in comments!

See part 1 of this post here

We Rob Ourselves of Rest; Ways we Rob Ourselves of Joy. Pt. 1

We avoid rest. Often we find ourselves tired and in need of rest. We need reprieve from the world. So we seek rest in passivity, or entertainment, or even just sleep. Our work makes us tired, both physically and mentally and we seek to refresh ourselves by “resting.” The trouble is that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of rest. We think “rest” means “doing nothing.” We think “rest” means escaping reality. Rest is so much more.

In my first church position I served as the janitor/youth pastor/set-up team/technical ministries head. It was my first position and I worked hard to learn how to do ministry. A pastor had taken a chance on me as a 22 year-old fresh out of college and I am forever grateful. Well, now I’m grateful. I grew into that.

As part of my job, each Sunday I would set up the church starting around 5:00 am. Church started at 10, the band arrived between 8 and 8:30 to practice. Our building doubled as a dance academy each week, so set up could be rather extensive. I would set up 100 chairs, a full sound system, and anything else that was necessary. During my near 2 year tenure at the church I had several volunteers come and help on occasion. They would help for a season and then might be too busy or too tired to continue and they would drift off. For the last year I was there, one man stood out as more faithful than the rest… Will

Will was a man who was basically homeless. He lived in a trailer/camper that most people would claim condemned. He smoked like a chimney in winter and looked as though he did not know how to shave. What most people would never have guessed is that Will was dying of cancer. He had a hole in his back shoulder blade and you could literally put your hand inside the hole and pull it out clean. At some point in my time as all things “setter-upper,” Will became a believer in Jesus (through conversations with my pastor) and began to show up every Sunday morning.

Each morning I would begrudgingly open the church, complaining about how early it was and how no one ever saw the work that was done before church started. Will would arrive just before or just after I unlocked and would go to the back room, clean and re-dress his cancerous wound, then he’d come out and start to set up the chairs. Often he would begin to cough up blood and have to go to the restroom to clean himself up again. Nothing was ever said. Often it was just Will and myself. Sometimes others would join us. The pastor was kind and would occasionally join us, if he knew I was tired. We set the church up in near silence.

One particular morning Will had a coughing attack and covered his mouth with a white rag that slowly turned red. He went to the restroom to clean up and came back a few minutes later. I wondered why this man, dying of cancer, would arrive at church 5 hours early to set up chairs and be at church. Why would someone who was so tired and who seemed to struggle to stay upright consistently arrive at church early, wear himself out, and subject his body to such pain when he could sleep an additional 4 hours and arrive at church rested.

Setting out the last chair, I turned to see him stumble back into the room with a fresh rag hanging from his pocket. I asked, “Will, why are you here? You could easily show up at 10:00 and enjoy the service and get more rest at home!?” A moment of silence followed. Then his gravelly voice responded, “I’m here because I need the rest.”

“Rest?” What? Didn’t I just ask him why he was depriving himself of rest? Will knew something I had yet to learn – rest is not found in sleeping or doing nothing. Rest is found in Jesus. Will knew that his soul needed the rest of service. He knew that his mind and heart needed the rest of community. He knew what rest was and he knew where to find it. So he arrived early each Sunday to serve, to engage, to rejoice… to rest. He came each week, setting up chairs, running wires, setting up screens, moving speakers, and coughing up blood, all in order to rest.

Cancer would take his life two years later and usher him to true rest with Christ. It took me a long time to understand what Will meant. In fact, I’m not sure I completely grasp the depths of that simple man’s response. But I do understand a little more now. I know that when I am physically and mentally exhausted, I need to put in the effort to go to the Bible Study and find rest in the community’s study. I know I need to push through and do my personal devotions to find rest in study. I know I need to make that food for the sick brother or invite the needy one to talk in order to find rest in service. I know I need to attend church or go to visit that brother or sister and delight in the rest of community. I know that sleep or mindless entertainment will not answer my need for rest. Jesus is where we find rest. We find Jesus in two places, the Word of God and the community of faith (1 John 4:12). Seek out rest.

Some basic things you can do to find rest:

  1. Read your Bible instead of your phone.
  2. Attend church and Bible Study.
  3. Read other good books.
  4. Take time to talk with other believers.

When you are tired, seek rest in these things. Don’t waste the time you are given, seek out true rest.

