Be Honest with Little

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.  And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Luke 16:10-12

Do you know a shrewd manager? Kind of like the one Jesus was talking about in Luke 16? Someone who is dishonest and lacks integrity at work, and then doesn’t seem to understand the dire consequences when they finally get caught? Maybe they even appear successful way up there at the top, but their success is only appealing by the standards of the world, and was won through dishonest means.

What exactly does it look like to be dishonest and untrustworthy with worldly wealth?

Maybe it is climbing to the top of that company ladder, and stepping on anyone you can on the way up. Or owning a business, skimming money off the top, or using it to exploit others for your personal agenda. Anything God deems sinful that we may do to gain funds. Gambling. Sexual exploitation. All to acquire that material possession. That house. That car. That girl. That guy. That love. All the things we think money can buy.

Earlier this week in our kitchen, our youngest was “joshing” his sister about something that happened at school. It’s what middle school brothers do to their high school siblings. It’s a fact of life. To her, this was considered a lie. Though to us-it was simply a joke. To which she began to debate how she had NEVER, EVER told us a lie. Which, in fact…is true. She had…actually not. Aside from pranks and jokes, neither really had.

We had been clear that lying was not tolerated. Lying created a number of problems. For the person lying, and for many others involved. If it involved an action in addition, those actions often had potential consequences. Many that could lead to moral and spiritual dilemma. Integrity may come into question, and trust among others can become broken, taking a long time to repair. One small lie, often leads to bigger lies-as our need to make up for the smaller one we told becomes greater. We see no way out of the huge hole we dig from the first untruth.

We had trusted them when they had told us things, because they had been truthful with even the smallest of things. When they had something to share whether big or small, we were certain whatever came from their mouth would be the truth. Because it had been spoken so frequently prior. If the opposite had been true, we may have had doubts.

Though lying may be a small example, it plays a part in how others will deem us trustworthy and honest in relationships. Regardless of how we handle money, the ways in which we handle our words and our responsbilities to people; whether we honor our word, and keep our promises will also go a long way in whether others will find us a person of integrity and honesty or not. Do we make promises we cannot keep? Do we borrow something and never return it? Do we take something without permission, or steal and pass something off as ours? We may not be dealing with money, essentially, but we are certainly not dealing in a manner that is trustworthy.

God’s character is genuine, true, and honest. This is the character he desires we have as well, as he made us in his image, and desires we be good. If we are to be holy as he is holy, our aim should be to walk in the way that is honest and faithful to truth, and not deceitful in our dealings with others. Not lying to others, and not crooked in the way we handle our finances in an effort to come out on top. We must be people of our word, and most importantly-people of His Word. Honest, faithful, true, and trustworthy.

Masks of Deception

We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. 2 Cor 4:2 MSG

I have spoken about this before here: My youngest has never understood the concept of Halloween. Even in our desire for him to indulge in the holiday festivities; he simply refused to put on a costume. If there was a time he dressed up, he had to be as close to a character he recognized, and would not dare wear a mask. Many years he simply went to events as “Hunter.” His philosophy being-he had no pressing reason to be anything other than himself. Wouldn’t he be given candy anyway? Why “trick” others into giving it him?

From an autistic lens, I began to see his point.

The world has sold us a big fat lie: You must present yourself to it as someone other than who God intends you to be in order to get your needs met.

It’s why we deceive the aging process with fillers, Botox, filters, and injections. Tricking others into believing we are younger than we are, smoother, or that our forehead wrinkles don’t exist.

It’s why we post our “highlights.” So we can trick people into thinking we are happier, have more money, our marriages aren’t crumbling, and our kids aren’t making poor choices.

It’s why we don’t discuss our struggles with other people.

It’s why we wear our masks on every other day after October 31st. These masks may not be the scary ones like evil, murder, robbery, or any other punishable crime. No, these masks look more like skimming time from your co-worker while you post all about your crummy job on Facebook. It’s the hurtful words you say about a friend as soon as she leaves the table to go home. It’s the ways in which you don’t support another person’s success, because they are doing what you wish you were. It’s that plastic smile you paint on, when you feel like crying. It’s that word “fine,” you speak when you are anything but.

Those are our masks. And we don’t need a holiday like Halloween to wear them and to deceive everyone around us. We put them on most everyday. And expect people to hand us what we want.

