About 15 years ago I joined a certain group because everyone else was doing it and it seemed like the thing to do in order to be a better Christian, which of course I wanted very much.
The group followed a format that I found out later was typical, but it was all new to me at that time: We listened together to the respected speaker for the first hour, and then split up into small groups for the second hour.
This is where we would be transparent.
The two leaders, who were of course strangers, asked us all to promise not to speak to anyone else about what we would hear from others in that group where we, about 5 or 6 strangers, would open up to each other about our dark secrets. We all made that promise. (Except I don’t know if the leaders did or not.)
And we were encouraged to be transparent.
So I decided to try. I really did.
At that time, for several months I had been going through a period of darkness that I later wrote about here. When my turn came, maybe the 2nd or 3rd week, I started talking about it.
“I’ve been going through a really hard time, like a spiritual battle, I guess. . . . I just can’t get victory, feels like I’m being pulled down, dark thoughts all the time. I dunno, maybe it’s demonic . . . I keep crying out to God, but it’s so dark, like I can’t see my hand in front of my face . . .”
Then one of the group leaders interrupted me with a strong rebuke.
“Where is the Word of God in all this? You keep talking about yourself, just I, I, I—where is the Word of God?”
Now, others have told me that all my feelings show on my face. (I’ve tried to get better at this, but you still wouldn’t want to choose me to be your international spy.) So I’m guessing that my face turned either red or white and contorted with the utter confusion I felt.
If there hadn’t been so much internal confusion, I might have put up a robust argument. “Hey, you said we were supposed to be transparent. Isn’t this what that means?”
But as it was, I became very quiet and meek. I began to fumble through my purse, pulling out these cards, or others like them.
“Well,” my response came quietly, almost apologetically. “These are the cards I carry with me everywhere. When I’m driving I hold them up at the steering wheel and read them out loud. They’re all handwritten, so I can pray them while I write them.”
It was then the leader’s turn to be confused. And to apologize, which she did.
But that shut me up, and I decided it wasn’t safe to be transparent in that group. Or maybe not any group.
(But as a side note, others have actually said that I’m transparent.)
So, two observations in 2020 about this story from so long ago.
First, I know that I desperately wanted God. I wanted God to rescue me. I wanted to see and know His glory. And I was sure God’s Word would be a major player in all this.
He came. He did. I did. And it was. That terrible time of darkness gave rise, eventually, to a time of great joy, even glory, which eventually gave birth to this blog.
And second, transparency is a fake Christian virtue. Fake in the sense that transparency is not actually virtuous (and lack of it is not a sin), and it isn’t mentioned in the Bible at all. I’ve talked about this before (most notably here, here, and here), but as my grandmother used to say, it bears repeating.
If you want to keep your story to yourself and hash it out with God alone, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t or shouldn’t do so (unless it involves repenting of your sins against someone else)—that’s what I ultimately did.
If you want to talk to someone about it or seek help with it, pray to God to send you someone faithful and trustworthy you can confide in, who instead of rebuking you for talking about yourself (as the psalmist certainly did), will help you find rescue in Jesus Christ.
But don’t let the Christian world force you into the “everyone else is doing it” fake virtue of transparency. Look for transformation by Jesus Christ, live in integrity, and be free.
Happy New Year. And may 2020 be a year when Jesus Christ reigns supreme in the lives of His people . . . whether they’re transparent or not.