Sharing Your Suffering: 3 Things

A little more than 5 years ago I was afflicted with a disease that causes constant pain. The skin on my feet, hands, and parts of my legs hardens and constricts the muscles and joints. The constricted tension causes the nerves around those areas to become inflamed. This disease also causes sinus blisters in my nose that sometimes restrict breathing and cause relatively frequent migraines. In short – this disease thing stinks. Sometimes I have a limp, sometimes I can’t see straight, sometimes I just hurt, but it is always present with me. A silent thorn digging into my body with extreme patience and fury.

Like most people, I don’t like to admit weakness. I can be a proud man and want to be strong. So I seldom let people know that when I am in pain. I’ll smile and push through the pain, letting people forget that I am the way I am. I’ll try to hide my slight limp. I’ll squint my eyes or look down at the ground in order to keep the bright lights from hurting my head. I know that I’m not the only one who does this. Many people hide their pain from those they love. Whether it is physical pain or emotional, people don’t like to show real pain. But why? Why hide it? Perhaps, if they forget I have this affliction, maybe I can forget too? Maybe if they can’t see it, it will hurt a little less? Maybe I am afraid to burden them with my own trails? I know not why we hide our afflictions from the people we love, only that we do. So here are three things that result when we try to hide our brokenness and three things you can do to change that.

Results of Hiding:

  1. When we hide our affliction, we are robbing ourselves of grace. The grace of God covers us and His grace is, indeed, enough. However, in His infinite mercy, God has given us a tremendous support system to dispense grace in this life. The community of the faithful is to be a group in which we can bear our burdens out in the strength of a group that share a common love for one another. So, to hide our pain is to forego this benefit from the community of faith.
  2. When we hide our pain, we deny others the freedom to express their own pain. No individual thinks that they are perfect. No matter how arrogant a person may be, there is not a person who genuinely believes they are perfect. The problem is that people often think other people are perfect. Sin has taught us to think that other people are better off than we are. Sin causes us to think that other people are perfect and we need to be perfect as well. But, people need to know that you are not perfect. People need to know that it is ok to be broken. They need to see it modeled. When you share your brokenness with the community, you are granting the community permission to not be perfect. They will follow your lead.
  3. When we hide our failures, we fail to grant grace to others who are struggling as well. Being a perfect person helps no one. They will not see Jesus if you are perfect. Rather, they will see Jesus if you are broken. The reality is that: when you are perfect, you are passively sending a message to those around you. You are telling them that they cannot be imperfect. Yet, when you are being redeemed by the working of the Holy Spirit in your life, then people can see the victory over the failures. They can see that broken people can be rescued. Sometimes the best thing you can do is prove that you aren’t good enough.

What to Do:

  1. Admit your frailties one to another. It is not earth-shattering to know that if you will admit your struggles, others will too. But be prepared. Honesty also brings criticism. You must be prepared to grant grace to those who will not grant it to you. Perhaps they’ve not yet learned to give up perfection. Be honest about your pain. Sure, no one can hurt or think less of you if they don’t know. But no one can help you or encourage you either. Further, you may find out that you are a source of strength to others because of your brokenness.
  2. Live in open and honest community with others. This is basically a restatement from number 1, but a necessary one. You need other people. Introvert, extrovert, or whatever. You need people. God designed us this way and you must take advantage of it! Living in honesty community with others is difficult. It means when you ask someone, “how are you?” you really want the answer. When someone asks you, you are honest in your response. Brothers and sisters should not leave things to lay unanswered. Instead, believers seek reconciliation, restoration, and love with one another. This is honest community. Sometimes it is frustrating and difficult because we hurt each other, but it is always grace giving and the result is always love.
  3. Submit to the wisdom of others. When I was first afflicted with my disease, it was rough. I often had to use a cane to walk and found it difficult to accomplish tasks that I was assigned. I was working on a house for a missions group with a team of about 20 and my foot was essentially useless. On my crew were two students who knew my stubbornness and knew my own weakness. They insisted that I sit when I was limping, and that I stopped working when they saw I was hurting. After the trip I spoke with a doctor who told me that they probably saved me some severe nerve damage because they forced me to sit. Since then I have learned to trust those who know me. They know my weaknesses better than I do, so when they address something, I listen.

Maybe you don’t have a disease or struggle with something that causes you physical pain. There are still struggles you deal with. Depression, anxiety, dark feelings, and the like are all too common among believers. Yet, I believe if we are honest with one another, we will often find victory over the darkness. Though the struggles will not necessarily disappear, you can find greater victory by engaging in the community of faith.

Are there any tips you would add? How do you deal with struggles?