When Sharing Your Story Causes a Reaction in Others

I wear a necklace on occasion that was given to me by my late step-grandmother, a precious woman I affectionately called “Nana.”

The necklace is a simple gold chain with a beautiful stone dangling from the center. Unless I told you the stone wasn’t a diamond, you probably would never guess. It appears almost as real as any diamonds I’ve seen.

I’ve yet to encounter a person uncouth enough to ask if my stone is real, but if they did, I would willingly admit it is not. Not because I think I have to, but because that sort of thing isn’t a big deal to me.

At the same time, I don’t go around screaming that the stone isn’t real.

Because truthfully, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business.

A few people who have read my recent blog posts have offered up sweet comments about my willingness to share my struggles openly.

Most of them know me well enough to know I don’t share every aspect of my childhood, marriage and parenting issues on a public blog. I’m ten kinds of crazy, but not eleven.

I share what I want, how much I want, and in the manner I want.

Why?

Because I don’t owe anyone but Jesus my whole story.

Neither do you.

While I feel privacy is simple enough to understand, I’ve noticed we hold people who publicly share parts of their stories—including and especially Christians—to a higher standard.

But who said talking about Jesus automatically qualified one for Sainthood? Whose fault is it that perfection is expected among those who profess to follow Christ?

Was the goal of Christ dying our perfection? Or did he die to cancel our sin debt, allowing us to rest from the fear and burden of perfection?

I’ll tell you about an incident that happened to me once that permanently changed the way I viewed professing Christianity in public.

I was at an engagement party. I had recently been baptized and immediately found myself in the middle of a spiritual attack.

My escape of choice has always been wine.

I’ve spoken a little about it on my blog, but probably not to the extent that you would know how much of a struggle authenticity in social settings can be for me, and how I’ve used alcohol to cope.

There are two things I’ve learned about myself over the last few years:

  • I’m a reactionary soul—if you do something that bothers me (especially if that you is Clayford), there’s a good chance I’m going to react like a fool; and…
  • If I’m not comfortable around you, I won’t act much better than if you do something that bothers me. (This is me admitting my “stone” isn’t real.)

Anybody else struggle with this?

The engagement party was for a girlfriend of my husband’s. Truth be told, Clayford’s high school friend-group (I lovingly refer to them as the Cougar Cult) is a crew I’ve struggled to be comfortable around from day one.

So naturally I drank more at this party than necessary. And I will never forget standing at the bar and being judged in a harsh way by the husband of one of Clayford’s friends, a young man who was very involved in the church we still attend.

What he said to me hurt me so badly that I have never again judged a Christian in my life.

I kid you not, if I was to hear a follower of Christ left his wife, committed murder, robbed a bank, was found drunk in a ditch—anything—I wouldn’t judge them. I wouldn’t believe they loved what Jesus had done for them any less.

We do that, my Christian friends, and it is completely wrong.

We harshly judge friends and neighbors, pastors, leaders, and Bible study teachers, including a few well-known leaders who have recently announced their divorces via Facebook.

I have no plans to delve into their private lives, judge them, or lament them.

Marriage can be hard, especially in the current climate we are living in, divorce too, and sometimes there are no simple answers to fix the messes we accrue.

I read a great post written by a follower of one of these individuals. The article said we should all understand that no Christian is immune to sin, even to having affairs or indiscretions.

Not only is this true; it’s frightening.

You think you can control your actions, but really, you don’t know what you’d do in any given situation.

And you can’t control what your spouse does at all.

I vulnerably professed to Clayford last night that my greatest fear in marriage has always been that I would sacrifice my twenties, thirties and forties in a somewhat disappointed state of mind (as I’ve written about here), only to be left behind in my fifties for a younger woman, someone who could make him happier or give him more children, which I can’t even do now.

I don’t think it’s an irrational fear. As the longevity of marriages crumble all around us—and many times for good reasons, such as spouses not holding up their ends of the bargain, as I discussed here—we watch this same scenario occur more and more.

(I think I’ll write an entire blog post for all my college-age and twenty-something gals entitled, ‘Find SINGLE Men Your Own Age!’—and young ladies, before you start arguing with me that men your age don’t want to settle down, they don’t want to settle down because they don’t have to. That’s on us, not them. 😉 )

Clayford can swear to me today that he would never leave me high and dry. But 2017 Clayford has no idea where 2028 Clayford will be.

