There’s a buzzword in Christian circles – “transparent”. We say that it’s a good thing and it basically means to be honest and open. When you’re transparent you’re not a pretender. You’re real about your life, your feelings, where you are in your journey with Jesus. My grandmother would probably have balked at that word. I’m sure they didn’t use it much in her day, or my Mother’s day, or even early in my day. I’ve been a Christian for 24-years and it’s probably only in the past 15-years that I’ve been hearing that word among my brothers and sisters-in-Christ.
Why do we even need that word? Because Christians are excellent pretenders and some of us finally got to the point where we couldn’t stand the pressure. Constantly wearing our “happy church faces” is exhausting. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re happier. It doesn’t exempt you from the harshness of life and having bad things happen to you. It only means that you deal with it a little differently because someone else is steering the boat. Someone with a much greater knowledge of what’s ahead and how to navigate.
I was raised by professional women. My mother was a secretary and an entrepreneur. My grandmother was an all-around businesswoman, active in the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Sons of Hermann, and very professional. My grandma taught me to put my best foot forward and how to project a professional image. I never saw her cry. I never heard her complain. I never saw her without her hair and makeup done until she was in her 70’s and battling Alzheimer’s. I adored my grandma and she was a strong role model for me. She also was not a professing Christian. “Transparent” she was not and neither was I for most of my adult life.
I still struggle a bit with the whole transparency issue. I believe there is such a thing as TMI (too much information). I also don’t like to be a downer, and I am terribly vain. I prefer to have it all together and look it. I have a couple of people in my life with whom I share any deep dark feelings that come along, and even then I do my best to sugar-coat it a little. I remember one time when I was totally and completely transparent and that was when I shared my salvation testimony with my home church. Afterward, I was amazed at the amount of people who told me how shocked they were at my history. They would never have guessed any of it to look at me. That told me that either I was a really good pretender still, or the transforming work of Jesus truly is miraculous. I prefer to believe the latter. Especially since I was on a quest at the time to be more real and drop my “happy church face” (unless I really was happy, of course 😊).
We are called to “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . .” -James 5:16 NLT. We are also to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” -Romans 12:15 NASB. We can’t do these things without being transparent with one another; honest and vulnerable. It’s not easy, I know, especially for those of us who are more old school . . . and it’s not impossible. I’ve done it and I’m getting better at it with the Lord’s help. There is no perfection this side of eternity. NO ONE person and NO ONE’S life is perfect, no matter how it looks on Facebook or Instagram. Trying to pretend perfection is, I have come to believe, a waste of energy.
While I always have a reason to be joyful in Christ, I may not always be happy and that’s okay. Jesus never promised me a life of constant happiness and freedom from trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33 NLT. He has overcome the sin that caused this fallen world we live in and one day all will be made right! What a great thing to rejoice over! In the meantime, happiness that depends on circumstances comes and goes.
We Christians are called to be there for each other and to remind one another of our source of joy. We give each other hope, encouragement, comfort and friendship in a very special way. We call it fellowship – “friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests”. -Merriam Webster’s Dictionary. However, if we don’t know that someone has a need it’s difficult to meet it. If we constantly are upbeat and look and act like all is well, that’s what most people are going to think of us – that we’re okay – regardless of the truth of the pain we hide inside.
I’m still a work in progress and will be for the rest of my life. I’m still working on the whole transparency thing and that’s key – that I keep doing the work and don’t give up. It’s difficult at times. Pride is a huge obstacle to transparency, and pride is a big part of human nature. Fortunately, with God all things are possible – even overcoming pride! “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” -Matthew 19:26 NLT