If you attend the Lighthouse you know that we are amazingly transparent about the fact that we all have struggles in life. So you will hear phrases like, “we are all in recovery for something.” “Everyone makes mistakes.” “Your identity is not your past or the sum of your mistakes!”
I have been pondering this reality of transparency lately as I go through my interactions with people. I spend a lot of time with people. Usually it is in the midst of their struggles. At Lighthouse we specialize in this! I have come to realize that people are often open with me in ways that surprise me. Why? I could speculate. I’m a pretty good listener. I generally like people. That helps. But I have concluded that the primary reason is my own transparency.
Now that is a very interesting thing because most pastors are not honest about their issues. We are taught not to be. If people knew that we are human and struggle like they do, would they respect us? Listen to us?
The church today struggles with this notion that to be a follower of Jesus and go to church we have to have life all put together. Every aspect of our lives are transformed, so we suggest, which means we no longer struggle. Recently in an interview I called our churches “cocoons of righteousness.” One might say self-righteousness, because it’s a lie.
Authenticity, empathy, compassion…they all follow transparency. I tell pastors that if you want to understand what we are doing and learn how to reach those who are struggling with life, come and see. The Lighthouse is a special but messy, very messy place. People are welcomed to share their stuff when appropriate and offered hope that life can and will be better. Jesus does offer a transformed life. He relishes redeeming our struggles. In recovery language that many will understand, it is sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. Usually slowly.
Yet that is where God is at His best. The message of the incarnation and the cross is that instead of simply removing our issues and struggles, God has joined with us in them. He walks us through them, and in that journey brings new life. So, if you are a pastor, I challenge you to stretch a little. Maybe share a little of your own stuff and how God is working in it. Be a little more transparent. And if you are a church goer, don’t buy into the lie. Sin and pain still crouches at the door. Admit it, and you will see God use your struggles in redeeming ways as He also begins to bring you healing through your confession.
I will never forget the young lady I met at the Lighthouse one evening at Narcotics anonymous. I asked her story. She shared a little. I said I understand and share a bit of my own struggles with my addiction to alcohol. “Wait,” she said. “You mean you are one of us?” “Yes,” I said. I’m one of you.” Aren’t we all?