Well, it's been a minute. And I wish I could just blame school or work or writing commitments, but the truth is both more complicated and more fundamental: over the last little stretch, I haven't felt very attuned to the Holy Spirit. Certainly not enough to try imparting encouragement to others without feeling like a wee bit of a fraud.
Okay, so "fraud" is a strong word. Let's go with "disingenuous" instead. Admittedly, it's not terribly difficult to hide behind a computer and keyboard and blog encouragements for others that I don't feel myself. That's the beauty, or rather the pitfall, of our digital age. Christians have been hiding their struggles from each other for eons, but now we can publish neat-and-tidy versions of ourselves every day without ever coming in contact with another human being. And thanks to all that practice, we find it easier and easier to answer that oh-so-frightening question—"How are you?"—with that oh-so-versatile answer, "Fine."
Ah, "fine." The one-size-fits-all word that never means as little as we think it does. In my experience, "fine" usually lands somewhere between, "I'm all right but I could be better" and "I actually really need to talk right now, but I'm just going to go ahead and pretend otherwise, and you're going to let me. Thanks!"
With words like "fine" and a culture like ours, accountability can very easily be swept to the side of the Christian life. But I've had a few experiences over the last few months that have really changed my perspective on accountability and finding safe spaces to share struggles with fellow brethren in Christ.
The other day one of my closest friends was over, and by God's grace, the conversation somehow wound up exactly where I needed it to. I'd been grappling with some specific questions and frustrations for a while and really wanted to pick her brain, but didn't know how to broach the topic. God took care of that for us, and I spent the next chunk of our conversation pouring out my frustrations and allowing myself to be fully transparent about the things I didn't understand. My friend, being the gem that she is, did not try to solve all of my problems. She listened, offered support, and suggested a really great book.
Like, a really great book. Forgotten God by Francis Chan, people. Go read it. Like, now. Trust me.
Anyway, that experience left me with mixed feelings. Being the private, low-key person that I am, I felt guilty for taking up so much of her time, being too honest, and taking what could have been a light, chill conversation to a pretty serious place. A few weeks later, I had another similar conversation where I was encouraged to be even more open and transparent, and I went away with many of the same feelings. Oh, man, I did a lot of talking. Great, now they know I'm a mess. What kind of Christian do they think I am? Come on, Nik, you can do better than that!
Now, part of this is just my brain and insecurities at work. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that these insecurities come straight from the Enemy himself and should be cast out as the lies they are. The Bible encourages us to be open with each other, to pray for each other and build each other up. We are one body, united in Christ, and if we can't be honest with each other, how can we expect people to want what we have? Vulnerability is one of the first steps to true, meaningful connection and community, which are key steps toward healthy accountability—all things that are essential to a rich Christian life. I repeat, essential, not optional.
I may never be fully comfortable taking up people's time with my struggles—I like being a listener. I like letting other people feel heard. That's something I enjoy doing for people. But guess what? As Christians, we should all be able to do that in some capacity. Maybe not with everyone, but with someone. I know my people; I know who I can go to for accountability, and even if it's not always comfortable, it's critical. Already, the effect of that accountability and support has been HUGE. I want to practice that skill more and more, and I also want to make myself more available to provide the same safe space for others.
We are all on the same team here, my friends. We are all struggling with something. The beauty of the Church is that it's supposed to be a family—a safe place of healing and community and truth administered in gracious love. You may not be able to share openly with everyone, but settle for finding someone. Join a connection group or a bible study; be intentional about making connections. If it makes you feel better, I'm the worst at that. (See, isn't honesty great?!) But hey, I'm working on it, and you can, too. We'll get there, especially if we, like true brothers and sisters, offer to each other what Christ offers to us—ready ears, words of gracious truth, loving hearts, and open arms.