#Blessed or #Fake or #InDenial ?
In Luke 6, Jesus was preaching a sermon to a large crowd. He started with “Blessed are the beggars among you. You know, the people who the religious leaders consider so dirty that just brushing up against them will contaminate you and you will need to ritually cleanse yourself from associating with them or God won’t accept you? Those guys are blessed and theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Italics are the CLF paraphrase! 😉)
After the crowd recovered from the shock of this statement, Jesus went on to explain even more about how “the kingdom of God” was not at all what people thought.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
If you are completely honest with yourself, when you read this you want to say "WTF, Jesus!"
I mean: read this passage like it's not some bizarre mystery where you are looking for the hidden meaning in every third word. If you just read it, you see that Jesus is telling us that we are blessed when we are hungry, when we weep, and when people hate us for following him.
Seriously! All of those things suck! How can I possibly be blessed by them? I'm pretty sure this is a mis-translation. I think someone mixed up the words "blessed" and "woe to". That "woe to" list looks pretty good to me.
But the "woe to" list isn't real, at least not always. We all have struggles. You don't get through this life without them. The question is what are we going to do with them? Are we open and vulnerable about them? Or are we like the Pharisees? Do we constantly present a self-sufficient, got-it-all-together, better-than-you, morally superior, don't-need-anyone, face to the world?
Do we push all those hard emotions down, deny them and call it faith?
Look through Facebook, Instagram, reddit, and whatever social media you kids are into today. Seriously think about the things you see and what we are sharing with the world. Look at the fake perfect world people often present as "Christian".
I have a saying, "No one puts on spanx when they go home." Meaning that we all dress up what we present to the world. We put on make-up, filter our thoughts, squish our muffin tops, hide our insecurities, in an attempt to show our chosen segment of the world how great we are.
And they all love us for it right?
Now that we have social media and we can present our best selves to the entire world, we are connecting with people like crazy and have more friends and close relationships than ever. Right?
Actually, it turns out that "chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic"1.
Surprise! Being fake doesn't create real bonds with people.
You know what does create real bonds?
Vulnerability, compassion, empathy, and belief in something bigger than yourself. Jesus freed us to EXPERIENCE LIFE! Contrary to common American theology, faith isn't about denying our emotions and being freed from the human condition. Following Jesus means experiencing life to it's fullest and that strangely, frustratingly, and amazingly, includes being honest about our struggles.
I'm completely convinced that we are bound to humanity when we share our struggles, when we grieve and when we admit our inabilities. Americans culture often teaches that the highest achievement we can hope for is independence. That's actually really idiotic. No one is truly independent. We all need other people. The desire for independence is the teenage mentality of kids who need to break free from their parents and teachers.
Mature healthy adult relationships come from realizing that we all need to be both contributors and takers. We all have something of value to give to the world but we also need people to give to us. We bond with other people when we are brave enough to be broken, dependent, hungry, grieving, real, vulnerable, and sometimes needy.
This is also how we bond with God.
All religions (including most people's version of Christianity) teach us how to impress or manipulate our version of God. Most of us are seeking escape from the problems of this life. But what Jesus taught was the opposite of escape through religious fervor, it was blessings in struggles.
We don't impress God with how awesome we are at obeying his rules and how much we can buck up when times are hard. He asks us to be real with him. Faith doesn't mean guaranteed fixes or just being blissfully OK with things that suck. Christians constantly claim that faith either guarantees that your problem will be fixed or that you will just magically have a great attitude about it. But Jesus said we would be blessed when we weep, mourn, go hungry, are hated because of him, or have a problem where we are constantly dependent on others. Those are all ongoing issues with all of the ongoing emotional struggles.
I'm convinced that often, faith looks more like: yelling at God, arguing with him, and laying on my kitchen floor crying til I can't move from exhaustion, telling God it hurts that bad and somehow his presence blessing me even when life continues to suck.
And here's where it gets personal:
The other aspect of this is the relationship side. And as crazy as I am in my relationship with God, when it comes to people, it's a whole lot messier. 'Cause uggggh! Relationships are hard!!!
My two-fold struggle involves:
I'm not down with the idea of people hating me for the sake of Jesus' name. I really, really, REALLY want to be liked by people and I'm an attention junkie.
True vulnerability is hard! I love pouring into other people, but I don't like people helping me. I suck at vulnerability. People think I don't because I am incredibly open about my life, but I'm not actually vulnerable. I don't go through struggles with anyone, I just tell people about them after I've safely dealt with them.
That's kind of like the Great Value, knock off version of being vulnerable: it resembles vulnerability and it sorta creates a bond. But this knock off version does not create the unbreakable bond which comes from actually being open and honest about something I'm currently struggling with and then letting someone help me through it.
The knock off version feels nice and safe. I tell myself that I'm independent and strong. But sometimes, the reality is more that I'm bitter and lonely. Sometimes I push people away because real vulnerability is hard. It means I'm opening the door for hurt and rejection. It means not only admitting that I'm weak but also letting someone know where and how I'm weak. It means letting down my defense systems and truly letting people into the inner courts of my life and that's scary. It definitely means getting hurt. Not being vulnerable gives me the illusion that I might be protected from hurt. But deep down, I know it's an illusion and all I'm shielding myself from is the blessings that come from admitting my brokenness.
So, if you are in the same boat as me, not wanting to be vulnerable, know that you aren't alone...well, you kinda are, but if you go on this journey with me, you won't always be! I know it sounds awful and hard but it also seems really worth it. I'm banking on that Jesus knew what he was talking about!
Blessings my friends!
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Check out this video to be super challenged about vulnerability!