I'm a word girl. I love a good one. You know the type that you can almost hear the definition in the pronunciation. I like the word "Impervious," and since it's the second time I've used it, I guess I'm going to declare it as my word of the day.
Not a word on your preferred vocab list perhaps? Let me share the definition with you, just in case. It means, "incapable of being penetrated; incapable of being affected." I love saying it, and when I do, I can almost hear MC Hammer and his anthem, "can't touch this." Love it.
What I don't love, is when people act like they've opened up their Thesaurus and sound the word "Christian" as its synonym, because let me make it very clear, I can assure you, it's not there.
Have you ever experienced what I'm talking about though? That attitude as though if you are a Christian, you should somehow be above the battles of life? You express a struggle, or a weakness, and you get this funny look, like all of a sudden they're trying to take your spiritual inventory? Maybe they've even been bold enough (or ignorant enough) to come right out and said it, "But I thought you were a Christian?" Maybe the person staring you down has even been in your very own mirror. You find yourself struggling or weak, battling, and then you look in the mirror and you question your own faith. You think, "I'm a Christian, I shouldn't feel, struggle, battle, worry or look like this..."
Forgive me, but it's ignorance. Whether you are speaking it to yourself, or someone else is speaking it to you, or even if you are the voice speaking it to another, it is, flat out - ignorance.
(Give me a second, let me adjust my soapbox, I don't want to take a tumble.)
I hear all the time, in the Christian community pulpits preaching about transparency. And yet when the theoretical becomes reality, suddenly so much of the body takes big steps back. So many in their discomfort pull back and step into that inventory mode, wondering why you, as a Christian, could possibly be (ahem) struggling.
I'm not talking about wandering distantly down the road of sin, make no mistake, but it could be a temptation, or depression, or anxiety, fear, an eating disorder, even suicidal thoughts. There are a long list of items that I will agree are in fact NOT on God's list for the abundant life He's promised us, but just because we have victory in Christ, does NOT mean we don't get battle wounds along the way.
My heart breaks for the believer who struggles in their humanness, and when they risk their heart and their reputation by opening up and confessing it, they are received with some pat answer or judgmental reply.
It makes me think of Job and his buddies in the Old Testament. He knew he wasn't in sin, and let's face it the guy was being sifted in a way none of us would ever volunteer for, and his friends did not respond in support or understanding, but rather in judgment.
I think of a very good friend of mine who recently found herself battling a deep dark depression. Now this woman wasn't some lukewarm Christian, she wasn't a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, "pillar of the church" is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of her. She is a prayer warrior, a woman grounded deeply in the Word, and yet, she was hit with a deep dark bout of depression.
This woman who for nearly 30 years has walked faithfully with the Lord, loved Him, loved His people and loved His word got knocked for a loop, and people actually had the audacity to question her walk and her faith because she was overwhelmed with depression. Really?
Someone comes to us carrying this heavy, HEAVY boulder of burden. They are weary from carrying it, worn out from dragging it out before us, humiliated in the confession of it to us, vulnerable in the exposure of it, and our response is to add "rocks" to the top of it?
"Maybe you aren't praying enough."
"You need to read your bible more."
"Do you have sin in your life?"
"You MUST have sin in your life."
"I thought you were a Christian..."
Rock, after rock, after rock, making an already unbearable burden even heavier.
OK, go ahead, make your argument. Fear, anxiety, depression, maybe they are sin. Sin is anything that misses the mark that God has set for us, and clearly, these all fall short, but these are sins in our nature, not sins of our own intention or rebellion. Quite simply, we are flesh, and flesh fails, and these are the effects of it.
Galatians 6:1-3 says, "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves."
"Carry each other’s burdens..." The response to add to the weight is wrong. The response that is right, is to get up underneath that burden and help them lift it up.
Pray for them.
Fast for them.
Listen to them.
Love on them.
Be silent, and be there.
Oh what comfort Job's friends could probably have brought in their silence.
Now, I know sometimes, dare I say (hope) that most times, the intentions are good of those who come with their responses. I really want to believe in their ignorance, they sincerely believe they are helping, even if they are sincerely wrong.
Maybe they're speaking out of experience. Maybe they battled some temptation, or emotional struggle, and deciding to turn on the praise music and read their bible every day at the same time every day was just what they needed to overcome their battle. PRAISE GOD FOR THEM! But don't be so foolish as to presume you have found some magic formula that is the cure all for every battle remotely similar to yours.
