Community is Honest

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By: Jae Martin

I confess. I haven’t been honest. There are unspoken realities floating, sinking, soaring, burning, screaming in my heart. I have kept them tucked away in a place where I am safe. Safe? I suppose I am safe; from judgement. Safe from ridicule, safe from the responses that would say I can’t do it, it’ll never work. Protected from awkward silences, bad advice, insensitivity. And yet. I’m blocking away opportunities to be cheered on, built up, inspired. I’m guarding myself from encouragement, hope, the freedom to cry, be understood, fully known...fully loved. That sounds like the subtle longing of a lonely heart that desires to share life in a real way with real people. What keeps me carefully preserving my heart in the face of what I have to gain? Is it the fear of negative feedback, judgment, or failure? I think there’s a deeper fear that stirs up this insecurity; fear of people actually knowing me.

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m rejected?

My thoughts may be bent in the wrong direction. My feelings informed by the slightest mistruths. My ideas could take me down a path that leads to confusion, brokenness, or relational or spiritual death. I fear the pain of being known and rejected, but what if in being fully known, I am also truly loved? What if I’m able to hear, and receive, truth that speaks directly to me? Truth that, if allowed to be spoken, could breathe life, and joy, and hope into the depths of my soul. But who do I trust with such a task and such fragile information? If I mishandle the way, and to whom, I share my heart, my heart may be mishandled. So I resign to keep it safe and hidden and protected...and unknown...and isolated.

But wait.

There is one who knows already. Truly knows. Deeply. Intimately. He knows me so thoroughly that I myself would cringe at the knowledge he holds. Even I would pass judgment on my own heart if I could see the entirety of it laid bare. Yet he does not. I am known, completely known, and still absolutely loved by the one who created me for this very purpose; intimacy. In-to-me-you-see. It’s an invitation to see into my heart that Jesus accepts and attends every moment. But the truth is, I don’t always attend that gathering. I avoid it. With painful precision I will walk past opportunities to talk openly with him. I’ll push the door closed as I brush by on my way to my responsibilities, and pleasures, and personal agendas. Avoiding intimacy with the only one who sees into me rightly begins to infect my ability to be open and honest with anyone else. Even my own husband, who has to endure an almost unending stream of my words on a daily basis, becomes barred from what is really going on in my heart. Then, when I gather together with my community, I become fearful of being truly known because I don’t even know myself. Instead of processing my heart with the one who has it written on his hands, I become a bumbling mess of word vomit trying to find ten different ways to express a vague piece of myself that ends up leaving everyone, including myself, feeling confused. (sorry if you’ve gotten the brunt of that.)

The cross invites us to be honest about our hearts because it places the reality of our shared sinfulness on display for all to see.

Why do I express myself in a way that’s so disheveled and confusing? It’s because I’m dishonest about my need to meet with Jesus. Being rooted, first and foremost, in Christ, frees me to accept the ways I need His truth to shape and change me. No hiding. No pretending like I don’t have sins that the God of the universe died for. The cross invites us to be honest about our hearts because it places the reality of our shared sinfulness on display for all to see. The fears that scream, “DO NOT risk being known!” become feeble whispers of isolation. Community then becomes a beautiful place where I can courageously hold out my true self. Rather than being a place riddled with opportunity for rejection, it’s an opportunity for us to encourage one another with gospel truth out of our shared acceptance in Christ. To expose, without fear, who we really are, with all our joys and sorrows, sins and success, interests and opinions. As we gather, we can submit ourselves to the hopeful journey of giving and receiving truth. But only if we’re honest.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9