My mom had bought me a new journal and I’d started it the night before. There’s always something wonderfully refreshing in that – crisp white paper, ready to hold your prayers; your hopes, dreams and thoughts; words full of wisdom and promises of good to come. I’d picked up the brightly coloured book. The words “Do small things with great love” are inscribed on the cover: a reminder for the season I’ve been in. God was busy teaching me to see Him more in the everyday and the mundane and now, every time the book caught my eye, I was reminded of the lesson I was learning.
Having picked up the journal to scribble down the lyrics of a worship song that had been playing through my mind and pressing on my heart, I suddenly noticed a mark on the front. Then, as you do when realising something you thought was in good condition is actually not, my eyes wondered further across the book’s surface. There: a scuff and then a scratch; a piece that even looked torn, as if the binding was already old, though I’d only just begun to use it.
From a slightly greater distance, the journal looked intact, clean and in perfect condition; but now, inspecting it close-up, eyeing each indent, nick and scrape, as if my eyes could iron out the marks which I now realized were covering the hardcover, I realised I’d been deceived by not getting close enough. I’d thought something looked just fine on the outside and from a decent distance.
Don’t we do that all too often, with things more important than books? We look from afar, admiring (or rather judging or being jealous of) all that someone has, of what they’re doing and how they look and act doing it. We fashion an opinion of them, without getting close. Without seeing their flaws and their history in each bump and scar, we see a pretty (or a not-so-pretty) picture and fill in the blanks of what we don’t know, with whatever suits our fancy; with an opinion that often is isn’t anything remotely like the truth.
How very guilty I am of doing this. And further, how very easy I find it to wrap myself up in some degree of distant formality. I assume much of others when I can’t fill in the blanks and yet, by leaving myself distant and unreachable to those who need to hear about my brokenness, I commit the opposite crime.
When we aren’t open with people, we give way to the assumption that we are all alone in our own struggles. When we don’t show the scratches, the dings and the dents; when we keep people at arms length, for self-preservation, we fail to see the value in community and the beauty of sincerity. When we don’t share our brokenness, we don’t show the extent of God’s grace on our lives.
If I am not willingly open to those who press into my life with questions and their own stories, choosing to safeguard myself rather than be vulnerable, I minimise the magnitude of what Christ has done in my life. How can people see the goodness of God at work within us, if we are not willing to show how He has taken our ashes and given us beauty; turned our trials into testimonies and our vices into victories?
The beauty of the Gospel is Christ’s willingness to be weak and vulnerable and human; to bleed and break and die, that we might be restored into relationship with the Father.
Why then, if this is the most beautiful thing that has ever been done for us, do we shy away from openness and reality? Why are we so terrified of letting people in up-close, to see the spots, the tears and the mess, when each mark shows how much God has done and how far He has carried us?
The willingness to be open comes with the acceptance and assurance that you are no longer the person you were (2 COR 5:17); Christ has redeemed and reconciled us (COL 1:20 & GAL 3:13-14) and our stories are a testimony of that. If we let it, our brokenness doesn’t stress our weakness. It emphasises God’s strength. It shows His willingness to save and to heal and to restore and to not only go above and beyond what we deserve, but also to do more than we could ask for or begin to imagine (PS 103:10-12 & EPH 3:20).
Through our readiness to be open and unguarded, we show the power of God’s grace and the truth of His goodness. We show a little of how great His love is for us. When we are willing to let people close-up, to see our fractures and our frailty, we show the beauty of the cross.