2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Liquid foundation conceals dark circles under the eyes. Mineral powder smooths the rough edges of our skin. Hair color hides gray matter peeking out from the roots. Spanx suppress gravity stricken waistlines.
We are clever people at disguising perceived physical flaws and aging bodies. However, has this way of living crept into our spiritual lives too?
We live in a cover-up culture. Condemning thoughts and challenges are camouflaged. Blemishes are buried. Struggles are shielded. Mistakes are masked. Brokenness is bandaged. Hang-ups are hidden.
But . . . what if? What if we removed our masks of pretense, indifference and perfection? Fears of what others might think cripple us. What if we allowed them to see the real us? A mark of spiritual maturity is when we stop pretending and let people observe us authentically.
It was a raw experience but God showed how imperative it was for me to be an authentic Christian by assisting the removal of my mask.
During a college internship I ministered to a local youth group. After the semester I was assessed by a more experienced lady who was also a youth sponsor that I served with side-by-side.
My college adviser went over her written evaluation of me. She stated I was not transparent with the gals I ministered to. There was a pretense I had it all figured out. She said I was good at offering advice. But, because I never contributed my flaws and how God worked through me, a chasm emerged and the girls couldn't identify and connect with me.
Initially I was defensive and hurt by her comments. It bothered me she pinpointed an issue I didn't know I had: living the life of a cover-up. I didn't want to admit or believe she was right, but she was. This constructive feedback ultimately unlocked the door for accepting the change I needed in my life.
When we are genuine it makes us approachable and God relate-able to mankind. When we admit our imperfections and show others we are a work in progress, it exhibits our utter dependence upon God and our need for Him to walk with us through life. If we had a "perfect" life we wouldn't need Jesus.
I'm not suggesting we empty our closet, but rather being vulnerable enough to offer encouragement to folks because we've "been there" or we are there. We all struggle and have weaknesses. So, why pretend we don't? Others must see how we cope.
God often uses our scars and weaknesses to draw others to Him. Part of our testimony is bearing the wounds we endure in life. We can offer the hope of Christ because our faith is a living declaration of this hope. Because of Him, we are hopeful not hopeless. The power of the risen Christ dwells in us. We are, therefore, equally empowered to overcome our hang-ups.
The Apostle Paul was not a cover-up Christian. The key verse in 2 Corinthians 12 discloses Paul's willingness to admit he had weaknesses, yet he credits his ability to persevere because of Christ's power within him. The prior verse tells us Paul had a thorn in the flesh. In addition, he faced adverse circumstances during his travels.
Paul was open and real with the people he ministered to and the churches he wrote. He exhorted, admonished and rebuked when needed. He was driven by the furtherance of the Gospel and his aim was to show others the glory of Christ despite his struggles and frailties.
Like Paul, our openness allows seekers to witness the radiance of Christ in our lives. The beauty revealed is the work He has completed and the work He continues to accomplish in us. Proving to the world that healing and victory are available in Christ delivers a correct estimation of who God is: Redeemer, Restorer and Life-giver. Hiding this glory steals an opportunity for others to behold His redemptive power.
Authenticity also declares God's splendor by disclosing that His power is indeed made perfect in our weakness. We exalt His name by walking in triumph and crediting our conquering life where credence is due.
In 2012, let's uncover the cover-up. Remove the inclination to hide pain and imperfections. Stop pretending you don't have failures and fears. Express joy rather than judgment. Remove shame and insecurity with Spirit empowered living. Allow others a glimpse into the glorious work of Christ in your life. This my friends, is authentic Christianity: living real in a cover-up world.
Ask God to help you take the necessary steps to be more vulnerable and willing to openly share His work in your life. Ask Him for opportunities to tell others needing to hear your story.
Take inventory of Christ's victory in your life. Recount the ways His power has been expressed through your weakness.
When are you tempted to cover-up your imperfections and struggles? What fears cause you to want to cover-up?