First off, it isn't the same battle. I can say this with absolute confidence. You aren't the same people, you don't have the same history, you don't live in the same circumstances, you don't suffer the same temptations, you aren't the same people, and you don't have the same problem, therefore your "key" isn't going to fit the lock.
This mentality is what keeps believers from being REAL... OPEN... TRANSPARENT. We preach it, but we don't dare to live it.
Instead we feel forced into some sort of box, to play the "role" of the perfect Christian. We paint on our smiles. Smile politely and offer a "fine, thanks." to those who ask the "how are you?"s in life, and no one dare stop ling enough to truly ask or answer the question. Life looks good, even when people feel like they are drowning inside.
And while I'm up here on my soapbox, I have to ask, why would that Stepford-like life be any kind of draw to the unbeliever? I mean seriously, if I am living in my messy life, struggling with my messy struggles and emotions, walking around feeling like a metaphorical "Pig Pen" character why on earth would I want to walk into your pristine world, where all the walls are white, the floors shiny clean, a place for everything, and everything in its place. I'm not walking in your world, I won't belong there, and you and I will both be painfully aware that every speck of dust we find there will be mine, and nobody's going to be comfortable with that.
Aside from that, I'm going to just out you perfect "housekeepers" anyway, because I happen to know, if I wander around your "place" long enough, I'm going to find that filthy closet. I know you've got that junk drawer, I know that the appearance is deceiving, and the perfection is just a facade.
The fact of the matter is, when someone finds themselves in a pit, a messy muddy pit in life that they have somehow stumbled into (because let's face it, nobody climbs into the pit alone on purpose) they don't want someone who's just come alongside the ledge and stand there evaluating how they got into it in the first place.
"See, now I think where you got off track was right over here. If you would just not have taken this little stretch of the road, you wouldn't have fallen in. Or better yet, if you have just come across the road more slowly... Or you had read the map better.... or you'd been paying closer attention to your feet..." I'm sorry it's not helpful.
Neither is the coach who stands above you. "Get up, step right there." (You try, sink further.) "No, you're not doing it right, See when I fell in my pit, I found the perfect wedge for my foot right there, and was able to lift myself right up out of it." Not the same hole, you're not helping.
It's also not helpful to be the one yanking on the arm of the fallen trying to pull them up. You yank, trying to lift them out and keep clean all at the same time. "Give me your hand, but wipe off the mud first." Where is that mud supposed to be wiped off exactly? Trying to help from above and stay clean is only going to frustrate you and hurt the person in the pit. Arm dislocated, sinking lower, feeling even more hopeless.
The fact is, the only real help you can offer is messy. Now I'm not saying you're supposed to climb in every pit of every person you find along your road. Fact of the matter is, it's probably unhealthy if not your calling directly from God. But if it's a pit you're supposed to act upon, there's really only two viable options, and both involve getting dirty and getting in the pit.
You climb down in, and you lift them up. If you have the know how and the strength (which by definition would have to be of God,) then get in there, and help them out. Don't over-evaluate why they're there, how they could have avoided getting there just get in and help as best you can to get them out. Look for the steps, build the steps, bring the rope, whatever it is GOD leads you to do, but do it in the pit. Be willing to get dirty.
The other option is more challenging, but sometimes the most ministering movement of all. Get in, sit down, and shut up. Hold a hand, put your arm around a shoulder, just sit silently beside. There is strength in knowing one is not alone, that someone is there, someone who cares, someone who is willing to get dirty in life with you. It matters to know someone loves you enough to let your mess make their life a little messy. You pray, you listen, you wait. There may come a time when that plan changes, but it isn't your call. So you sit. You sit, and you love.
Life is hard, and love is messy, and being a Christian doesn't make us immune to it. Christians hurt, and they struggle and stumble. Yes, they have VICTORY in the war, but it doesn't mean they never lose battles along the way. And just because we have victory in Christ does not mean we never get beat up and bruised in the battle. War heroes often leave lame, scarred, even broken. It isn't the absence of these things that make them heroes, but rather the perseverance through it.
The beautiful thing, and what I hold to, both when I have sat in the pit looking up at someone who has chosen to judge, as well as when I have found myself looking down over the pit of another, is that Christ is there. He is Lord of the pit and in the pit, and He is more than willing to be in the mess. He loves us in the mess. And yes, eventually He will deliver us eternally from it, but He is the hand to hold, the silent friend, and when we are ready, He is willing to be the one to bring us freedom from it, not in judgment but in hope and truth for He alone is Impervious.