The heart of the matter & crap….

A few nights ago, I sat across the table from a friend who was broken.  He didn’t say much at first. There were some awkward silences. Some far off gazes, but I could tell something was weighing him down. Like any good friend, I made awful small talk. I directed his attention to a commercial on the big screen. I poked fun at myself. I discussed chicken wing sauce options.

Nothing.

I’m not good at surface conversation. I have no real use for it. Correction: there is NO real use for it. I’ve run out of things to say about the weather, or the Yankees, Miley Cyrus and/or twerking. I’d rather know what’s on your mind or in your heart. It’s there where intimacy happens, community flourishes and fellowship becomes a reality.

So, I threw out the small talk and started asking some harder to answer questions. In return, I got a piece of my friend’s broken heart as he shared some recent disappointments. He let some people down– people he loved and who loved him in return. His posture, his tone, his lament were poignant as he recalled his actions. How could he rebuild their trust? Could he make it up to them?

Maybe it was better to be alone than to hurt anyone ever again, he wondered.

“It’ll happen again. I’ll hurt them again.”

And he’s right. He will. I will. You will. As much as we love our friends and family, there will come a time when we will hurt them. Our words, choices or actions unintentionally causing them pain. So we think the answer is to shelter them from us. Or guard our hearts from them. Either way, it’s a subtle division in attempt to hoard the shards left of our hearts. We feel tattered and torn so we attempt to self-preserve.

I’ve mulled over C.S. Lewis’ words on this issue: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

More than a broken heart, I fear a hard heart. A heart that is no longer moved to compassion or concern for those around me because caring means letting someone IN.

So, what sage advice did I give my friend? What brilliant words of hope did I offer? None. Instead, I offered my heart and a listening ear. I reassured him that there were people who would love him no matter his mistakes. (As a side rant: Loving someone regardless of their mistakes isn’t excusing or promoting those actions, but letting that person know that those actions don’t determine their identity. More to come on this.)

Sadly, this hasn’t always been my response. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve walked away from friends who made stupid choices instead of loving them through it and I regret it. It was selfish and immature and a faux safeguard. It seemed the RIGHTEOUS thing to do. Bah! As a result, I’ve lost my opportunity to be an influence and source of Light in their life.

Let’s truly love people. Love them when their neck deep in crap. I’m not asking you to love their crap, but love them in the midst of it. Stop being afraid to get dirty and dive in. Live out the words “You’re not alone.” 

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Showering naked & other fears

When I was in high school, I took my first mission trip. After landing in Guatemala, the missionaries gave us an overview of the base. They instructed us there would be armed guards walking the grounds at night. These armed guards would also have dobermans trained to eat intruders. Ok, don’t leave the suites after 9PM. Got it.

Lock down was no problem for me. The thing I struggled with was an almost passing comment by the missionaries — “Oh, and don’t touch the shower spout when the water is running. You’ll get electrocuted.” That sounds serious. The last thing I want to happen is to die by electrocution IN THE SHOWER.

That’s in my top fives ways I would prefer NOT to die. Other ways I’d prefer not to die (like I have a choice in the matter) include: participating in a blow up obstacle course during a children’s camp, being eaten by a bear (my dad has a great story about this fear “almost” being realized) and anything having to do with snakes.

After hearing about the shower situation, I contemplated whether I could go ten straight days without a shower. Considering a large portion of the trip would include manual labor I didn’t think that would be my best option. What if I wore my bathing suit to shower? Then I remembered that bathing suits seem to keep dirt in, which anyone who has visited a beach can testify to the truth of that statement.  Instead, I decided I’d shower hunched over and as quickly as possible. No one was going to find me dead in the shower.  Over 15 years later, I’m still alive so I must have showered correctly.

As I was thinking about this fear of mine today, I was wondering what the big deal would be about being found dead. And naked. I mean, its not like I’d be embarrassed at that point. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized it had to deal with the fact that I’d be exposed. No way to hide.

Sadly, I’ve lived a lot of my life trying to figure out how to cover up. If people see this flaw, this imperfection, this struggle then they won’t love me anymore. If they know who I really am they wouldn’t want to be my friend. Or let’s take it a step further, if I’m really honest maybe God won’t love me. Maybe that will be the last straw.

Adam and Eve understand this thinking. After all, they were the ones who were tempted by the devil to eat fruit from the tree that God forbade them to eat from. Following their afternoon snack, the realized they were naked. Better cover up was their first thought– interesting, right? Maybe if I hide this mess up with some leaves God won’t notice. The proverbial “put some dirt on it” mentality.

Yet, here I am caught in this constant struggle to be genuine and open and yet knowing that there are areas more acceptable to have shortcomings in. The areas more openly talked about. The areas with less shame attached. You start talking about struggles with masturbation, addictions to Facebook or other social networks, gluttony, etc. and people start backing away slowly. That OTHER person has to deal with those struggles. Not me.

Who are we trying to fool? Our friends? Our family? God? Ourselves? Sure. All of them. The truth is there are people who will stop loving you if things get too messy. If they see something they don’t like. You may even struggle with self hatred– being repulsed by your own reflection in the mirror. That’s not how God works though.

We get stuck thinking we need to clean ourselves up before we present ourselves to God. Let me deal with this crap because I wouldn’t want God getting His hands dirty. That’s all a lie. And its keeping us bound up in sin, when Jesus has brought redemption, holiness and cleansing of our sins.

A few Sundays ago, I heard a friend preaching about this idea of holiness. People often ask– “How can God see me as holy?” (I know, right?!?!) But he mentioned that God saw Jesus, as He hung on the cross as a man full of sin even though Jesus had committed no sin. And in that act of Jesus taking our sin, that God can now view us (sinful man) as holy. Boggles my mind.

All of my sin, brokenness, areas I’d rather cover– Jesus took upon Himself so I could be viewed as holy. No longer needing to concoct ways to cover up or hide from Him because He already dealt with it and all I need to do is walk in it.