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Yesterday my husband Greg and I had a most interesting and enlightening conversation in the car – while discussing our pastor’s message that morning at church.
Normally I love our pastor’s messages – he is always prepared and seems to have his pulse on what is going on in the lives of his congregation. This time I felt he was right on – as usual – but must admit, it made me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and a little sad – because I simply was not raised with the idea that it was okay to let people know what you are feeling – especially if it is bad, questionable or sad.
I’m from a generation who believed you did NOT let anyone see you sweat – never voiced a fear or regret – or even dared to be sad or depressed about anything. This was true in our family – and sadly, in the church.
And to further complicate this – about 3 years ago I found myself in a touchy situation with another person and I was going through a bad time – was in a dark hole of sadness and was criticized for posting a SCRIPTURE verse on facebook about being downcast and sad from the PSALMS! Good grief. And because I was in leadership – I was not allowed to mourn over a loss – or even hint that I might be having a problem with it.
So it seems there are two very different schools of thought on being authentic:
1. We should be honest in expressing who we are – how we’re feeling and doing – and not afraid to be real with people and let them know that we struggle like everyone else.
2. Never let people know that you struggle with temptation or sin. Always be “fine” when asked and only post positive things when on a social network or in person. Especially leadership. Because leadership is perfect and never struggles. We paste on a smile and never let them see us sweat. We never have problems with our children – we never have illness or marital trouble. Never.
Well, yesterday – my dear pastor admitted that he struggles. He admitted that he’s not perfect – in any way. That he can be and mostly always IS a disappointment to others in his life. He admitted that he’s a human being capable of temptation and sin like the rest of us.
I loved what he said about those that attend AA meetings. They have to say their name and then say, “I’m an alcoholic” or “I’m a recovering alcoholic” and he believes that when we introduce ourselves to others that we should be quick to say, “I’m a recovering sinner“. Because it’s true. We are all at level ground. Even leadership.
Now I’m also aware that people who are lost need to have a role model – and have someone they can look up to.
Here’s the problem with that. Most of the time – it’s not reality – and the first time that this “seeker” or really lost person has a problem – they fall, because they don’t have it “all together” like the Christian people they encounter at church on a Sunday morning – and they believe they can’t make it.
Instead – I would submit that you do the following:
1. Stop trying to elevate ourselves by trying to look better than anyone else
2. Have a humble spirit and listening ear
3. Admit that you have problems and temptations like everyone else
4. Admit that you stumble and sometimes want to go the other way
5. Have a testimony of God’s grace and love ready to share with others when they become discouraged.
6. Be a person that is “instant in season” knowing that God places certain people in our path.
7. Do not let anyone tell you - you can’t express who you are. Even if that means you have to admit you’ve failed.
I wish I would’ve done that back then – but I’ve learned some valuable lessons about people and myself since then. I’ve found out that everyone struggles – we are ALL THE SAME when it comes to this. How you RESPOND is truly the difference – NOT whether or not you get hit with struggles, temptation and sin. Because if you live long enough – you will.
Here is what you SHOULD do:
1. Respond in an authentic way
2. Admit that you struggle
3. Ask for forgiveness and for strength from the only one who truly understands and can forgive without strings attached.
4. Tell others that it’s only the grace of God that gives anyone ANY hope in times of struggle – including you.
5. Have a fast recovery time from failure to repentance.
6. Be unafraid to be yourself – including gifts of encouragement and hospitality to bring renewed hope to others who may be hurting and struggling.
7. Do NOT let others rob you of your ability to be yourself.
8. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit – not to man alone.
9. Develop a deep joy in your spirit even in times of trouble.
10. Pray for your leaders – they are human beings too.