We deceive others this way. We deceive others into believing that believers have it all together. That we don’t struggle. Our painted on “smiley” masks that hide our struggles can deceive the hurting seeker into believing they have to be perfect before they can have Christ. And on another note, when we paint on goodness, and hide poor behaviors such as gossip or malice, we let others know that maybe Christ isn’t so attractive after all.

Maybe our youngest had a point. Can’t we have Christ anyway by coming to him as ourselves? Can’t we be in communion and fellowship with each other without a mask? Without pretending we are someone else for the day?

Try it. Drop your faulty expectations that you have to have it all together, and come as you are. As God intended you to be. Drop the mask the world expects. That plastic smile, those expectations and disappointments you hide behind, and simply be yourself before others today. Genuine. Honest. Truthful. No deception underneath. Nothing but who He intended.

What Example Are You?

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Family game night. It’s a family bonding time that can be a pain for one, because he just wants to play Xbox, but secretly…deep down we may still love the fact that our teenage daughter begs us to still indulge. Surely it’s her desire to come out on top. Maybe it’s her desire to search for the coolest or silliest game in the store (though mom enjoys this, too). But family game night is never without laughs, debates, and some surprises.

There are quite a few interesting games out there, and our latest one has been one called “Hot Seat.” The person in the “Hot Seat” is the lucky one who picks a random card with a category or scenario listed, and everyone including the one in the “Hot Seat” must choose what the player would say.

Recently one of my cards was “what would my tombstone say?” or something like that. Kind of morbid. Answers rolled in like “Here lies a coffee lover,” until some were more like “something about Jesus…something about the Bible.”

Which got me to thinking about example. What the people around us see in us. What impact and impressions our daily interactions leave.

What are people going to say about us? Will it leave them shamed? Or justified?

In the second chapter of Titus, Paul writes to the elders of the church, not specifically to pastors; but to those considered to be of an older generation. He encourages them to be mentors to those who are younger and coming to faith. An example of champions of Christ and his character-living it out in their daily lives and interactions.

We don’t have to be elders, pastors, teachers, leaders to uphold this as our standard of living. It should be our highest calling as believers and followers of the Son of Man. As parents. As grandparents. As citizens within our communities. As walking, talking, representatives of his likeness in our neighborhoods, grocery stores, workplaces, and pews.

If someone were to place you in the “Hot Seat,” and then have to answer the question, “What would be on this person’s’ tombstone?” What would they say? Would the card say something about Jesus, or something about coffee? Would it shame you? Or would they be justified?

If your living example is the example of Christ-like character. Integrity. Actions that match your words. Honesty. Love. Gentleness in speech, even when truth must be spoken; and patience, then your example is one that probably has impact that has reached farther and wider than you can imagine. Someone may have said something sideways, and your character has spoken words that has put them to shame.

However, if you speak eloquent words, but do otherwise. Deal in ways that are contrary to the words of Christ. Hold on to bitterness, or speak falsely about your neighbor, the words spoken may just be justified. It may be a good idea to check-in with one of those elders Paul spoke of in Titus 2, and have someone hold you accountable. Not to judge you, but to help move you towards the path of integrity, honesty and the Christ-like character we are called to demonstrate as an example to others.

I’ve looked to “elders” for support, for reflection, for growth. We all need this. And I’ll testify that it makes all the difference in being one whose witness leaves an example of the person I realize I was, and the person I am becoming and continue to strive to be.

Which example are you?

To The Young: You Have Influence, Too

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12, NLT

Today’s post on Christian character is for the younger folk. Those growing up and learning how to navigate the nuances and social expectations of the world. It can be difficult to walk the thin line between what the world expects, and what your faith demands. These things are in constant conflict, and we, as parents, just don’t often know what this is like.

We, of course, know what it is like to be teens. It is hard. We have all walked the line between the expectations of the world, those of our elders, our own, and what we know to be right, or even wrong. We just didn’t have the internet, or phones at our fingertips to document our every move. If we had bullies, we could retreat to safety at home, and leave our bullies at school. Turn them off until the school bell rang the next day. And if we took a picture or someone did find something out about us, we didn’t have a tribe of people calling for us to be “canceled,” or jumping in on the smear campaign because it was the “cool” thing to do. Things really were just “different.”