What inhibits you from being authentic? What stops you from sharing your weaknesses with others?
When the opportunity presents itself do you shrink back in fear or do you boldly proclaim Christ's power and give glory to Him?
What challenges do you currently face? How is Christ helping you through them? How are you specifically growing from these difficulties? How can you share them with others to offer them the hope of Christ?
Heart Changing Word:
2 Corinthians 4:10 (NIV) "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Ephesians 1:19-20a "And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead."
Ephesians 3:20 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Copyright 2012 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.
Hester, this is great. So glad you took her comments to heart - many will benefit from it. The book I am writing comes from this very premise. It's a subject near and dear to my heart and many women need to hear what you have written here. Thanks for sharing it.ReplyDelete
What a great reminder, Hester, especially as we start the new year and seek the Lord about goals. I'm rarely inspired by somebody who has it all together, but my heart opens wide when I hear about how God worked through somebody's brokenness to make them whole.ReplyDelete
Love (and prayers!) to you in 2012,
Jan, thank you. I would love to read your book when it's out. It is interesting to me how God works in our lives individually, yet similarly. I appreciate your encouragement. God bless you,ReplyDelete
Love, Hester :)
Susan, Me too. I am put off by those who appear to "have it all together", but then I remind myself how I used to be in those shoes too. Like you said, our heart opens when people share openly because we need the encouragement that God is working in each of our lives. Love to you too!ReplyDelete
Love, Hester :)
One of the things that I love the most about you is how you are transparent. You have always been willing to share your trails and triumphs with me. Thank you.ReplyDelete
What a great post to start the year off with!
Jen, you know how to keep it real too girl! Thank you for your encouragement. I'm so glad I learned this lesson early on in life. :)ReplyDelete
Love to you, Hester :)
I was raised to believe it's better not to open up, but once I accepted the Lord, He gave me the ability to be transparent and I've had a front row seat at watching Him connect me with certain Believers because I shared parts of me. Thank you for the reminder to keep doing it, the wisdom and the reassurance to believe this is how He wants us to live, and not in fear of judgment, like I have in the past.ReplyDelete
Heather, I really appreciate you sharing this. It truly is awesome as you said to witness His work in others lives as they are open enough to share it! :)ReplyDelete
Loving you dear one, Hester :)
From Tonia in an email:ReplyDelete
This was so fantastic Hester!
Often I hear these amazing stories, spoken one on one, of broken place in women's lives. They do not realize the testimony they have, the power of it. If only they would trust God to redeem the honesty!! If only I would trust more like that!
People either don't think someone would want to hear that or that they would be judged. I disagree, I think they would receive so much empathy and support. I also think that it would reach someone else's heart who is struggling with the same thing. I think Satan loves to perverse our thoughts and convince us to stay silent and disconnected.
Thank you for this truth today...i love you sister!
From Sherrie in a message:ReplyDelete
Just opened my Winter 2012 copy of Crossroad Journal of the Arts from Crossroad Bible Institute. I always marvel at the artwork and poetry by inmates that is published in the journal. They have lost nearly all; they are not afraid to write about the ugliness that the Lord is transforming in their lives. I wish our churches could be more transparent, places where it would be safe to acknowledge our woundedness and need for a Savior rather than the all too often "cover-ups" that take place. The ever present challenge of rising above human pride to bring glory to God and His love. I must acknowledge, though, that even the inmates privacy is protected in that only their first names, last initial and state or country are shared. Perhaps change will come as we each individually grasp the strength of God to be compassionately honest with ourselves and others.
Hi Hester, I just found your blog for the first time and I would love to come back again! Authenticity certainly is refreshing for people and self awareness is crucial in our daily walk with God. Keep up the good work!ReplyDelete
-Amy from amyswomantics.blogspot.com
Amy, Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your feedback. God bless you as you minister to others. :) Love, HesterReplyDelete