Have you ever witnessed an encounter that made you rethink everything you know about relationships, the church, yourself?
A raw, intense and deeply intimate confrontation about insides matching what is seen on the outside.
It took my breath away.
It inspired me.
It was real.
It was refreshing.
It was encouraging.
It happened shortly after we moved to Europe.
We were at a family retreat on the coast in Croatia. The speaker was talking about love, acceptance and community. The group was mixed with people from all over Croatia, from several different church denominations.
In the middle of the talk, a woman stood up and proclaimed, “It is hard for me to fellowship with people who do things I don’t understand.” Then she said, “People like you!” and she pointed to another person in the crowd. I sat in amazement as she explained why it was hard to fellowship with this person. She considered them to be a hypocrite because they smoked in front of the church building and then came inside. They talked everything out as we all witnessed.
The speaker used the situation as a springboard to drive the point in and they came to a mutual understanding. It was all over. The bottom line is one of them was an older woman and the other was a new Christian. They were both growing and trying to shed off an old sin nature. They just needed to talk, take off the masks and be understanding. They needed to confront the truth, not tiptoe around it.
I have thought about that event many times.
Don’t we all have moments when we try to hide who we really are because we don’t want to be called out in a room? We hide pain behind smiles and small talk. We stay silent when we want to scream out,
“I am here, I struggle and I am too afraid to admit I need help because I don’t know how you will react to my reality!”
I did that when I had cancer all the time. Tears rolled down my face into my pillows every night, but I needed to be strong so I wore the mask of the perfect minister’s wife. I didn’t let myself feel.
Living in Europe has taught me to be more authentic. That has opened me up to the most difficult and heart wrenchingly real moments and experiences with God I have ever had.
I appreciate it though. It has taught me to be vulnerable. It has made me aware of the power that lies in authenticity. God already knows who we are, what we think and how we feel. It is easy for us to put the thoughts and comments of others (real or perceived ) above what HE tells us about who we are and who we SHOULD be.
Ministry of Reconciliation
We return to that same retreat each year. This year at the end we were all sharing things that touched us. There was a man there whose words brought tears to my eyes.
He shared his story saying, “I never thought growing up in Serbia, always in opposition to Croatians, that one day I would sit here and call several of them my brothers and sisters. That happens because of God. His ministry of reconciliation. After all these years, I feel like I belong, like I am loved and my children will have the kind of peace and unity with people I knew long ago.”
It was beautiful. It got me to thinking again about the power and beauty in reconciliation. No matter how impossible. That is what this is all about.
Almighty God is moving mountains, performing miracles, softening hearts and working behind the scenes to reconcile a broken world full of broken people to himself.
Who am I to stand in his way by pretending, holding grudges or trying to do things my own way? Reconciliation follows revelation of TRUTH. We need to remove our masks and reveal what lies behind them. If we were perfect and had it all together, we would have no need of Jesus. The reality of all our situations is that we do. His mercies are new every morning because that is when we need them EACH AND EVERY DAY.
Are there things in your life you need to turn around? Are there steps you need to make to be more authentic? Do you have a mask to take off? What would need to happen for you do to that and stand raw and ready to let the Father minister to your heart?