And here’s what I’ve had to accept: If my husband chooses to step outside of our marriage, it won’t be because of me. It won’t be because of any sin I’ve committed or failure we’ve walked through.

It won’t be because I don’t go to the gym every day, make $100,000, or dress like I’m Forever Shopping at Forever-21. (Thanks, Heather, for that awesome post.)

It will be because HE had a character flaw and acted upon it. Simple as that.

The same goes for us when we hold each other to standards not meant to be upheld and judge one another for thorns Christ has yet to remove.

And if you are voraciously hoping to discover another person’s thorns, if you are seeking to hear juicy details of their private lives, ask yourself just why you so desperately want to know.

  • Is it to feel better about your own situation?
  • To be proven right?
  • To make the person look bad?
  • To soothe your own jealousy, hatred or ugly heart?

Seriously, ask God to reveal those answers. You might be surprised at what you find.

I have found that when I want to know more about a person’s life than they’re willing to share, it’s usually to make them look bad so that I feel better. Yuck.

The problem is not that women and men share only parts of their stories.

The problem is not that the couple you know to fight miserably all the time are now posting lovey-dovey pics on social media.

The problem is not that your best friend is carrying a Louis Vuitton while she has a boat-load of debt.

The problem is not that the mom you know down the street is crazy as hell but pretends to be the epitome of perfection.

The problem is not that ALL Christians are walking in broken bodies, making imperfect choices, yet a few of us still boldly talk about Jesus in the midst.

The problem is that we choose to judge one another for journeys we haven’t walked.

The problem is that, in our own flawed thinking, we’ve placed human beings on thrones where only Christ was meant to sit.

And that is one character flaw only you and I can change about ourselves.

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Why You Won’t See Me at a National Day of Prayer Service

Today is the National Day of Prayer.

It didn’t start out as but in the last decades has become a time where (mostly) Evangelical leaders call for Christians everywhere to bend the knee, often in public, and turn back to the Almighty God in repentance for our country’s sins.

What a gift we have been given to live in a country that even allows us to publicly pray to a Higher Power.

It is a gift not given freely, but paid for through blood, sweat, tears and God-given Providence and Grace. What an amazing, humbling treasure. To praise God for this is not only right, but necessary.

But we should bear in mind that Jesus was vocal in his disdain of high-ranking church officials praying in public.

Maybe it was because He knew their hearts, the hypocrisy that hid inside.

They prayed to a God they didn’t “need.” They weren’t seeking to be saved. They thought they were fine; it was everyone else who needed help.

Knowing how Jesus felt about this makes me cringe at my own hypocrisy, as well as the hypocrisy of so many Christians today.

Are we pleading to be saved from our own miserable sin, or praying to be saved from “everyone else”?

Many God-fearing, people-loving human beings will be participating today, and I don’t judge them at all. Some of the best people I know and love are Christians who spend their lives seeking to please God.

And while I like to pretend on Sunday that I’m really good at this whole pleasing God thing—while I like to write about Him and talk about Him and rely on Him to save me and all—the truth is I don’t come close to pleasing Him, neither in public nor private.

It is always my fear that writing about Him so much leaves others thinking that I’ve somehow figured this all out, when in fact, I’m not even sure from one day to the next what I truly believe to be true about Him.

And since my life is pretty much a daily testimony of what NOT to do, I feel sure pleasing Him is a long way off.

What I do know for sure is that if anyone needs saving, it’s me, so here’s what I’ll be thinking about today, and what I hope you’ll consider too:

  • I’ll be thinking about how often I justify my actions by calling them MISTAKES, while condemning others’ actions by calling them CHOICES.
  • I’ll be thinking about how many times I’ve been a harsh JUDGE of other people, but a great LAWYER of myself.
  • I’ll be thinking of how often I relish the weeds in my friends’ and family’s “gardens” while seeking to kill my own.

Today I’ll be thinking of all the ways Jesus has clearly sought to change my heart in regards to the way I love people who don’t think, look or behave like me, and all the ways I’ve blocked him from doing so out of pride or fear.

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