Dear Brave Women of Rock Creek Fellowship,
I’m not good at asking for the input of others. I’m thinking about my own input in a conversation, mulling over my own choices, thinking my own thoughts, assuming that everyone is on the same page with me. I don’t have to tell you how popular this weakness of mine isn’t, especially with my own family. Taking the time to gather input and use it cooperatively just isn’t my M.O.
Can anybody relate?
Which, wouldn’t you know, brings me to Romans 3 and our Bible Study, because I forgot to ask one of you for your thoughts on the homework this week so that I can share what you’re learning rather than what I’m learning for a change. But I didn’t. So here goes…
“How do people today boast about their spirituality or relationship with God? Why is boasting to be excluded?” These were the first questions we talked about this week and someone mentioned taking pride in our denomination, the perfect PCA; and someone else, how we take pride in our biblical knowledge or pride in our Christian service. It’s pretty easy to see when others boast about these things, isn’t it?
It’s the thing that has made me dislike church in the past. And other Christians. Our spiritual self-righteousness, believing we’re better than the rest of the world, is the thing people outside the church hate about Christians. It’s what I hate about us, too.
Even so, I had been uncomfortable with this question as I struggled to write something down. I’d much rather think and talk about how other people boast. Those smug, self righteous types. I sure didn’t want to look at how I do it.
But when I read the second question, “What happens in your heart…” I knew that’s where this was going.
Danged Bible study homework.
“Oh, Jesus, I don’t want to see it, but you must want to show me. So show me.”
And I remembered right away a devotional that said we boast whenever we take credit, either with our words or with our silence, for God’s work anywhere, including his work in ourselves. So to act as if we have it all together, as if the gospel is for those folks “out there” rather than for me, is a lie.
And it’s boasting to let others believe that lie rather than to tell them that I am desperately in need of Jesus’ love and power every single day and even, when appropriate, to tell them exactly how I need it–for my filthy mouth, for my insatiable appetite for sugar, for my resentment and bitterness, just to name a few.
The truth is, I am in desperate need, and whenever I’m too proud to admit that need, I’m boasting.
Whenever I say something to sound spiritual rather than to tell the honest truth about my life or what’s in my heart, I’m boasting.
Whenever I act as if others need the gospel more than I do, I’m lying and boasting.
Whenever I pray for a certain someone to see the light and repent and fail to say–and believe–the same exact words for myself, I’m boasting.
Whenever I fail to give God the credit for the good things in my life–the kindness from a daughter in law, the sweetness with friends, the insight I had–I am boasting.
Whenever life is going well and I am silent about the source of my strength or the things that God is doing in and for me, I am boasting.
Lord Jesus, save me! My entire life is a boast, a shameless patting of myself on the back, whether I ever say the words out loud or not. You see my heart. You know how far I am from Paul’s heart when he wrote, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
James says that coming together, confessing our sins, and praying for one another heals us (5:16). It seems to me that confessing sins and boasting about weakness is pretty close to the same thing. I love how God has made the church so that its people can learn and love and heal together, and then share this bounty with others.
My experience with church people has often been to hear how well everyone is doing, how much we know of sound doctrine, and to overshare about who needs prayer (not us, of course), as if we are not all a bunch of spiritual quadriplegics trying to feed ourselves. As if Jesus’ blood and death and resurrection and new life is all well and good for other people, but truth to tell, we don’t really need it for ourselves.
I’m remembering how much Jesus despised the Pharisees, those hypocrites he said were white washed tombs “full of dead men’s bones,” who thought they didn’t need him.
My experience with church people has also been with dear ones who think it is bragging to share the sweet things they are experiencing in their journeys with Jesus, and so they don’t. But throughout Scripture, we are exhorted to tell one another of the goodness of the Lord to us. That’s not boasting about ourselves. That’s praising the One who gives us himself, so that we can turn and share him with each other. “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.”
Boasting of my own goodness or refusing to tell the truth about his goodness is really the same thing. It’s taking credit for what isn’t mine.
But refusing to boast or be silent, and telling the truth about my weakness and his strength instead, is freeing. Soul stirring. Brave. It builds relationship. It rips off the mask my pride wants to hide behind, that keeps me cut off from myself and from you and even from the Source of Life itself, and says instead, “I need! I’m empty! I’m hurt!” or “He’s enough! He’s filled me! I’m healing!”
There can be no filling where there is no emptiness.
No healing where there is no wound.
No Savior when no one is lost.
Henri Nouwen wrote that “it is amazing in my own life that true friendship and community became possible to the degree that I was able to share my weaknesses with others…often deepening the pain is the way to healing because deepening the pain means to go to that place in me where I am really broken, sinful, dependent and where I’m no longer trying to stay in control but where I can reach out to God and to my fellow human beings without fear.”
All that to say…if you ain’t comin’, I ain’t healin’.
Eve for The Team
The devotional mentioned is The Songs of Jesus by Tim and Kathy Keller.
Henri Nouwen’s quote is from a collection of his letters, Love Henri, p. 47.
Quotations are from
2 Corinthians 11:30 NIV
Matthew 23:27 NASB
Psalm 66:16 NIV
(This is one of a series of emails written to the women’s Bible study group of Rock Creek Fellowship in 2018.)