It’s an accepted reality: life is broken, we regularly sin and fall short of the mark, and our friends do too. In conversation, it’s often intuitive for us to find ways to relate, to identify, to share our own version of the same shortcoming. In many ways, this is an incredibly good and helpful thing.
The world may be broken, but we’re not alone in it. We all sin. We all fall short. We all do stupid stuff. There is genuine encouragement and hope that can emerge from transparently talking about the less-than-pretty moments of our lives:
"Oh, you’ve also had the experience where your children have climbed atop the kitchen counter and have been flooding the kitchen sink and playing with moderately sharp kitchen utensils while you’ve been in the adjoining room reading blog posts about being a good mother? Wow. I honestly feel so much better knowing you’ve had that experience too."or
"Oh, really? You’ve also had nights where you’ve stayed up until 4:30am watching back-to-back Downton Abbey episodes and have subsequently woken up the next morning completely sleep-deprived and unable to parent your children properly because of your lack of self-control? Ah, it’s a relief to know I’m not the only one who’s done this."
These examples, lighthearted and overstated as they may be, are indicative.
On the one hand, it actually IS comforting and encouraging to know that other parents – and ones who truly love their children and are seeking to grow in grace - can fall into the same stupidity or sinfulness that I can. I can rightly find encouragement in being reminded of the common struggle, in remembering that in my failings I'm not alone.
But though I may find community in these similarities, am I challenged or inspired to actually live differently? When I intuitively relate and identify, sharing my own ‘less-than’ moments, or my own sin, am I encouraging my friends to do better, to pursue Christ harder, to put sin to death and to seek godliness?
Is our transparency unbalanced? Are we too willing to share the ways we mess up, and somehow hesitant to share the ways that we have known incredible victory and grace? If there was a tendency for some in previous generations to share only that which was polished and respectable, perhaps we in the younger generations have swung to the other extreme.
Do we talk too much about the parts of us that are yet ugly, while not nearly enough about the ways that Christ has already made us beautiful? There are breathtaking ways that we are being transformed into the likeness of God’s Son. Do we have the humility to talk, in specifics, about how His grace has changed us, about the lovely things He is doing through us?
As an example, when I wrongly close my heart towards people who have hurt me and allow seeds of bitterness to take root, it’s natural to talk about this struggle with people in my life, even though it’s not pretty, and even though I know it’s not what I’m called to as a Christian. But when I see God grow me and change me so that my heart is staying soft, open to those people who have caused hurt, I sense a timidity in talking about the good work He has done in me. Why? There is such profound hope in talking about these things, in sharing the specific good works that God is doing in us.
In Christ, the ugliness that remains in our hearts is day by day being chipped away and we are being made new. In Christ, and even when the process of sanctification is painstakingly slow, there is still much in our lives that is incredibly grace-filled and hope-giving.