I talked about integrity yesterday, and it doesn’t just apply to adults. It’s the same concept no matter your age. Are you who you say you are at home, and out in the world? At church and with your friends? Do you show Christ everywhere, or just at church?

You may be young. You may be influenced by social media. You may even be triggered by the mixed messages from the things you see from it’s sources, or the people you follow. Feel you don’t measure up.

However, you still have an influence on the world around you of which you may not be aware. Especially when you let others know you believe in Christ. There will be expectations of you. Yes, even when you are young. Even on your social media profiles, and no…it won’t feel “fair.” It will likely feel like it’s one more expectation someone has of you of which you will never measure up, but it is the most important expectation. It is the one God has of you.

He does not expect you to be without a few mishaps. A few blemishes. A few bruises. What He does expect of you is to put aside the world’s expectations. What Facebook. Instagram. TikTok think for a bit, and worry about what He thinks. Walk in the way He expects. And remain honest and true to His ways. A person. A young man or woman of integrity.

No matter how young (or old) you are.

The Path of Integrity

People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. Proverbs 10:9

What exactly is integrity? We often throw that word around. Use it to describe people who do or even don’t possess it.

A person said to have integrity is someone described as having a moral compass that does not waver. They aren’t one way here, and one way there. They are honest in all dealings, speech, and they are the same in every place they go. Not shape shifters.

Evidence of shape shifting came to mind to me earlier in one of the places I don’t particularly care to be. Airports. I enjoy flying. Well, let me rephrase this: I enjoy being on the plane. Book in my lap. Taking a nap. As it seems everyone else does, too. You know…enjoying your ride in the “friendly skies” as the slogan goes.

But something happens once those feet hit the ground, I suppose. We become a little less friendly. I didn’t complain about my less than friendly experience waiting in line at the Starbucks kiosk, because the complaining would not have changed the experience. I simply told my family that I was going to walk in the way that showed the world something different on this trip instead.

I said “excuse me.” “Thank you.” “Have a great day.” “Go ahead of me.” Things that just seem less commonplace these days in all our rushing along our paths.

Seems so simple. Such an easy thing to do. But if I were to have to answer the question are you the same in the pulpit as you are at home? Are you the same at work as you are at the airport? Are you the same on Sunday and on Friday? I want the answer to be yes. I want all my paths to be straight. I want to be considered a person of integrity.

There are a number of ways in which we can veer off the path of honesty and integrity and walk onto one that is crooked and intended to cause destruction. We will talk about some of those in later posts. One easy way is in our simple acts of unkindness. The simple ways in which we treat the people we meet on a daily basis, while professing to honor Christ. While professing to be a loving people, yet planting our feet in the ground and walking into places with unfriendliness. If someone were to pass by you in the checkout line on a Monday, what would they see? Would they see you smiling and saying “thank you” to the cashier, or grumbling because she bagged your groceries incorrectly.

Integrity. It’s in the big things, and the small things. And even the small things determine if our paths grow crooked and destructive.

Today, don’t just make it a mission to remain friendly while your in the “skies,” or in the pews. Make it a mission every time you have your feet planted on the ground, and every time you have people who could very well be watching you.

You can run…but you can’t hide

Rocks. I mentioned some of them in my last post. Those I threw into the ocean of surrender. And those I threw at cars when younger.

Yes. My brother and I were often bored on our little street growing up. If we were not yelling across the street for our cousins to come out and play, we would often pick up small rocks and throw them at cars. Just the tires. Or that was always our intention.

Want to know what happened when a rock was thrown where it wasn’t intended?

We hid. Why?

Because what was intended to be thrown at a tire, ended up on a windshield. And when those brake lights came on, and that car stopped? We ran. We hid.

Hoping if we hid long enough. Far away enough. We wouldn’t be found out.

Sounds like another story I know.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10, NLT

They felt naked. Exposed. They ran and hid. Hoping God didn’t see. God wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t find out.

But we can’t hide from God.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. Luke 12:2, NIV

God sees it. He sees our comings and goings. He knows our thoughts, and though we may run, hide, hope we will not be found out-God knows.

