I’m having a hard time knowing where to even start what I want to say. I am struggling to find adequate words and, for those who know me, that should be shocking that I don’t know what to say.
My wife and I experienced something very recently that has forever changed us. At least, I pray to God that we are forever changed by this time. It is no secret to those who know us that things have been hard for us over the last year or so. We have been wounded in ways that cannot even really be expressed. Those wounds have come from a group of people that we thought could be trusted with us, with our hearts. I have heard far too many stories of the gaping holes blown in someone’s heart by the very ones they thought could be trusted in the Church.
It speaks of our own wretchedness that we feel that even those in the Church cannot be trusted. Friends, this should not be so.
After all the fighting and struggling over the last year, last week my wife and I got to take a break. Even the most elite soldiers need to come off the front lines at times and we were battered and tired and discouraged. We were in a place where some healing had begun but we were very tired from the pain, tired from the struggle, tired from it all.
I had personally resigned myself to an existence of merely hope. That sounds weird so let me explain. I had come to a place in my heart where I believed that hope was all I had to hold on to. Hope for true friendship, hope for being known and knowing someday. Someday but not now. I had come to believe that my wife and I were simply going to go without being truly close to anyone else ever again; that we would merely live on the hope that one day, when Christ returns, we could finally be vulnerable and accepted.
And then this last week happened. We were gifted a trip to Greece (I know, right?!). I don’t know who paid for it and don’t care. What I do know is that God’s hand was in it. On that trip we visited with some of my old high school classmates. It had been almost 30 years since many of us had seen each other.
And something remarkable happened.
The Sunday night we were there was one that will forever be branded on my soul. We came together for a time of sharing. What happened was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Real life struggles came pouring out of people. Tears were shed. Lots of tears. Searing soul pain was shared, prayer abounded. There was laughter and anger and sorrow. I truly don’t have the words to express what happened in that room.
There were faithful men and women of God in that room and there were people who are not so close to God right now. There were devout Church folk in that room and there were people who have been so wounded by the Church that they have given up completely.
And it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Even as I write this and reflect on the moment, I have tears in my eyes. What I saw, what we experienced was stunning. I saw the children of God embracing one another right where each individual was. There was no judgment and no one was pretending to have it all together. I’ll state this as plainly as I know how:
There was no bullshit in that room. Only real people who were experiencing real life and were unafraid to rip open their soul and share it with us. It was absolutely wonderful. It was like coming home, being known and knowing. I can’t stop crying as I think about how wonderful it was and how healing it was for me personally. To know that I could be known without fear was utterly freeing.
I’ll never be the same again. My heart has been forever changed by the knowledge that I don’t have to just hope that this is possible but to know it is real, right here and right now. I imagine that this is what life on the new earth will be like when Jesus returns. Having long and deep conversations about the mysteries of life and our own inadequacies, eating rich food and drinking dark wine, walking and talking along the streets of the city and finally resting in the peace of being known. Ah…the sweet embrace of knowing and being known!
May I offer some advice to you reading this?
1. Give yourself away. Yes, it is dangerous and it will hurt and some may reject you. But it is only in giving yourself that you can receive the gift of knowing and being known.
2. Be vulnerable. You may be surprised to find that you aren’t the only broken person in the room. Don’t hide yourself. Jesus died for you exactly as you are; don’t hide.
3. Give space. Stop talking so much and listen more. Pay attention to the moment you are in and the people you are with. Sometimes we just need to shut up and sit there.
4. It takes time. Be patient. My brothers and sisters in that room and I have known each other for over 30 years and that kind of openness takes time.
I want to go back. I want to be with my friends again, to laugh and cry and eat and drink with them. See, now I’m ruined. Now I’ve tasted and seen the joy of deep love and I can’t go back to so-so. I can’t go back to pretense. I won’t.
This is the gospel in action. This is what Jesus has done for us in the Spirit at the behest of the Father. He has restored us to a right relationship with Abba and each other. No more pretense, no more hiding. In Jesus you and I can know and be known. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! You are known and loved by God in Jesus.
Walk in that.
Soli Deo Gloria!