Lately, my husband and I have found ourselves talking a lot about relationships and openness. Sometimes I feel like that kind of relationships God calls us to in the Church are far more difficult and more rewarding than I want to engage in. God tells us that part of being one in the Church means we put off all falsehood and be truthful with one another (Eph 4:22-25). At a church function last week we were talking about authenticity in our church–how being authentic with one another involves being transparent and vulnerable. This authenticity then drives us into conflict with one another, like rocks being tumbled, which spurs us on toward Christlikeness.
Frankly, I just don’t want to do it. It feels too hard! I don’t like conflict. But over the years I have realized (and re-realized) that I will only grow as much as I let people in. Here’s what I mean by that: if I’m a house and I only let people and God into certain rooms, the rest of those locked up rooms will stay the way they are. It’s really easy for me to convince myself that it’s better to not share my junk… it’s messy, sometimes it feels selfish because it takes time and energy from other people to listen and engage, it hurts my pride to admit the depth of my depravity and brokenness, and my experience tells me it is the height of foolishness to intentionally tell someone where my weaknesses are. Yet God has commanded us to love one another and love, by definition, necessitates honesty and vulnerability, despite what anyone may say.
I have been so blessed to have people in my life–my husband, friends–who have sat with me in the dark places of my soul and have helped me face what’s there and deal with the reality. In a sermon I heard several years ago, the pastor quoted a statistic that each of us needs 8 close friends in order to feel loved and to grow. I have to admit when I heard that statistic, I was floored. At that point in my life, I had about 1 1/2 people who really knew me that I interacted with regularly. In a culture starving for relationship, entropying toward depravity, it’s worth asking yourself if you have people who can bear your burdens, who can listen. Henri Nouwen said that listening is the art of creating space for someone to be fully themselves. Are you allowing yourself to be known and loved? Do you have people to encourage you on toward love and good deeds, people who know you? Are you that person for someone else?