He knows the thing we do behind closed doors we hope no one ever finds out. He knows the words we say to ourselves, and the thoughts that fill our heads. He knows the ways we have hurt others, even if we try to forget. He knows when we talk one way, and live another. He knows the things we do in the dark.

He knows.

He also knows our secret pains. Our deepest hurts. Our hearts desire. Our struggles. Those other things we hide.

He knows and He wants us to come out of hiding.

Not blame the “other,” as the first woman and man did, but confess what we have done. Our actions. Our sins. Our transgression. Our hurts. All the things we hope people don’t know.

He knows, and He still wants to give us His love. He wants us to run to him, instead of away.

And when we do, when we come out of hiding, we discover what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:3, 7-8, NLT

You can’t hide from Him, and He won’t hide from you. Just as he knows the things you hope to keep hidden, if you seek His face and His salvation, He will walk with you daily. Protecting you. Keeping you from harm.

Are you ready to come out of hiding? Stop running? Stop pretending?

Stop hiding, and run to Him.

Making peace with the Proverbs 31 woman

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. I had a desire to be this Biblical gold standard, but then at other times, it seemed to be another standard I could just never live up to. I mean, really. Come on. She finds wool and flax, and spins it (v 13); she plants a vineyard (v 16); and she makes her own bedspreads (v 22). I don’t do any of this!

I decided to turn my love/hate relationship into one of understanding.

Who is she? And why is there an entire chapter devoted to her in the Bible? The last chapter of Proverbs, in fact; when so many others have focused on a different type of woman-an evil, manipulative, promiscuous, and adulterous woman. One who uses her beauty to deceive and lure.

Maybe because she is in fact the total opposite of those described in Chapters 5, 6, and 7. One closer to God. She is more than a woman who is “bitter poison” (5:4), or “cares nothing about the path of life” (5:6).

She honors God. Loves God. Does His will. Seeks Him first.

The writer of this well-versed chapter makes this difference known in the very first verses of Chapter 31. According to the author (King Solomon…who actually needed this advice), King Lemuel was actually given this advice from his mother: “Don’t dilute your strength on fortune-hunting women, promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders.” Proverbs 31:3, MSG. Those chronicled in those earlier chapters; those that bring destruction. Momma goes on to describe what kind of woman she desires for her boy.

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
She is more precious than rubies.
Her husband can trust her,
and she will greatly enrich his life.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12, NLT

Virtuous. Other translations describe her as noble. In other words, righteous. Good. Honest. Upright.

And she isn’t just trusted and honored by her husband. But most importantly-God.

Momma wanted the King to find him a godly woman. One of integrity. Honesty. With strong moral character.

One who was the same in secret as she was in public.

Our Heavenly husband desires this as well.

If you look back to those other chapters, those women (and ladies…let’s not be remiss to realize that men can be these things, too. This isn’t just for the ladies)…what do we find? Worldly qualities. Things folks desire simply from seeing, hearing, and trusting things other than one’s character. “Words like honey.” (Proverbs 5:4). “Lustful beauty and coy glances meant to seduce” (Proverbs 6:25).

The P31 woman is much more than looks, charm or words. She walks with God, and she mirrors His ways. When she speaks she doesn’t speak words to deceive or beguile. She speaks words of praise. Encouragement. Truth in love. She is a woman of integrity, and God has confidence and trust in her decisions, because they match the truth she reads. The life she lives, and the way she speaks.

She desires good for everyone. Not destruction. Most of all, she desires God.

And she desires Him for others, too.

I used to hate her, but now I love her. I used to want to be anything BUT her, but now she’s all I want to be.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:25-26, 30

That’s a godly woman. A woman of truth and integrity. A woman I long to be.

Note: Now that I have made peace with the Proverbs 31 woman, and continue to find peace with myself, I have some ways for you to do the same. Come back this weekend for an exciting announcement!

“I’m fine.” But is that the truth?

I wrote a post recently about truth. In it I shared the importance of telling the truth to those we love. As I thought more after I posted it, and after I reflected on truth some more in the passing days, I thought about this: Are we telling the truth to ourselves? What about the truth of what we feel inside? Are we sharing this? And what would happen if we did? Would we be accepted? Or shamed?

So we hold back the truth. We lie.

