Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What If...we let ourselves be more transparent?

At the coffee shop we were supposed to be talking about upcoming projects we were working on. Somehow, though, the conversation took a turn and suddenly we were talking about life and deeper things. I’d known Kara for about four years, but I had no clue that she’d had such a difficult childhood.

She gave me such a gift when she gave me her vulnerability and trust. Kara poured forth stories about her mostly absent father who sporadically stops by her mother’s for money and a place to sleep. She talked about the years he spent in prison after being caught running a meth lab and how he hasn’t worked in years. I don’t think this young, professional woman would have come to the point of sharing so much with me if I hadn’t already told her a little bit about my own parents being alcoholics and what affect that had on my life. I don’t talk about that very often. It’s still hard not to feel that I am betraying my parents, even though they have both passed on. However, I am coming to truly understand how God can use any part of our lives to connect with and support other human beings.

It’s easy for us as Christians to think we should have it all together and separate ourselves from each other by the masks we keep firmly in place. I am discovering that authenticity is not just about openly sharing stories of our lives, but allowing others to hold our hearts in their hands and connect at a deep and soulful level. It’s often the cracks in our hearts that make space for God to enter in. Our own brokenness can be a gift for others. I have been where you have been, I’m walking a similar path, and I understand.

In The Message version of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, I love the wording of these verses from Matthew: ‘When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?" Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick?”’

Kara hasn’t been a part of any church, but she decided to come to my church last Sunday after our conversation, and plans on coming back this week. Perhaps in my openness she is seeing a glimpse of how God loves all his children. So hey – here I am, Lord, just one of the riff-raff trying to live life wide open, with a heart willing to let you use my messiness to help draw others closer to you.


Randee said...

I was surprised by the topic of your post today. Why? Because of an interesting conversation I had recently with another woman about "transparency". I've noticed this word come up frequently lately in my Christian circles. This need to be transparent and I completely agree. As TD Jakes says...Our ministry lies in our misery (I paraphrase) and I truly believe that when we share we open the door for so many blessings. But, I've also noticed that their are certain individuals who are preaching this message who refuse to be transparent themselves. They are guarded, versed, perfect in speech. Too afraid to walk their own talk. Having said that...does it matter? It still remains that in our transparency, we touch lives by the grace of God. He prompts us to share and when we are obedient He opens the doors of Heaven and rains blessings upon us. How sweet He is. I thank you, my sister, for your transparency. For walking your talk. For allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And, look at your recent reward. God bless you!

Lori Arriaga said...

Great topic. I must admit as well that this is a hard one for me especially when it comes to people I don't know or don't feel safe with. Being transparent with one another is truly a blessing and beautiful thing when it does happens because it always bonds a relationship.

I fully believe that the worst of ourselves will be used for good in one way or another if we just let it in order to speak hope and grace into other peoples lives.

Trust must first be established though. We must feel we are safe in sharing the worst of ourselves before we can truly be vulnerable enough to be transparent.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I was touched by this story because I personally believe that if we were more "transparent" in other words real, more people would see Chritians as humans. Problem is that we try to paint this "image" of perfection and people feel that they would never be able to attain that ideal, so they stay away.
Christ was the most transparent man who alked this earth - if we are His followers then we need to meet people where they are, instead of saying to them: "you need to come up to our standards"

anne said...

Oh wow. So many good thoughts here. I so treasure you. Randee, although I don't know TD Jakes exact quote, "ministry lies in our misery" is a great thought to ponder. Not only will your words guide me in face to face conversations, but hopefully more so in writing as well. Sometimes I've been scared of being too real in a public forum, but how God can use that. Thanks so much for your blessing as well. It means a lot to me.

Lori, I understand what you mean about being so open with people you don't feel safe with. There have been times when I've held back for long stretches with people, and yet God has also thrown me into situations where I barely knew someone and yet revealed some of my struggles or past hurts. May His Spirit continue to guide us to know exactly when and with whom to share our most personal stories.

Norka, I attend a church that exists for the unchurched, and whose median age of 400 or so people is 28 years. There are many who have crossed the threshold who have been broken or are broken still. Addictions to drugs or porn or alcohol, ex-felons, and many whose stories I don't know. Personally it makes my heart lighter to see some young, tattooed person with multiple piercings walk through the door and get to introduce myself. What an opportunity to show God's love without judgement. I love what you said about Jesus being the most transparent man who walked this earth. May we continue to follow him always, in all ways.

lifecoachlynn said...

Amen sisters! This is how we show Christ to those who are unfamiliar with who God really is. People must overcome the 'stereotypes' of God they were told to believe growing up and through their life experiences.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God, we are vulnerable with others (and vice versa!).

