A friend just texted me a few minutes ago. She was wrestling with the fact that she just told her story and is now paranoid that her story is going to ruin her reputation.
Quick rabbit trail: Your story is your story. Own it! Just as Paul owned and shared about his thorn in the flesh, so should you when God says it’s time!!! Your thorn, your story, is the dark backdrop that illuminates the scandalous grace of Jesus! Preach it!
Here was my response:
You will always feel a little exposed. Even now when I talk about [my story] at times, I feel exposed because mental illness [or whatever your story is — mine just so happens to include mental illness] is just so personal. And that’s why no one talks about it. There will always be a stigma. So whenever you share, you will either free people up or cause people to look at you funny. You just have to decide which is more important to you: Their freedom or your reputation. But no one can take your character, and these struggles are what are making you into the wonderful woman that you are! So own them! But also remember that there is no rush to share everything at once. Go at your own pace. Share as much as you are ready to share. But you are NOT crazy. You are brave and courageous for facing these struggles and you are going to be FREE! You will learn through this whole process that the only opinion that matters is God’s. That sounds so cliche — but it’s true! And He has already declared you HIS — you are LOVED, ACCEPTED, WORTHY, SECURE. There is a verse in Psalms that says HE is the lifter of our heads. I love that verse!!! You can live with your head lifted high because HE is your HEALER! We all have a lot of crazy, but we want to mask it. It’s the difference between living free and living in bondage. The most free people are those who don’t hide their depravity and as a result can celebrate the absolute and extravagant goodness of the Gospel. And that right there triggers my angst: The people who cannot (will not) face their own depravity, their own failures, their own shortcomings, because I truly believe they will fall to pieces. Their perceived “good” reputation is the glue that is holding them together emotionally and if that glue ever disintegrates, they won’t know who they are anymore.
I just read this in Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman: “Good [people] can depend on their good reputation to meet their desperate need for love.”
Our good reputations are our identities. It’s what we are known for…good parenting, good kids, good disciplines, good behavior, good grades, good choices, good marriage, good clothes, good ministry, good church, good house, good job, good car, good vacations, good college, good work ethic, good friends, good ____________. We are good. And if we cease to be “good,” we cease to be us. So when our “goodness” is challenged, it can NEVER be our fault because then we are no longer good. Yikes. Do you see how dangerous this is? Scripture screams at us in Romans 3 that “there’s nobody living right, not even one” (MSG). And we say we believe that. But when was the last time you were brutally, uncomfortably, irrationally, absolutely nothing-to-lose honest? When?
Y’all, your “good” reputation is going to keep you living in bondage. It will isolate you. You will never be able to be fully and completely known because you won’t want anyone getting too close and potentially seeing that you aren’t good. But NO ONE IS GOOD.
If you are getting nervous thinking I am saying to flaunt your sin, then you are who this blog post is written to (read Romans 6, 7 and 8 — I guess Paul and I share the same angst). Yes yo
u, my love. And bless your heart. Be free! Own your freakin train wreck of a life because then and only then can you be healed and free and then and only then can you love like Jesus loved! And then and only then can you live the life He calls us to live!
See, if you are obsessed with goodness, then that’s all you are going to expect from yourself and from other people. And instead of sin and failure pushing you to the cross, it is going to push yo
u further away because you will feel the pressure to “fix it” yourself. You are a Gospel nightmare. Jeremiah 17:9 says we are incapable of being good. You will live an uptight, fear-driven life because of the fact that you have never experienced the scandalous love, acceptance, grace and forgiveness of Jesus even though you claim to have.
If we could only see ourselves as Christ does. Then we could live as Christ lived. But we can’t. And so we don’t. And we perpetuate that sad cycle of living to the next generation. And people are leaving the church faster than they are coming. And I don’t blame them.
Oh, that is my angst. That we would embrace honesty. Vulnerability. Gospel-preaching, grace-living, help-me-Jesus-screaming lives. ’Cause that’s what He expects. Not my goodness. No. Never that. But my utter and complete brokenness smothered in His perfect life. Only that. ’Cause only when I can stop hiding behind my goodness can He live His goodness through me.
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3 (ESV)