Lie number one you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”
(Matthew West, Truth Be Told)

Put on a happy face. Pretend that before you got here. Clocked in. Walked on stage. Came down to dinner. Greeted your family. Your co-workers. Your friends. That you were not just crying on your bathroom floor. Or just thinking how worthless you were. Had a fight with your wife. Got bad news from the doctor. Or had someone leave you.

Put on that happy face. Pretend it’s all good. Smile. Look pretty. Happy. Even if inside you are anything but.

Lie number 2 everybody’s life is perfect except yours
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors

Perfection is not the truth. Yet we look at the filtered lives of others and assume theirs is just that-perfect. And when ours doesn’t measure up to that, we hide our pain. We hide our mess. We filter our lives to draw some type of comparison. None of it is the truth.

Truth be told…none of us have it all together. No life is perfect. Many filter out the bad stuff so you only see what is good.

Truth be told. We lie about the scars we hide because we are afraid of what people will think. That once people know what hides within they will run and hide from us. That if others see our brokenness, then we will be found out, shamed, criticized, and shunned. So we continue our farce. It just seems safer there.

What if we admitted we are not fine? That we were sad. Bitter. Grieving. Wrestled with doubt. Wondered about our purpose. What if we told each other the truth?

What if we put away our “fake faces,” our prettied up lives that aren’t real and are a facade, and shared what makes us so not fine?

Truth be told? We’d probably be a bit more “fine” than we are now. Feel a bit more accepted. Perhaps a little less broken.

Think it’s time to tell each other the truth?

WWJD: Just tell the truth already

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 1 Corinthians 13:6, NLT

Have you known someone, then found out later that they hid things about themselves? Left you wondering if they were really who they seemed to be? Why they didn’t think you could hold space for their truth?

Or maybe you were the one hiding the truth. Maybe you were hiding the truth about a situation because you wanted to protect the parties involved. Thought telling the whole story would protect the ones you loved from getting hurt. Or even protect you from the consequences. Protect you from the hurt. From damage.

Does anything good come from withholding the truth?

The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Luke 12:2, NLT

Well, God’s Word says in Proverbs 19:9 that the one who hides the truth will get caught, and that all secrets will be known; and from my own experience-His Word holds true.

Let me share the quickest version I can of a story for you skeptics.

My view was different. My methods for moving people towards change are different, and sometimes for that, I don’t see eye to eye with people. In working with kids, one thing I have learned is that not one is to be treated in my space the exact same. Sure, there are treatment plans that are written with the same language, but one method I may use with one, isn’t going to work in the next session with another. I also know that treatment plans are, well….”plans.” Plans are usually wrecked when working with kids. Fluid. And each session I have with one, is just that-fluid. In counseling-plans are for insurance billing and goal-setting. I am for the client.

This is why I don’t often see eye to eye with everyone. If I don’t think it will help the mental health of my client, I won’t do it. But, I haven’t always had the luxury of telling this truth, or to the other parties involved. And it was for a time brutal. In my desire to protect, I didn’t reveal all that occurred (nor, will I here-it could fill a book). The withholding. The hiding. It bred anger and bitterness. That was outwardly expressed. Until I finally just told the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT

Healing began once the truth was told. It wasn’t anything I could really explain. But change occurred. God breathes life into relationships when truth is revealed in kindness and love, only for the purpose of mending and healing.

I haven’t always been an example of this since that time, but it’s an example I try to be each time I think back to that time. “Always. Always be an example of truth. Even if it’s messy. Even if it hurts.”

Need a further reference for how hiding the truth is the opposite of love? In 1992, the movie A Few Good Men became a box office hit. Starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, and many others, it told the story of two lawyers defending two Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine who had fell out of favor with the others, mainly for breaking the chain of command, reporting inappropriate actions, and requesting a transfer. The murder had reportedly been ordered by the commanding Colonel, played by Jack Nicholson.

Two men. Two very different truths. One truth is based on a code of honor, dignity, and what is believed to be right from a governing force or institution. The other truth? Based on common character, integrity, truth, justice, and beliefs about what is right and fair provided by the general preservation of lives. One was searching for the truth. One was hiding it.

In the movie’s famous interrogation scene comes the most remembered line from Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth!” Right before admitting the cold-hard truth.

