Archive for August, 2012


Church clothes

P81

(image credit to Tyler Bennicke)

 

Put on your Sunday best.

When I started attending church as a teenager, I went out and bought new clothes. I don’t have any church clothes, I thought, so I went to procure some so I’d be able to dress properly for church.

I look back on teenage me now, and I realize just how little I knew about what ‘church’ really was. That church that I started attending wound up being absolutely foundational to my growth as a Christian, and God used the people in that congregation to dramatically change the course of my life.

But it wasn’t about my clothes. Those people, whom I love dearly, didn’t invest in my life because I wore the ‘right clothes’ (heck, with my fashion sense, those two words almost never go together anyway!); they weren’t nearly as concerned with what was on the outside as with what was on the inside.

These days, while people have a great many different views on what appropriate attire is for Sunday worship, there’s one outfit that remains unfortunately consistent — let’s call it ‘our Sunday best.’

It’s the idea that when we go to church, everyone is on their best behavior, puts their best foot forward, gets their best ‘I’m doing great’ smile and tells everyone how awesome everything is going.

This is a far bigger issue than clothing will ever be, and it’s one of the greatest battles the church faces. As long as people believe that being a Christian means having their lives in order, they’ll keep pretending that they do, hiding the fact that they need healing as much as the rest of us do.

Many churches already recognize this, and are taking steps to care for those who are taking care of the people who are hurting, but they can only care for those who are willing to admit when they are hurting. It’s only the people who are willing to show their insides who can be best served by the church.

But here’s where it gets a little more difficult — it’s the people who have opened up and been willing to receive help with their hurts who are best able to serve those who are taking the step to open up and expose their own hurts.

It’s that cycle of growth that’s what the Church needs to truly be effective in our world, but it takes more people who are willing to step up and admit that they’re not perfect, that they don’t have it all together, and that they need others to help them experience God’s healing.

What hurts are you holding on to that can only be healed in community?

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P50

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness’ sake!

So, I know it’s not anywhere near Christmas, and I actually have a rather unhealthy dislike of this song, but I’ll readily admit that I’m the guy who hears it and thinks, “hey, that line describes our relationship with God!”

God already knows all our faults — He knows the secrets, the lies, the hurts, the sorrows that cause us to keep the walls up around others.

We don’t need to pretend with God, but we forget that because we grow accustomed to pretending with everyone else (after all, aren’t we all taught as children that the appropriate response to “How are you?” is “Fine, thanks. How are you?”).

Let me pause for a moment to say that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’m really good at keeping secrets and really bad at opening up to people, and it all boils down to fear and pride.

We’re scared of what people will think if they see how broken we really are, and we’re too proud to ask for help. If we’re really honest with ourselves, this is the very thing that keeps us from opening up to God as well, and letting Him do His work in us.

We bury our true feelings so that no one will see, and we think that God won’t see either. Oh, we say that we know God sees our hearts, but we don’t live like it. We bury our sins so no one will see, and because we know that we’re forgiven, we don’t deal with the heart issues that led us to that sin in the first place, and before we know it, we’re caught up in the same sin again.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5.16)

When we choose to live inside out, we’re choosing to show others our dark side so that we can have help and support in overcoming it. Opening up allows others to walk the road with us, to encourage us, and to challenge us, so that we can grow together in community.

You’ll find that the support of a community is worth overcoming the fear of confession.

What secrets do you keep that you’re scared to let others in on?

Inside Out?

The world sees the part of us that we choose to show off. We tend to be defined by our actions, because that’s what people can see.

“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This is, quite simply, a statement of fact. Human beings can only see the outside, and (let’s face it) we’re quite talented at hiding what’s underneath.

But…

What if others COULD see beyond our words and actions, look beyond the masks we wear, and see our hearts?

What if people could see in us what God already sees?

Scared yet?

This is the experiment I’m proposing:

Live life inside out

Choose to show others what’s really going on inside you. Be honest in every aspect of your life, and take off the masks that keep your heart hidden from others.

For many of us, we’re so used to hiding our true selves from the people we meet that we can’t fathom being that honest with anyone.

“It would be a big mess. No one would want to be around me if they knew what I really thought.”

That’s where everything starts to change. We start to become more conscious of our motives when we’re inside out. We start to think more clearly about attitudes that hurt others, and hopefully, those attitudes begin to change.

Ultimately, though, we’re still broken people — it’s just as likely that this could be an experiment in how to lose friends and alienate people. But the bigger story is this: that deep down, we all desire to be better people, to be more than we are.

God already sees what’s going on in our hearts. If we let others see inside, then the importance of our attitude becomes that much more real, and we get the opportunity to grow into the person that we’re meant to be.

So, this marks the beginning of an experiment, and this blog will be home to my thoughts on its development.

Feel free to journey with me on it.

What do you think? Is living life inside out worth trying, or is it a recipe for disaster?