When it's okay to not be okay...

Somewhere, at some time, for some ridiculous reason 'church' became this place where it's not okay to not be okay. 

Don't get me wrong, it's okay to enter the church broken, after all, Christians like to take credit for fixing other people. We love to hear about sin that's been healed by our programming, events, our leaders and our processes. 

But what about those people on the inside? People that have accepted the gift Jesus has freely given us and now are on this continuous growth curve. A curve that varies from church-to-church and leader-to-leader.  

The litmus test we often use to measure someone's spiritual health isn't a true measure of godliness. It is, however, a litmus test of our preference and personal comfort.

So often church becomes a place where it's not okay... to not be okay. We know if we speak up, we risk being shunned or perhaps worse, being told we are allowed too stay but sit on the bench. 

We label people and groups and put them into categories. 

We have Martha who always sits in the third row... Be careful not to get too close. Before you know it she will be a blubbering mess and the next minute she will be praising Jesus like nobodies business. Well, let's be honest... everyone knows she's needy and not terribly refined. She says a little too much and shares her heart in a pretty loud way. She is loving and kind, but well you know, she's Martha. Everyone knows about Martha. 

Oh but John. Look at John. He shows up every week so well put together and serves every Friday night at the local rescue mission. John is the real deal. He never says much. He's always available if we ask him to serve and he never ever questions leadership. Ever! He knows his place. John is so respected. I mean, geese, he never asks for help and he is always willing to help others. Oh and let's not forget his wife is freakin' amazing and his kids consistently are on the honor roll. 

Then we have Ginger who shows up faithfully every Sunday but her theology is well... a little off. She believes that God can and will... Oh never mind, it doesn't really matter what Ginger thinks, no one listens to Ginger. 

You see, it doesn't matter what the heart looks like or the 'real' experiences people are having. What matters is that you say and do the appropriate things. You show up, you don't speak up and if you are serving you DO NOT show ANY and I mean ANY of your weaknesses unless you are asked too. 

John freely serves the church and the respect people have for him is through the roof. He's been around long enough to know that sharing too much at the wrong time can spell disaster for your future in ministry. So he silently struggles with his roller coaster of a marriage and the fact that he is physically crippled by his pornography addiction. Shhh... As long as everything looks okay....

Once we reach a certain level within the church the degree to which you share your life is limited to smiles, perfect kids and a well put together life. It's no longer okay to be vulnerable unless it's built into the curriculum. No longer can we show our absolute need for Jesus because we may be viewed as weak, a victim or 'not strong enough' for ministry? 

What if they (we) weren't polished enough or shared stuff that made others a little uncomfortable?

People within the church look more like an old rusty building and less like the perfect tabernacle we hope others see. 

The gauge we use to qualify our leaders is often based on ones ability to serve at the cost of family, be quiet so that everything appears okay and say, 'yes' so that feathers aren't ruffled. Say 'no' under your breath while a ‘yes’ escapes out of fear that it may not be popular or you may no longer look awesome.

We fear sharing what we have because 'someone' (whoever someone is) may be offended. We are terrified for people to see that our kids aren't perfect or that our marriages have quite a few wounds. 

We can share those hurts, joys and sorrows just as long as we’ve been invited to speak. We are permitted to say our marriage ‘was’ struggling but don’t you dare stand up and say it is currently struggling. You may be a little too needy or victimish (no, I'm not sure that's even a word).

And, by all means share about the promotion you received at work or the financial blessing that has flowed your way on a well put together Sunday morning video or flyer sent out to thousands of people, just as long as it says that you experienced that as a result of giving to the building fund or the giving spirit you’ve recently displayed. Because if you share any success in any unchurchy forum you are probably just boasting and rubbing what you have in others faces. 

Let me break it to you, to leadership and to every person you share your stuff with… It came from Jesus. He gave you the ability to work hard, he's resourced some in ways that he doesn’t resource others and that is okay. Be happy and rejoice with the person on the big screen, pamphlet sent in the mail and even the person sharing on Facebook. They're no different if they recognize where it all comes from.

I'm terrified, terrified to once again become part of an establishment that promotes a sit down and shut up mentality and refuses to encourage a rise up and walk culture. 

It's policies, procedures and programming that sets the captive free!

It's not policies, procedures or programming that sets the captive free, it's Jesus! 

It's sacrificing to the point of exhaustion. It's giving until you can't give no more.

It's not sacrificing to the point of exhaustion or giving until you can't give no more. 
It's about Jesus!

What he's done in and through us on a daily basis is appropriate for Facebook, Twitter or whatever tickles your fancy. 

Why? Because our stories inside and outside of church programming can glorify Jesus. 

The reality is… we are a jumbled mix of ‘needy’ and ‘needed’. We all have periods where we are so weak that we can barely stand.

Moments when our knuckles drag the ground like an ancient cave dweller. We have periods of time when the mental hunch feels as if it will never ever again stand up straight and walk in freedom. 

We question if we will ever stand tall, straight and once again have a little pep in our step. 

The glorious opposite of being ‘needy’ is being ‘needed’. This is a place where many Christians thrive. 

Feeling needed is the very reason we say yes to the point of exhaustion and sacrifice our families on the alter of service. 

One without the other is crippling. God created us to both be needed and needy

Anything short of real is simply, fake.

Even Jesus, the perfect son was vulnerable, open and dare I say, needy. 

In Matthew 26, we see Jesus go off with his disciples “to be sorrowful and troubled.” He goes on to say, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Goodness, some church leaders would be preparing his sit down and be quiet letter if he ever dared write this as a social media status. 

Facebook or Twitter stutus: 

“I’m so overwhelmed with sorrow…” ~ Jesus
 #needmyfriends #alittleoverwhelmed #ineedyou #thisburdenisalittlemuch

Yep, this is the same Jesus that healed the blind, walked on water and wept with the broken. Same guy, same dude, same person inside and outside of the church. (Yes, I know 'the church' was yet to be established but I think you know what I mean)

And, hold on one minute before you stand up on your couch or need to pull over on the side of the road. 
Yes, I know full well that Jesus was with his friends and we often publish our feelings on a public forum such as Twitter or Facebook. But, I can also say with 100% certainty that the author of the most widely published, widely read and most controversial book known to man also knew his followers (readers) would far exceed our friends list on Facebook or our followers on Twitter. And guess what? He still published it. 

Not all of us are internal processors and not all of us are comfortable sharing our stories publicly, but I know there is room for both of us within the church and most certainly within leadership. 

I know there is room for both the needy and the needed at the doorstep of ministry. 

Your story is not only appropriate at a well thought out event, where you have exactly 7 minutes 30 seconds to share it. It is also appropriate wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit tells you to share it. 

Yes, a great deal of wisdom is needed when sharing but I’m afraid we don’t share of stories or our life simply because there is a fear of what leaders may think or how we may be 'perceived' by others. We somehow are more concerned with 'the others'  and less concerned about being open and with an unashamed willingness to follow Jesus and His prompting. 

We must be willing to follow Jesus and be obedient even if it offends others.  We can be a Martha and a John all at the same time. I promise though we will never reach the point of being both needy and needed if we continue to follow the whim of the church at the expense of a daily walk with Jesus. 

Church is a place where it is okay to not be okay. 

Church is a place where our stories matter within the building and outside the building. 

Church is a place where our experiences both good or bad matter. 

You don't have to be a Paul, a Peter, or a Virgin Mary... You are you. The people you will reach for Christ aren't the same group of people that the next person was created to reach. 

Go get em'!!!

And, please do not forget...

Church is a place where it's okay to be broken the first day you walk in AND every single day that follows. 

You matter! Your story matters! 

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