I’ve been contemplating this tight rope that we walk, as Christians, when we talk about ourselves.
We can focus on the positives. There’s lots of good reasons to do this. Jesus should make a change in our lives. We should not be ashamed of these changes. When others can see us excelling in a certain area, it gives them something to shoot for and look foreward to.
However, it can also lead to fake, plastic Christians. It can lead to a culture where everybody says that they are doing “great.” Even when they are not, because many of us walk around with this hidden theology: if we are struggling then it reflects somehow on our walk with Christ.
One of the many reasons that it’s tempting to go this route is that it can be really hard to hear somebody asking “How can you not know that yet? Why do you still do that? Why do you struggle with this? You are a ____________ (father, adult, leader, deacon, elder, teacher, pastor, supposedly mature Christian) How can you still struggle with this?”
Sometimes it’s appropriate to ask that question. But it’s never fun to hear it, no matter how gently or lovingly it’s posed. A person who succesfully hides his challenges does not have to answer those questions.
But the stakes become pretty high when we start to overemphasize our strengths. It can be easy to work harder and harder at not being found out. We fear (and for good reason) that we’ll impugn the whole of our testimony if who we really are is found out.
On the other hand, if we over emphasize our struggles, we also wander into a mine field. It can be legitimate to ask, “Jiust what work is Jesus doing in their life? What’s the point of becoming a Christian at all? Look at that dude, how has it helped him?”
Sometimes, I think we can tend to wallow in our weaknesses. We emergent Christians tend to not have very good boundaries. Some of us just vomit up all our struggles in the wrong place and time. A thing I’m trying to navigate– and I’d love your insight on– is this:
How can we discern when discussing our struggles is productive, and when discussing our struggles is just going to emphasize them, enhance them, increase them?
There’s this unspoken belief, that we should talk about everything.
That’s probably true. But it doesn’t follow that we should talk about everything all the time. There is a point that we need to put away our sadness, depression, and challenges. There comes a time when we just make things worse by focusing on them, over and over and over again.
How do we know when that time is?
I think much of these tensions are resolved by recognizing that all “our” accomplishments are through Christ.
If it appears that I have conquered a thing, I don’t deserve any credit. It’s Christ in me that really accomplished it. And when I am still struggling with a thing, it’s only Christ in me that will end my struggles.