It’s probably been a while since most of us have been in a swimming pool – unless you have one in your own backyard. Are you a deep end or a shallow end kind of person?
The shallow end is easy. You can laze away the day in the cool water without fear of getting in too deep. You can play games or just dip your toes in. You could even read a book if you wanted.
But the deep end is a whole other kind of fun. You can jump off a diving board or dive off the side of the pool. But to keep afloat you have to swim or tread water. It’s work. It’s even a bit dangerous.
I was in book study with my girls yesterday and we got on an interesting topic. We’re reading and discussing a book on spiritual warfare and this chapter was about loving yourself and others, especially in the church.
From the book and our discussion it quickly became clear that the church at large likes to play in the shallow end. Now, I’m not saying every church is shallow and never goes deep, but I am saying as Christians we can – and should – do a better job of going deeper.
One of the things I love about our book study is the discussions we have. There are only four of us, two a bit older and two a bit younger. We’ve all have vastly different life experiences and we’re all at different places in our spiritual walk. We don’t always agree on things, but instead of glossing over those differences, we discuss them. Often passionately!
I have to pray for energy and wisdom before our studies because I know that I’m going to need it! It’s not an easy group, but it’s so good. I love our discussions. I love that it’s a safe environment to ask questions and be vulnerable.
I was telling the gals yesterday how for years I would go to church and tell everyone I was fine when I wasn’t. I felt like I always had to put on a good face or I’d make God look bad. Then one day God gave me a Gibbs slap upside the head and reminded me that He doesn’t need me to make Him look good.
There are so many hurting people in the church, yet too often we pretend we have it all together. We don’t want to look bad, we don’t want to appear stupid if we ask questions, and we don’t want others to know we’re hurting. Or sometimes we’re like I used to be – I didn’t admit I was hurting to others because I couldn’t yet admit it to myself.
Churches are starting to meet in person again, small groups are starting back up in some places, and we’ve all been through a very difficult season in life – and it’s not over. Most people are not okay.
So what can we do? I have some ideas.
First of all, when we go to church (or meet friends, or connect through Zoom, or a phone call) let’s leave our masks at home – or better yet, burn them in a bonfire in the back yard. I don’t care if you’re a brand new believer or the pastor of your church, it’s time to be real with each other. It’s time to let people see us as we really are. God made us each unique with different strengths and gifts. It’s time to stop hiding!
Second, let’s be honest with each other. I know how easy it is to say, “I’m fine” when someone asks how we’re doing. It’s just easier. But easier isn’t always better. Easier misses connecting on a deeper level. It misses the intimacy and joy of sharing each other’s burdens and comforting one another.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)
God comforts us so that we can comfort others. But how can God use us to comfort others if we don’t know they’re hurting? We need to be honest with each other!
Part of that honesty is asking questions. There are so many times in our book group that we’re saying the same thing, but saying it differently. We’ll talk an issue over and over until we all understand what the other is saying. We feel safe enough to speak up and question when we don’t understand something and we’ll talk it through until we do. Often we’ll realize that we meant the same thing, but just said it differently, but not always. Sometimes we end up agreeing to disagree and that’s okay too because through the conversation we’ve all learned and grown often gotten a new perspective on a difficult topic.
So what kind of questions can you ask? Here are a few that come to mind.
- How are you? How are you really?!
- Can you explain what you mean by that?
- This is what I think you mean…. Is that accurate?
- When you say God encouraged you by that verse, how did He do that?
- How did God speak to you through that verse? How did you grow closer to Him because of it?
- God’s Word says we’re supposed to… but how do you think we actually do that?
- What did God teach you about Himself through that situation?
- How can I help you right now?
- How can I pray for you specifically?
- What do you feel like you need from God, the church, or me right now?
These are just a few questions to get you thinking. If we’re going to grow as people and as the church, it’s time to dive into the deep end. It’s time to be honest with each other and in all circumstances and situations point people back to Jesus.
If we’re going to grow as people and as the church, it’s time to dive into the deep end. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and each other.Tweet
I know, it’s hard. It takes a lot of energy. It’s not easy at all. But it’s so worth it! The church should be the safest place on this earth, and I’m not just talking about the building, but the people in it. If people don’t feel safe being honest and real in the church we have a serious problem.
One last point and I’ll wrap this up. We can’t do any of this in our own strength. This is only possible when we walk in our unity with Jesus. When we let Him live through us, this will come much more naturally. We learn to walk in our unity with Jesus by spending time with Him. When we read God’s Word, the Bible, and talk with Him through prayer, we’ll tune into His heart for us and others. It’s such a beautiful thing!
So let me ask you, friend. How are you? How are you really? Are you ready to dive into the deep end? Drop me a comment and let’s chat!
Until next time,