Let’s get real, people!

Our pastor recently shared about his personal life in a very transparent sermon. One that gets you thinking, “Wow! I could never share about my struggles with my church friends (who are, of course, always happy and perfect Christians). Not to mention, sharing about my problems in front of a whole congregation!” Sadly, many of us, myself included, have spent many years in Christian circles trying to keep up pretenses. It’s just not worth it!

Pornographic materials of all kinds had a grip on my pastor’s life for many years, starting at age 12. He shared his story of how those materials entered his life, how they affected him in teenage and young adult years, and even into his early married years. Thankfully, he continually went back to God to get those images, stories, and thoughts out of his mind. He also confessed to his wife and made a commitment to take specific actions to guard himself. Now, he is able to proclaim that those things no longer hold him hostage!

During his sermon, he told the story of a church leader who was so frustrated with people’s lack of “realness” that he wished one of the men in his small group would get up and say that he wanted to kill his wife. Of course, not that wanting to kill his wife was a good thing, but that he would be honest and open enough to say how he felt in order to embrace the healing process.

I think I was in the women’s version of that small group. For two years, I helped lead worship for a women’s bible study at a fairly large church in southern California. Our “small” group that met after the large group worship and speaking session consisted of eight to ten women, including two leaders. After the initial few sessions, you hoped that people would start sharing their hurts and struggles more intimately. There were many days when I simply couldn’t hold back my tears as I shared, yet again, about my disintegrating marriage. I felt completely alone among dry eyes, sympathetic nods and bible memory verses.

But know that I’m writing this, I wonder how honest I really was. Did I really lay it on the line and tell those women that I had thought of divorce? I remember crying a lot, but maybe more of those tears fell in my car when I was finally alone. I did talk one-on-one with several women and ask for advice. My summary of that advice: be a better wife, spend more time with God, do everything at home (mind you, I was working full-time) so he can focus on being the “man of the house”, and give him more sex. I tried so hard to do all those things and whatever else I could think of. Nothing seemed to help!

I tried to put on my game face for church – especially for the young marrieds group we attended – but it just got harder. We did meet with one of the pastors one evening during the young marrieds group. (Again, I couldn’t hold back the tears!) We also met with a Christian counselor for a time. Eventually, we did get divorced. A part of me will always be saddened by the brokenness of that relationship.

But going back to that women’s bible study … a few weeks after the study ended, I received a call from the leader. Not my small group leader, but the leader of the entire study. She apologized to me and said she wished she had talked with me sooner. She knew that I was struggling, but didn’t know how difficult things were. She told me she should have been “Jesus with skin on.” That took my breath away. Even now I can hear her saying that phrase. “Jesus with skin on.”

I just wonder … am I being honest enough with others to allow them to care about me and love on me? Am I reaching out to others who are hurting or confused and offering to be “Jesus with skin on?”

I think we can all be a little more honest, a little more vulnerable, and a little more real.

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7 Comments

Filed under Christian life, Life Journal

7 responses to “Let’s get real, people!

  1. Great, great post!!! True healing cannot occur until it is brought out into the light. When I was first released from prison, I was so ashamed, and I did not want anyone to know that I was a convicted felon. It was not until I shared it on my blog that true healing (freedom from shame) occurred. And the grace that was exhibited to me. There will be people who do not extend grace when you reveal something you are ashamed of. But there will also be amazing people that extend beautiful grace. And THOSE are the people you want in your life anyways. The people who do not extend grace…who needs them?
    Again, great, great post. I think this concept needs to be preached on time and time again. Church is so often…artificial… because we are not willing to talk about hard things.

  2. Sheila Pfister

    Dear Clara,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your last two blogs. Congratulations on the work in progress of baby number 2! I was very moved by your journaling about having to step back and reestablish your priorities. I prepared for a career, but with a husband who worked 70-80 hours a week, I found it necessary to change my goals for our children’s sake. My legacy seems to have been the willingness to put many things aside and just be a Mom. I am happy to report that my two daughters are good Moms, in spite of the challenges of three children each, fairly close together.

    The theme of being real always gives me pause. I have often been too honest and too real for others’ comfort zones. I find I cannot conduct my life any other way, in spite of the tears that come as a result. Since the Bible emphasizes encouraging others, I find that listening to the trauma of a friend’s situation, includes realizing that this is a moment in time. Perhaps in your case, divorce was inevitable, but Christians need to understand that God is in charge, not their interpretations of his word. Platitudes and thinking you know the right thing to say are often more painful than healing. Talking it out with Christian friends, even without their understanding, is still more therapeutic in the long run, than bottling up your pain and putting on a smiling face. I’m so glad that God provided a second chance for you. It sounds like humility is a constant companion. I’m sure God is enjoying you. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to seeing your second gift from God this winter. I am sad that we won’t have you as our choir director, but hopefully you will find less intense ways to add to the music ministry. Que le vaya bien! Sheila Pfister

    • Sheila,
      Thanks for sharing your own experiences. It’s always good to know we’re not alone!

      Clara
      P.S. I will be directing the Christmas Cantata this year – but I won’t be directing Easter 2013 since the baby is due in March. Hope you’ll be singing with us!

  3. Pingback: response-turned-blog | Silks'n'Sweets

  4. LLM

    I agree. I long for authentic, real relationships with other believers and it seems so very hard to find. Christians, above all, should understand the broken world we live in and understand life can be hard and sin abounds. If we can’t be honest, who can be? Like another response to your post, I also find that I am often too honest and real for people’s comfort zones. But I can’t be any other way. Who wants to pretend? Thanks for this post.

    I did not write it, but you might appreciate this article: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/blog/29421-eight-things-no-christian-has-ever-said

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