I love Michael Patton’s authenticity. The way he exposes his faults and failures in such a public forum is both refreshing and encouraging. In fact, when I was writing my personal statement for my seminary application, I was so strongly encouraged by his openness that I wrote it in a way I would not have but for his influence. His exposures gave me courage to tell my story and expose cracks, showing how that can used in ministry. It did make for a much richer personal statement, even though I recognized the crooked path I was painting. It was exposing but I was relieved.
I don’t think I am alone. For I have noticed an interesting phenomenon whenever he pours out his soul in a post such as this recent one, Uncle Lord. People began to open up. You can almost hear the sighs of relief through the internet, sighs that have come from weary souls burdened with life’s pains, bottled up with angst over the possibility of exposure yet suddenly uncorked to reveal authentic expressions. The relief echos “You too, Mike? Man I’m glad you said that because here is what I have going through…” The relaxation soon turns to ministry, as people chime in with encouragements and prayers. In some sense, I find myself surprised not only by Michael’s openess but more so by the unveiling of others. And then I have to think about why I am surprised.
I believe the fall of man has much to do with our unwillingness to expose ourselves. When Adam and Eve sinned, they immediately looked at each other and were embarrassed prompting the covering up of themselves (Genesis 3:7). Then the unthinkable, they heard the rushing wind of an upset God coming towards them. They ran for cover (Genesis 3:10). They did not want to be exposed.
So what does that have to do with us? I believe that the sin we inherited from our ancestral parents brought it the consequences of spiritual death and the reality of condemnation, an insidious principle that creates shame and guilt (Romans 5:12). As believers in Christ, we are absolved from the penalty of sin but certainly not its presence. Paul tells us in Romans 7:23-25, that there is an ever present principle that constantly seeks to rear its ugly head. This keeps us in a state of hearing our short comings shout at us to shut up and keep our mouths closed. Sin and faults and failures puts us back in the garden hiding behind the bush with our ancestral parents, even though positionally this is not the case. Paul has to remind us of this in Romans 8:1, that therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. This may not be the exact expression of your theology but at the very minimum I think we all can agree that there are feelings of shame experienced with episodes or impressions of personal failure.
Now as Christians, we know that Christ bore our sins once for all and that John tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But I don’t believe it is enough to just know that are sins are absolved, that we constantly come short but all forgiven in Christ. We do bad, we think wrong thoughts, we struggle with God’s actions and motives towards us, we confess that to God but yet a sense of shame lingers so that we often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of sin and confession. We know positionally that we are forgiven but at the same time we want to hide from others, what so easily keeps us from experiencing true freedom. Why is that?
I am convinced both from the witness of Scripture and from life’s observations, that confession within the Christian community becomes essential for true freedom and true healing to occur. I believe that’s why the rush of relief descends upon Michael’s baring posts. People recognize that they are not alone. But isn’t that why James tells us in James 5:16, to confess our faults one to another so that we will be healed? It is not might or maybe, but will be healed, restored, set back right. The emphatic instruction is within the context of prayer, so its not just enough for us to pray but to call upon others to bear our burdens. Consider what Paul says in Galatians 6:2, to bear one another burdens and in Philippians 2:4, to look out for the interests. Is this not because we are members, one with another that project our commitment to head, which is Christ? We need each other.
But that entails a willingness for exposure, a willingness to express what so easily will keep us cowering in a corner fearful of judging eyes and condemning words. I am further convinced that our enemy uses this fear to keep us silent, when we know we are not measuring up. I find this especially true, in light of others who may hold to beliefs that only positive expressions of Christianity should be conveyed, while reserving unfavorable thoughts towards God, ourselves or others for the discreet counsel of a few and the solitude of prayer life. I think this position completely misses the significance of the Christian community, as the body of Christ and the need to defer, help, encourage and counsel one another.
The NT writers do not make this distinction, not even for leadership that we have to put on a front of strength to effectively lead people. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that leaders suddenly become dispensers of all their ills to whomever will listen. There is wisdom after all. But I don’t think it should be used as mask to portray a facade that does not exist because there is the allusion that leadership means only showing strengths and not weaknesses. This is one attribute of Chuck Swindoll I admire so much. He is willing to be authentic with his audience as is Michael with his posts. And this further supports the notion that we are all clay pots anyway, dependent upon God’s power and not our own to carry out His agenda and reflect His glory(2 Corinthians 4:7). How can we disparage others from struggles.
Because where we live is not always a bed of roses. There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys and everything in between. We need to be allowed to express our struggles, attitudes, short-comings and failures without fear of reprisal and without repercussions of alienation. We are already fighting alienation that I believe non-authenticity further influences. Yes, I think when we are disingenuous with one another and only express the positive, we do not allow others room to confess their faults, which reinforces the condemnation already present. I believe it further pushes that brother or sister into a closet of despair since they are unable to match the same level of enthusiasm and might believe that they are the spiritual losers. So they keep silent while their spiritual walk erodes. And I personally think that is a great tragedy and a sin against the body of Christ.
So my exhortation with this post is to keep it real because that is what authenticity is, an expression of ‘this is where I am right now’. Are you angry, lonely, doubting, hurting, scared, indifferent, worried, or tempted? Find yourself in a community of believers that will be willing to listen, embrace, counsel, encourage and even admonish (we do need that too!). Confess your faults one to another. Are you willing to allow that hurting saint to express his or her fears, concerns, issues, worries, frustrations, sadness or anger, even with God? Confess your faults one to another. I am not suggesting that we dissolve into pity-party feasts but I am encouraging everyone to just be honest about what is going on in your life and to allow others to do the same. Tell somebody! The internet is a great place to start but more importantly, whose shoulder do you have to cry on? Confess your faults one to another so that you may be healed.
Now, please excuse me. I have some people I need to talk to.