A cute decorative rug lays directly in front of my kitchen sink. Broad stripes of gray, coral, gold, and cream, zigzag across it. I'm glad I bought it, but it presents a minor problem. It picks up dirt and spilled food, advertising uncleanliness and stain to our kitchen guests. Going against the included tag instructions, I wash it, but it's grungy again in no time.
In the past year, since I've owned it, I've relied on a simple, but temporary solution. Once the rug is dingy-looking, I flip it over so that the presentable side is showing.
Somewhere along the way I decided to hide the dirt.
Not so long ago one of my children was standing near the rug while we discussed an important matter. That's when I heard something unexpected come from their mouth regarding a decision they were contemplating.
"I don't want the church to think bad..."
The crazy part is, this decision my child was considering was a good decision. But then there was this overhanging fear that it might create questions in the mind of observers...that it would potentially reveal something some might consider less than picturesque, like the stains on the underneath of my kitchen rug.
We people...(I'll go ahead and say it)... especially we church people, have a bad habit of hiding our struggle. Our difficulties, our less than beautiful side, we keep in darkness. Church should be a place we're compelled to bring our questions to the forefront and our hurts and fears to light. Among God's people there should be no anxiety that the church will think bad.
The book of Daniel has a few reminders for when we're hindered by our fear of what our brothers and sisters in Christ would think.
1.None of us are strangers to struggle. Daniel and his friends were top notch folks. To name a few of their mentioned admirable qualities, they were
well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve... Daniel 1:4
Still, they found themselves deeply troubled when Nebuchadnezzar called for the execution of all the wise men (which included them). I'm learning that even the church sages, and those who appear to have it all together usually have something surprisingly difficult they're either suffering or have walked through before.
2. Even God's most equipped and faithful servants are in need of Christian encouragement. Upon facing death, Daniel shares the troubling news with his friends and then immediately urges them to "plead for mercy from the God of heaven." Both Daniel and his friends faced the unthinkable,...death. Our trouble may be the result of injustice or a poor decision. Either way, we do best to call on our friends to plead with God on our behalf. When you're in trouble do you confide in those God has placed around you? When your friends are in trouble, do you lovingly listen, guide and support them? Can you be trusted to bring their names before God with confidence while keeping it in confidence from others?
3. The darkness isn't all bad. Just remember...
- You're not alone there. In dark times God is with you. He's placed people around you. The strongest friendships are forged in trouble. Pay attention to those who will be your eyes when you can't see, those who will hold your hand when a way out isn't in sight.
- You're not intended to stay in darkness. Some of God's greatest answers are revealed in the dark. It was "during the night" that God provided Daniel with the answers he needed. Daniel and his friends were not only spared from death, upon Daniel's interpreting the king's dream, they were given high positions and other rewards.
The church is by no means perfect. We've all suffered a mishandled situation or an ill remark made by a brother or sister. We may feel a degree of judgement from those who know the secrets we've tried so hard to conceal, but I believe more harsh judgement often exists in our automatic assumption that the church will think bad of us. That the church will fail us.
And so the pews are filled with private pain. So are homes where individuals and families preemptively decide that the church couldn't possibly be trusted with the truth of their past or what they currently face. I'm finding that suffocating fear and the self-seclusion we create hurts us more than when we put a little trust in God and those He has surrounded us with who are in Him.
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:10
Let's remove our fear that the church will think bad...
Let's stop being the church who thinks bad...
Let's be the church. Let's be more vulnerable. Let's care for another and lift one another up. Let's allow God to do the thinking.