As I was walking my dog yesterday I was admiring a certain front yard. The grass was green and nicely landscaped. It just looked very well kept. But as I turned the corner and walked past the back yard, it was a very different sight. The back was overgrown with weeds; there were children’s toys strewn about that were covered in dirt. It was in desperate need of a weed-eater and lawnmower. A much different picture from the front of the house.
It reminded me of how we as people can be sometimes.
We tend to put on a good “front” by making sure we look presentable (at least on the days we know we’re going to be seen by other people!), put on a happy face and when someone asks us how we are, we smile and quickly respond with, “Fine.” It’s almost automatic. On the inside, we may be a mess, but it’s easier to present a nice, neat front, when reality may be there are weeds that need to be removed or our emotions are really a mess because of something we are going through.
I’ve been there.
I know what it’s like to want to just curl up into a ball and cry, or to be so exhausted from work and kids, or to be stressed to the max, but not being willing to talk about it. Instead, I smile, say I’m “fine” and move on.
It is so much easier to pretend things are okay when they’re not. Maybe we’re barely holding it together, but if we talk about it, we will just become a blubbering mess so we don’t. Or maybe we are ashamed of why we are not “fine”. Maybe we don’t trust the person enough to spill our guts to them. Or maybe we don’t believe they really care about what’s going on in our lives so we don’t bother going into it.
There are many reasons why we are not authentic with each other, but are any of them truly good reasons? God doesn’t think so.
God created us for relationship
He wants us to be real with each other. Even if that means turning into a blubbery mess! Life is messy and as Christians, we have been adopted into a family of believers and God expects us to live our messy lives with each other. He has given us instructions on how to act like a family in several verses in the Bible that I like to call “the one another verses”. (Emphasis mine)
Romans 12:10: Be devoted to one another in love
Romans 12:16: Live in harmony with one another
Romans 15:7: Accept one another
2 Corinthians 13:11: encourage one another
Ephesians 4:2: be patient, bearing with one another in love
1 Thessalonians 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up
Hebrews 3:13: But encourage one another daily
Hebrews 13:1: Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters
1 Peter 1:22: love one another deeply, from the heart
1 John 4:7: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens
God has made it pretty clear that if we have the love of the Father, we are to love one another.
Love is an action word and is carried out by accepting, encouraging, and bearing each other’s burdens. But how can we do that if we don’t share our struggles?
Will we encounter people who will mistreat us or not respond in the way God wants? Sure we will. That’s the risk we take when being in relationships with imperfect people. (Remember the whole life-is-messy thing??) Is the risk worth it? You better believe it! Our church family cannot pray for us if they don’t know they need to. They can’t encourage us if they think everything is okay.
Sometimes it’s difficult and painful to be real and show our messy side. But if we want authentic relationships in the body of Christ, we need to be willing to open up to people. By doing so, we are allowing God to work through those around us and it will encourage others to share their mess as well. Then we can turn around and bless them through prayer, encouraging words, or just as a shoulder to cry on.
Let’s strive to be real.
If our backyard is messy and needs fixing, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us let others in so that they can help us through those hard times!