After chatting with a lovely friend and after numerous conversations that I’ve had in my lifetime, let’s talk about sharing. Not the kind of sharing that we learned from Bert and Ernie when Ernie wanted to read the book that Bert was reading. (true enough … that is important) … but rather sharing of self.
Today’s churches offer many different things: refuge, beauty, education, help, financial assistance, etc. etc. The list goes on. In my church, every Sunday many people attend worship services in the morning. They smile, they ask the standard questions and make the standard comments: ‘How are you this morning?’ and ‘Good to see you this morning’. and while there is nothing really wrong with this line of standardization, I wonder what it might be like if we actually stopped and listened to the person we were conversing with. What if we actually listened for the answer, and sought to share part of ourselves with them as well, in the community where we are taught that we are all broken people seeking redemption and salvation.
In Anne Jackson’s book, Permission to Speak Freely, she speaks of the gift of going second. The gift of sharing a piece of your story, your brokenness, first … and having that piece of yourself invite the other person to share their own struggle.
If you’ve ever had that nagging feeling of struggle and shame, then you know what I’m talking about. The gift that someone gives to you of sharing their stories of faith and brokenness is sacred. This gift can give you the relieving ability to share your heart. On the flip side, I’ve had this gift shared with me, and then not taken advantage of it. Someone has shared their story with me and I have listened intently and still been reluctant to share my own story of messiness … still in fear of being “found out”, shameful, and having pity thrown upon me. Where does that fear come from?
For me, it comes from years of hiding myself. It comes from overheard conversations that adults would have about another family member who didn’t have it all together. It comes from years of being told to go to church and smile like all the other children. It comes from pretending. For me, it is strongly rooted in shame.
So then, how do we move past all this?
Start sharing. Start sharing your story with your sisters and brothers. Share your joys and share your concerns. Laugh when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad. Allow others to help and support you. Ask challenging questions. Accept the love that is available around you. Take risks. Do what you need to do … but start sharing. Your openness might be the doorway to another person’s path to healing. How wonderful would it be to worship in a space where we can truly bring all of our struggles to our God, alongside our neighbors?
My challenge for myself and you, dear reader, is to start small. Share with one other person. Reflect. Support. Share again. Come. Come unguarded in the presence of your God and allow your brothers and sisters to share your sorrows and rejoicing.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. Galatians 6:1-2, The Message