Transparent

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

😊💕

Journey of Discovery

Yesterday, while sitting in the DPS office waiting for my number to be called, a very interesting man came and sat next to my son and me. This man was a scientist originally from India, but living and working in the U.S. for many years. Very well educated and retired with commendations from both a governor and a senator. He was very sweet and a joy to converse with.

We struck up a conversation that hit on several different topics including religion. You can always tell a well-educated and open-minded person by the fact that they can discuss religion without getting angry and turning the whole conversation into an argument. Such was the case with this man and part of what made him such a joy to talk to. He didn’t attack us when he found out we were Christians. He said something though, that got me thinking.

He made a comment to which I replied, “The Bible tells us that.” He then made an observation that the different religions are simply defending their books. Which book is truth? How do we know? Good questions. He also pointed out that when belief is thrust upon a person, the joy of discovering for themselves is taken from them. I wholeheartedly agree with that. That is why my faith/belief is not solely based on what I read in The Book or what some pastor told me. I believe what I read in the Bible because of my faith.

I have only been a Christian for 24 of my almost 59-years on this planet. I’ve done the searching and have had the joy of discovery for myself. Jesus has revealed Himself to me in very real ways and I have my own proof of His Presence in my life. I am not a blind follower defending a mere book. I am in a relationship with THE Living God to whom I speak and with whom I interact on a daily basis because He chooses to do so. He chooses to do so with WHOMEVER He chooses. It has nothing to do with arrogance, I’m not the only person who loves Him and has this relationship.

There are millions of us from all races and backgrounds who have our own proof and our own assurance of things unseen. Of course, there’s plenty I don’t understand and that’s why He is God and I am not. I have been on the unbelieving side of this, obviously if I’ve not been a Christian my entire life, and I can compare many things from both sides. For me, there’s no comparison. My life is so much richer and more meaningful with Jesus in it than it ever was without Him. In spite of any questions or doubts that arise along my journey, the bottom line is that I cannot deny the things that Christ has done in, through, and for me and others I’ve been close to. The evidence is irrefutable for me and Jesus is my friend forever.

I share these things – any time I share these things – in the hope that everyone will find their own proof and know the incredible friend that Jesus is. That’s my motivation. At the same time, I also want everyone to experience their own joy of discovery. So, I share not with the goal of shoving anything down your throat, but in the hope of inspiring you to seek your own proof of Jesus’ love for you. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” -Matthew‬ ‭7:7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

😊💕

Treasures

I said goodbye to a sweet friend yesterday, with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy for her that she is now with her Jesus and that, according to our pastor, she was ready. I knew from a recent conversation that she didn’t want to leave her family and she was eagerly anticipating being with her Lord. It’s that feeling of being torn that many Christians share. I could just see her sweet face being at peace in the end. On the other hand, I’m sad. On my last visit with her I told her I would be back and we even planned to get together with our husbands one weekend. Those things never happened.

I met Karen five or six years ago when we were in a small group at church together. We hit it off right away and found that we had some shared experiences. In fact, she encouraged me greatly in a situation I was experiencing at that time. We talked occasionally, mostly at small group or church. I would send her a card now and then just to let her know I was thinking of her, but it wasn’t until recently that I really got to know more about her. It was amazing to me how much we had in common; a musical background, history with and a love of horses just to name a couple things. I also found out that she was the same age my mother would be if she were still alive.

I found out too late, what a treasure I had right under my nose. I could have had several years of rich friendship with this wonderful woman instead of just a few weeks. I could have spent so much more time with her and therein lies my sadness and regret. How many people come into our lives without us taking the time to learn their stories; to bless them and be blessed by them? How much rich fellowship do we miss out on because we simply do not take the time? And why does it have to take losing them to open our eyes?

I have some family members that I dearly love, but only see at family funerals. At every funeral we declare that we won’t wait until the next funeral to get together and then I see them once or twice after that. As of this writing, I haven’t seen them in person in years. Sad humans, we are. Day-to-day life sweeps us up in its busyness and next thing we know, years have passed! It’s as though time is our master rather than the other way around.

Time management is such a big deal to us. We have calendars, day planners, reminders in our phones and watches. So, why do we not manage some time for each other? Not just our families, but our neighbors, coworkers, people we sit next to in church. Karen was a very sweet person. I know that she would not want me to feel regret, but to be thankful for the time we had together and maybe learn from the experience. I will endeavor to do just that. Like my sweet friend, there are so many wonderful people with fascinating stories – treasures – right under our noses if we would just take the time to discover them. Don’t miss out on the treasures in YOUR life.

⏰💎😊

Perspectives

The first time I realized how shockingly different perspectives of the same situation can be was almost 35-years ago. I was in counseling, attempting to become un-codependent (pretty sure that’s not really a word, but you get my meaning) and my counselor suggested confronting my dad with my issues. Which were all his fault, of course. I took her advice and my dad looked at me like I was crazy. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. Of course, looking back on it now, he very well could have been in denial himself. He wasn’t incredibly healthy emotionally either. I wasn’t screwed up for no reason. The point is, his perspective was drastically different than mine. How could that be since we were both there? At the time, I was kinda shocked. Not one single one of my issues was validated through that conversation. It was like I imagined the whole thing!

I also discussed some of my issues with a couple of my siblings (I’m the oldest of 6) and while they did validate some of my issues, their perspectives were also very different. In 2008 a movie came out called “Vantage Point” starring Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker. It was a stunning example of exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the story of an assassination attempt as told from different perspectives. It’s really a good movie. If you haven’t seen it you might want to check it out.

How can different people present at the same event at the same time come away with different memories of what happened? I’ve seen it a hundred times since that conversation with my dad and it never ceases to amaze me. I know we’re all different and we all process things differently and sometimes it blows my mind just HOW differently.

If anything, I’ve learned to accept that that’s just the way it is. Different people have different perspectives, and I think understanding that can help us to validate what others are thinking and feeling. The fact that someone remembers a situation differently than you do, they have a different take-away, doesn’t mean that their perspective is less valid than yours. It’s just different. Also, their thoughts and feelings as a result of that shared (yet different) experience are no less valid than yours.

I have been tempted many times to invalidate someone else’s perspective and try to convince them to adopt mine. Not only have I been tempted, but I’m sure that I have AT-tempted (emphasis, not a typo) it. I’ve probably said things like, “That’s crazy!” Or “Where on earth did you get that idea? I didn’t hear that.” You know, invalidating statements. I’ve also had those same things said TO me. Those words are not very edifying. I’m trying not to do that so much anymore.

I am doing my best to remember this whole perspectives thing when someone shares a different outlook on the same situation. I still share my perspective, but in a more respectful way. Remembering that God created this person I’m interacting with and that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings are just as important to them as mine are to me. I’m also not talking about people who suffer from any kind of psychosis. That’s above my pay grade. I’m talking about those who are in full control of their faculties.

We all want to be treated with respect. I believe that accepting that someone else’s perspective on a situation that we were both in is a step in that direction. It also makes for a more peaceful relationship when you’re not constantly trying to change each other’s experience. I think that’s futile anyway. No one has ever been able to change my experience of something – my mind on a matter, yes – my experience of something, no. As the saying goes, “It’s all a matter of perspective.”

🤓😊