vulnerability

Exposed for the Body

It is unfortunate how we have let the performance-based culture we live in make its home within the walls of church buildings.  A repercussion of that indwelling is the adoption of moralism as a standard with which we measure each other’s spirituality. When the misfits and outcasts walk in our doors, they should not feel the same pressure to fit in that the world places on them; but I am afraid they do. I am afraid my hands can be found red in trying to put my best foot forward at church, as if I was in a constant interview for the most-inspirational-member award.

 

If I am guilty, then likely my words that proclaim, “Everyone should come as they are to the foot of the cross,” are not convincing.

 

Testimonies

Most Christians are aware of the power of sharing a testimony of salvation. Some of us have another’s story to thank for its use in our own eternal salvation narrative. Shouldn’t the practice of sharing stories of sanctification hold a similar importance?

If you want to change the world, let the world see how you have been changed.

And if you want to change the Church, let the Church see how you are being changed.

We are quick to share what God teaches us, but rarely find the words to express the state of disobedience that originated the need to be taught. Regrettably though, leaving out confession and vulnerability does little to reach those who look at the mess in their life, and wonder if they will ever be free from it. There is a reason why people with extreme stories of conversion are frequently asked to share- it gives people confidence that if someone who was that far away could be accepted, loved, and saved by Jesus, so can they.

The same could be true if those who others see as "perfect" were to share that they too still need the Lord to “clean them up.” We need more vulnerability in order for the confidence found in salvation to also be found in sanctification. Believers must become more transparent about the dark places in their life, not only so they can be transformed by the light of the Gospel of grace, but also so others can have the courage to come and be cleaned.  

 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

And sinners will return to you.”
— Psalm 51:12-13

 

The Call

As people, who have all been called to live our life with the mission of making disciples, we need to abandon the performance-based mentality. We need to not see admitting failure as weakness; instead, we need to encourage it as a product of understanding grace.

We do not need to be dishonest in order to “protect” God’s reputation. He is the King of Kings and his fame is unstoppable. We need not be afraid that if we share how messed up we are, that we will discredit the power of the Cross. Instead, it is the denying of our need for redemption that dishonors the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice.

 

What’s the hardest thing about all of this?

It is going to take you. It is going to have to be your life that runs exposed through the church halls. It is going to be your sin, your brokenness, and your fear that others will see. While you may not win the outstanding-Christian award, remember that Jesus himself wouldn’t have either. He would have been too busy hanging out with you, a sinner who was hopeless on your own.

 

Think:

How has someone’s vulnerability encouraged you?

How can you choose to be more vulnerable in your community?

What is holding you back?

 

 

Mountains VS. Pyramids

This past week Bryan and I drove to Colorado for a close friend’s wedding. I came back from the trip physically fatigued from the long drive and a heavy dose of dancing. The trip, while exhausting for my body, was medicine for my heart. Driving through the mountains and canyons on the way to Glenwood Springs was breathtaking. In the three days we were there the aspens started to turn, so while the drive in was green and lush, the way out was bursting with yellow and gold.

Perfectionism

Throughout the trip, God had been moving in my heart about whom I aim to please. With an increase in writing and speaking lately, I have found it hard to satisfy not just others, but myself (who tends to be the harshest of judges). I want everything I say to be perfect and powerful with every crack filled so that misunderstanding can’t slip through.

This goal of perfection can quickly make me a slave, not only in writing but also in living. I try to build myself into a pyramid so that others can make trips to come see me stand tall, and admire my strength. I know I am not alone in my pyramid building because I see pyramids filling the pews around me.

Every once in a while I meet a mountain. Their lines aren’t straight, they have uneven surfaces, fallen trees and scandalous scars from last year’s storm; but something about them is beautiful, and their messiness seems perfectly planned. Their life could not have been made by the hands of man, so they stand as a testament to their Creator.

Mountains vs. Pyramids

The reasons for taking a trip to see the mountains, and a trip to see the pyramids are very different. People escape to the mountains to be reminded of how small they are. Many would say that when you see the beauty and majesty of a mountain you cannot deny that there is a God. Who else could create such beauty? Feelings overwhelm you as you watch the sun creep up over the valley, teeming with life in every nook and cranny. The smell of mountain air makes you feel alive. The whole experience of a trip to the mountains is refreshing and leaves you feeling humbled before the Lord.

Taking a trip to see the pyramids, on the other hand, is a totally different experience. Now to be clear, I want to see the pyramids and I have never been; nonetheless, I have heard stories from my friends about their trips and not one of them resulted in praising God. “It is just amazing what they (men) did with such precision,” people say. “To think of how much work and engineering had to happen- it seems impossible. It was amazing to see.” The selfish ideas of humans, carried out through slavery and oppression resulted in a “perfect” mountain that people still visit today. It is mankind's glory. 

So which would you rather be: a mountain or a pyramid?

I have painted a pretty obvious picture of where I stand. However it is a dangerous thing to seek mountainhood. It takes daring vulnerability to allow light to shine on the caves and cracks in our lives, but it is in the misfortunes that others can see the beauty of God’s grace. A grace that takes failures and defeat and turns them into beautiful canyons and waterfalls.

Perfect In Christ

We must seek perfection differently. Instead of having an end goal of our definition of perfect and doing whatever we can to get ourselves there, we must seek the Holy Spirit as he walks us through each day. The Spirit will guide us away from shame and towards redemption, away from pride and toward humility, and away from our imperfect definition of perfection toward who we were created to be.

Humankind is God's only creation  made in his image, and Disciples are the only living beings to have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. Our potential to be a witness of who he is, is so much greater than that of a mountain. When people spend time with us, they should feel that there must be a God.

We will be given complete perfection when our Savior returns and makes all things right; but until then, we must admit our own inadequacies and cling to the One who is perfect. Our confidence must no longer depend on our flesh, but on the work of Christ. The Apostle Paul was a great example of this. In his letter to the church of Philippi he described his former way of “perfection” and compared it to his new way of seeking perfect dependence on Christ.

If someone else thinks they have reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
— Philippians 3:4b-9

This week I am asking the Holy Spirit to lead me away from my old way of seeking to be a perfect specimen of Christianity, and lead me toward living perfectly in step with my Savior. His perfection is enough. I am so grateful for the grace our Creator has on his creation… Even the rocks cry out his praise.