I was thinking today about an opportunity to be a testimony of the Lord’s work in my life . . . which I lost.
Years ago, having been through so much pain and uncertainty already, I didn’t feel I could put myself through yet another complication. I strongly sensed that if I took the harder route by putting my life in God’s hands–and stretching my faith!–that it would end up giving me a powerful testimony to share about God’s power in our weakness. But I didn’t do that.
I know now the wisdom of God in reserving those secrets for Himself: only He knows how things might have been if I had made different choices; if I were to know such things, it would probably be too much for me to bear. So, it remains a mystery, and I am learning to trust God with that unknowable mystery. He keeps it safe for me, so that I can live freely in His forgiveness.
What I was considering today, was that during those dark days I had no one I felt I could talk to. Yes, there were certainly older Christian women. But . . . could I trust them to handle tenderly this most painful and sensitive wound in my life? Could they know the worst about me–and still have compassion? Or would they grimace with disgust at how I had failed, while arrogantly assuming that they would never do anything like that themselves?
This has led me to mentally revisit a comment I received recently from one of the readers of this blog. The contributor voiced her concern that in condemning sin, we might become self-righteous and lacking in grace. I agree with her.
Now, even in my own situation, I needed someone to uphold the truth. It wouldn’t have helped for other people to minimize my sin in an effort to be sensitive to my feelings. That would have just exacerbated the problem, though it would have made me feel better in the meantime. But, it would not have contributed toward a long-term, godly solution.
However–and here’s the thing I want to highlight–I was so unwilling to seek help because I didn’t want my wound to be stung with salt: I was afraid of abrasive criticism and unsympathetic advice.
This was their fault. And it was mine.
It was their fault because the older women who could have guided me when I still couldn’t see clearly enough to manage my life with wisdom, were too shocked by my behavior, too offended by me, to take a walk for a minute in a sinner’s shoes. What would it have been like to be me? How had I gotten to that place? I needed not just advice, I needed a friend.
It was my fault because I was too afraid of the hurt to face the truth, even if it would hurt me more. Salt does sting, but it also cleanses. I wanted friends, but did I want what true friendship signifies? True friends tell the truth, they don’t hide it. And sometimes true friends aren’t recognized for what they are. And when that happens, what can they do? They won’t stay where they aren’t welcome; though if they’re loyal, they’ll be available to help whenever it’s requested. Maybe even when it’s not.
So there’s the challenge: how do we meet other people where they’re at, where they’re hurting so much they just want it to stop, and tell them the truth they need to hear, while at the same time demonstrate compassionate toward them?
Just like Jesus, we also must be full of grace and truth. It is not one or the other; it is one and the other. We must become masters of achieving that perfect balance.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. . .
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
(From John 1)