We spend our lives making sure people only see the pretty and presentable parts of us. When you walk out of your house each day (or get on a Zoom call), think about all you try to leave behind and prevent others from seeing. One of our greatest fears is that our failures and shortcomings – the ugly parts of us – will be exposed. We believe these are the things that make us unlovable and that if others see them, we’ll be judged, ridiculed, even condemned. One of the reasons this fear of being exposed is so powerful is that it is the flip side of one of our greatest desires: to be known completely – with all the unpresentable parts of us.
As we live in community with one another, we can’t help but be known. Over the years and through countless experiences and tensions, the people with whom we live peel back layer after layer, uncovering the good and the bad. This means our weaknesses are exposed one by one. We have daily opportunities to accept one another in our weaknesses or to criticize and hold each other in contempt.
We are engaging in a discipleship movement at Hope and identifying some “hallmarks” of these relationships. One hallmark of authentic discipleship relationships is being “fully known.” Discipleship is not just about adding on more head knowledge and trying with all our might to modify our behavior. In order to experience the unconditional love and acceptance God has for us and really grow, we must be truly known.
The goal when someone reveals their shortcomings to us is not to criticize or condemn, but to “forgive and comfort [them],” and “reaffirm your love for [them],” as Paul outlines in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8. This sort of restoration has a powerful effect. It helps us experience grace and when that happens, we really have no choice but to offer it to others. The more often we do this – confess our sins and offer grace to one another, the more transformed we will be.
In the novel The Lonesome Dove [as related in The Spirituality of Imperfection], two aging cowboys discuss the merits of being wrong and facing their failures. One says to the other, “If you come face to face with your mistakes once or twice in your life, it’s bound to be extra painful. I face mine everyday – that way they ain’t usually much worse than a dry shave.”
If we are going to live in relationship with one another, which is our calling, maybe we should get used to letting others see our failures. That way, we can experience the grace we are offered in Christ, and we no longer have to live in fear. We hope you will join us in living out authentic discipleship. It is the greatest of all joys to understand to the depths of your being – you are fully known and fully accepted.