Randee said...

You ladies are so awesome. What a dynamic and thought-provoking group of women. Praise God for YOUR willingness to be transparent. What a blessing! Have I told you how much you mean to me?

Khrys said...

Transparency is one of those words that some people don't have a clear understanding of. There have always been and will always be private and just because someone is Christian does not mean they are entitled to know your life's history. Transparency simply allows God's light to shine through as you live your life - in other words, your Christian walk. There are things that God may prompt you to share perhaps in a one-on-one situation or other such controlled environment, but it will always be for the purpose of building someone up, motivating them, or guiding them in the right direction. This type of transparency is good. If such info is used to bring someone down, to control, or hinder in any way, this is not of God and only serves the purpose to condemn.

Randee said...

Well said, Khrys. Thank you for sharing!

Shalene said...

Ladies, I don't know most of you except through this blog, but I love you and I love what you're doing. I too belong to a church for the unchurched. In fact their motto is "Hate church? Try ____ ____." (I'm not including the name, because I don't want to seem like I'm trying to "plug" them in any way.) God has called me too, to live a more transparent life, so that I might influence and comfort others, in His name. That is the purpose of my new "venture" and the step of faith I have mentioned in my comments before. God has shown me that I am to let the women of my church and my community see me, and where I came from, so that they can see what God can do in their lives as well. I have been blessed with looks and leadership abilities that I have not always used for good. Now is my chance to show others that only God can make us truly beautiful and that He alone is the One to follow. God has shown me that my transparency can come to much good, if I use it for Him. It comes as a sincere shock to many people, that I have the life experiences I do, all because they use beauty as a basis for believing and trusting in someone. They are shocked because, underneath the "pretty" exterior, lies a heart that has been battered, a child that has been hurt, a woman that has hurt herself, and a person possessed, that once hit rock bottom and finally reached out to God, so that He could put beauty on the inside as well. Too often, I've heard a person say that Christians are superficial, all because too often, we give the impression that we are somehow "better than" non Christians. In order to reverse that image, and be effective witnesses for God, we need to take back the lampposts of the church, and let our lights shine. We can't do that, if we're hiding the "bulb" under a "shade." That's my thought, anyway. Blessings to all of you!

Randee said...


I am touched by your brief testimony. We can all relate to brokeness as we have all been broken at one time or another. I appreciate your courage and transparency. You've come into this group and embraced us all and we reciprocate. May this be a "safe" place reflecting God's love.

Darla said...

beautiful anne.... just like you....

Sheri said...

I sorta have mixed feelings on this one. Yes, I think there are those "in the church" that put on superficial masks, but I have to say that the believers I hang with are pretty authentic. Sometimes I think that nonbelievers put that "holier than thou" label on us because they feel insecure or threatened. Perhaps they're feeling God's nudge, are afraid of it, so make excuses in order to run the other way. Does this make sense? Or maybe its because we shun the ways of the world that people think they see the "holier..." attitude.

I guess I don't see that I've deliberately kept the truth from people (except for one person...more later.) I seem to wait for the right conversation to come up to reveal myself. I had to laugh as I was reading this though. I was talking with a friend of mine this morning and the conversation went in a direction that caused me to reveal something about myself that most people don't know. My friend just about fell off her chair as I went on with my dialogue as if nothing had been said. We've been friends for about 12 years and it just never came up, so imagine her surprise when she found out that my oldest child was conceived before I was married. Anne, I can see you falling off your chair, too :o)

Where the problem comes in is that my son has never been told. So I consider this to be deliberate pride. I'm afraid of his reaction, his judgement. A sin, yes. I've put it off for so long that it just feels foreign to me now. How do I do that? Happy 18th birthday, son, guess what? Happy graduation, son, guess what? Oh well, God will let me know when the time is perfect.

So in conculsion, our mistakes, our sins can always be used for good. Whether its for our own benefit (shedding pride) or for another's growth.

Sheri said...

I need to retract something I said in the previous post. When I look at MANY people I know in "the church" I do see major hypocrisy and a "holier than thou" attitude.

Daily, I receive emails from various people about how we should bomb the crap out of the Middle East, close our borders, refuse free lunches to illegal immigrant children, deport all Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, etc. The list goes on and on. I have asked repeatedly not to receive these emails, but I am not respected in this request. I have become somewhat of a outcast in my family (extended) because I have rebuked them with the words of Christ.

It saddens me that I think they might respresent the majority. Is this true?

I wonder why Christians are solely connected with a certain political party. And why does this have a negative connotation?

Sadder still... How Christ must be weeping over these people who call Him Lord and yet hate with all their being.