“There’s a businessman, there’s a widowed wife,
a smiling face with a shattered life.
There’s a teenage girl with a choice to make,
it’s crowded here in church today.”
In the words of Broken and Beautiful by Mark Schultz, our churches are full of broken and breaking people every week.
The father, who seems to be a great guy, happy to help anyone with anything at any time, but is struggling to keep together a failing marriage and a dysfunctional family. A mum, who makes her family appear to have it all together when they are out and about, but at home is battling depression, with no motivation to do or be what her family needs. A smile and the words “I’m good” or “Fine thanks” hides a teenage girl’s emotional abuse or loneliness. A grin and the carefree easygoing attitude of a teenage boy hides his addiction to porn and his battle with fitting in at school.
Just four examples of people who could be sitting in our pews week after week. Do we notice? Are we willing to accept their brokenness?
Or have we unintentionally created an environment in which we can’t be seen as imperfect? In which we turn a blind eye to another person’s struggles, or struggle to admit to problems of our own, because we have it all together… after all, we are Christians, and God blesses and guides us… right?
Remember when Jesus said
“How blind can you be? First clean the inside of your cup and in the process the outside of your cup will become clean as well. At present your lives are hopeless. You’re like whitewashed tombs which are beautiful on top of the ground, but down inside, they’re full of dead men’s bones. On the outside you appear righteous, but inside…” Matt 23: 26-28 ClearWord
Have we become like these Pharisees, in a different way perhaps, but still largely concerned with our outward appearance? We have all the right words and actions but have we neglected to look at our heart, at the hearts of those around us, at the part of us that God looks at?
Very few of us would have a problem telling God about our difficulties and hardships, but what is it that makes it so much harder to tell other people? I think God wants us to do more than tell Him our problems. Why do so many people need counselling sessions if talking about our issues didn’t help us deal with them? God created us that way.
See what James said in chapter 5 verse 16.
“Admit your faults to each other and confess your sins to God. Pray for each other and if it’s God’s will the sick among you will be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person has tremendous power.” (ClearWord)
Admit our faults… admit the things in our lives that are not going right…
And besides, when we tell God, no one else has to know, we can still keep up that appearance, can’t we?
But our inner conflicts and turmoils will begin to show on the outside eventually: a bad marriage will be written on the faces of the couple; a depressed smile is just not the same; and the expression and body language accompanying “I’m fine” will not always correspond with the words. Prayer and thought can help us become attuned to the hearts of those around us and allow them to build up the courage to tell us they are not fine… they do not have it all together… they are an inner mess.
“Hold on,” I can hear you think, “God is the one who sees our heart, shouldn’t that be all we are concerned about?” Yes, God knows every thought we have, He sees every action we perform and knows what we are going to say before we say it. And He knows the condition of our hearts and why we maintain the outward appearance that we do.
Yet knowing all this, don’t we sometimes forget: would we be treating our families the way we do if Jesus was at our dining table; would we still look at the things we are looking at if Jesus was physical by our side?
Sharing our problems with others gives us accountability – we have to make that change we want to make, that God has impressed us to make, because the person we told may ask how it is going. Sharing our problems with others removes isolation – it is so comforting and strengthening to know that what you are experiencing is, although painful, common; that others are or have been there too. And sometimes, being that one person who stands up and admits that they do not “have it all together” is the catalyst that opens the floodgates, enabling others to come forward in the realization that they are not the only ones.
We are all, to some extent, keeping up an appearance to hide our brokenness. And yet, if we were able to breach this barrier, we would enable each other to be Christ’s hands and feet, and help heal the brokenness.
We are all beautiful in God’s eyes – He created us, He died for us, He loves us that much. Because of sin, we are all broken but it makes us no less lovely to our Heavenly Father. And this brokenness gives us all the opportunity to be His hands, His feet, to care for and serve each other. To look for chinks in the façade – chinks we recognise because we have them too – and offer a listening ear. To be brave enough to accept the blind, lame, accused, broken and the outcast, within our own churches, as Jesus did during His ministry.
So let down your barrier, and look past the facade of the person sitting next to you in church and look into their broken, but beautiful heart.
This was published in the August 2012 IntraVic, view issue here - PDF.