It actually sounds a lot like my story…without the murder and court trial.

It’s common. We lie. We withhold the details because we can’t handle the truth. We can’t handle the consequences that the truth will create. The feelings. The ways in which the truth will affect others.

But the truth is freeing. The truth is necessary. The truth is healing. Speaking the truth is not done in an effort to limit or to judge. It is done to create change that can build character, dismantle oppression, address injustice, protect others from future hurt, teach others how to stand up in the future, and build integrity.

We teach when we reveal truth. We stand for something when we reveal truth.

We love when we reveal truth.

The Messy Middle

There is a place I dread visiting these days. For anyone navigating this stage of parenting, you must know this place. It is hidden behind a door in our home. I know who is there. Problem is…I never know what is there. Meaning, I never know what mess I will find. Are those clothes on the floor clean? Are all those cups necessary? Does an actual person live in here? I want to spend time with my teens, but does it have to be in here? Does it have to be in the middle of this mess?

And all the parents of teens said, “Amen.”

Yet…messy teenage rooms aren’t the only messes we hide from.

We run from the messy middle of our own making. Of life’s circumstances. Of the things we just don’t want to discuss, or even deal with all the time. We even run from the messes of others, because we aren’t comfortable carrying them. Or simply don’t know how.

We dread going through the mess of life, like we dread going into our kid’s rooms, and in our dread we hide. We hide behind masks. We plaster on plastic smiles and happy faces. Pretend that everything is “a-ok” so that the outside world believes that all is good up in our heads, and all in our heart.

Or we retreat. We may run and hide. We may shut ourselves out from the world so no one sees us. So we don’t have to explain away our suffering. Or because running feels like pretending to us. Escaping.

We all have messy we don’t want to address, so we dress-up under our masks. We may hope our mask will “pretty it all up.” We fix the outside up, because that masks the pain we don’t address inside. We fix the outside up, because if the outside looks good, and everyone can see it, then life is all good, right?

Sometimes we even mask up by numbing. With whatever mask we choose to hide away behind when we can’t manage to pretty up the outside. The numbing that takes place in the only way we know how to manage that pain on our own. Binge watching. Eating. Gambling. Drinking. Dating. Sleeping. Or just plain running.

We pretend until we have managed the pain on our own. And we have come out of our mess on the other side. Seemingly clean and unscathed. Or so everyone thinks.

We miss something when we mask up. When we run and hide and shut others out. Or numb it. We miss out on showing others what it looks like to live through the messy middle. What it looks like to truly surrender ourselves to our pain.

To survive it.

Because we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. That we go through it unscathed. Not bruised. Not changed in some way.

No. We went through it. We didn’t put on a mask. We felt it. We couldn’t just numb it. It was painful. We couldn’t hide.

There is something to learn from those who pour it all out, and wade through the mess before them.

Who don’t search for potions, magic elixirs, and people to help them hide from it all.

Who do the work to get through the messy middle stronger, braver, lighter, and more ready to love than ever before.

Anyone can hide.

It takes a warrior to wade. To fight. To muddle through. To pray on knees, and cry hot, hot tears of defeat, anger, or bitterness. Sometimes all of them at once.

To not hide from messy, but to let it hang out in the open. To open doors that are scary to venture into. To have conversations that are uncomfortable. To admit that the mess was of our own making. To take ownership, and get to working on the clean-up, instead of ducking under the covers, and waiting for someone else to come from behind the door to do it.

To admit that through the messy middle, you doubted you would even see the end. Had lost faith in God. Saw more darkness than light. And yes…those prayers? They were definitely more angry than praiseworthy.

It takes bravery and courage to wade through the mess that way.

It’s not comfortable. No. No, it is not. But it is possible-together.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yes, we make mistakes. And we can admit them to each other, and get through them…with Him-together. But we have to be willing to release our desire to cover up. To cover up when we stumble. To hide when we fall.

In the messy middle, there is no place for masks. They don’t help. They only hurt. They don’t heal. They only cover up gaping wounds with bandaids that actually require stitches.

Be brave. Open the door. Wade through the mess of the chaos lying at your feet. Sit down with someone you trust, and share your messy middle. Because this…our mess. None of it can be waded through alone. It’s in the mess we see the love of God. It’s in our mess, someone else can, too.