Acting is easy, but being a Christ follower is hard. Towards the end of last school year, I was convicted of being an actor, playing the part of the type of person I think I’m supposed to be, and not being open about my struggles.
I had a couple of conversations with two different girls, who were freshmen at the time, that are in the same campus ministry that I’m a part of. One of the girls was in my small group and admitted to me that she had been feeling all year that she couldn’t express her ideas during bible study. She thought that people would look at her funny or judge her if she talked about her life.
I felt guilty that she didn’t have the space to be open with us and that she saw our small group as more of a place where people were just trying to outsmart each other with their knowledge of the word of God rather than a place where she could be kept accountable for her struggles or express her doubts.
The conversation I had with my other friend was similar. This girl asked me if we could talk one night and so we proceeded to sit in the hallway for hours in discussion. She came to me feeling the need to confess her struggles with certain sins. I could tell her desire to get these things off her chest had been there for awhile, but she told me that she didn’t feel as though she could be open like that with other people in our fellowship. Then she was surprised when I admitted to her that I struggled with some of the same exact things.
More than this, what was most surprising to me about this conversation was how I realized that I hadn’t talked to anyone about these things myself, even though at the time I had already been in college for two whole years. I wondered why things were this way and why such topics were so taboo to our group. As weeks went on, I continued to feel as though we really needed to change things.
Personally God dealt with me about my own lack of being open with people. Furthermore, not only were there certain things that I didn’t like to talk about with people, but there were things that I tried to not even talk about with God. He showed me that there are lots of reasons why we should embrace openness.
Providing Space for Accountability and Real Relationships
I think it’s important for us to be open with each other so that others will feel more comfortable being open with us. We can’t expect someone to tell us their life story and all the bad things that have happened to them if we’re not willing to tell anything about ourselves.
It’s perfectly okay to let your guard down and completely throw away any boundary you may put up conversationally as to connect on deeper levels. I’m sure that we all can say from experience that the best friends we have became close to us through bonding and sharing stories with each other.
Being open also allows us to keep each other in check. We can’t keep each other accountable if we don’t know what our friends’ personal stumbling blocks are. When we share what we struggle with, we can be there for each other, pray for each other, and help each other overcome those things.
To Be a Better Witness
Openness doesn’t only help with Christian community, but it also helps us reach out to those who don’t know God. After all, we are human too.
Let’s say you know a non-Christian caught up in a habitual sin that they’re dealing with that you actually used to do as well. How much better would our witnessing be when we tell our friends like this that we, not only dealt with the same thing, but also were able to stop when we came to know Christ?
I think we have to be relatable to people. Something that we’re in danger of is turning people away from the faith because they feel like they’re not good enough. It reminds me of something that my youth pastor used to always say, “The church shouldn’t be a museum of perfect people, but it should be a hospital for the broken”.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
On top of this, do we really want the world to keep calling us hypocrites? If we would just admit that we have issues too, and acted normally about them instead of hiding them behind our facades of perfection, I think we could change the way people view Christianity.
The thing that I was most convicted of is real repentance. Before I really came to know the Lord in college, I never knew anything about repentance so therefore had only confessed to God more recent things, completely ignoring all of my past failures, which was silly. God already knows where we’ve skrewed up, He was there, He saw us do it. We then should be more okay with letting Him deal with us in those issues.
For there to be true freedom, we have to admit to God and to other people that we are broken and sucky, undeserving of the Lord’s love. We have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the things we try to hide, so that we can be more grateful to God for His grace.
In order to experience true freedom, we have to stop trying to be something that we’re not. We have to let people know that we’re not perfect and let them know that they can find freedom in the Lord as well. Christian or not, we are all just people who go through the same things.
But, God’s grace is sufficient.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” James 5:16
Ashlye Elizondo is a media intern for Campus Renewal Ministries. She is a Junior at The University of Texas, studying Public Relations. She also serves with Intervarsity Residential Christian Fellowship (IV Res), one of the five Intervarsity chapters at UT.