Getting Real Part 2

Continuing from last post

Graph #1 represents our normal human life experience. Above the line are experiences which are pleasant, fulfilling and satisfying. What we like to call “blessings”. There are several high points we love to think about. Thinking about them brings a sense of happiness and self-acceptance. Below the line are experiences that are the opposite. Thinking about them brings a sense of pain, loss, frustration and shame. We hate to think about these and tend to avoid these memories whenever we can. There are usually one or two that are so painful we will do anything to forget about them. This would be L-1. We spend energy trying to dismiss them. In our circles we tend to attribute the stuff above the line to God and the stuff below the line to the Devil. That categorization makes it easier to dismiss the negative experiences from our consideration.

See Graphs on video https://youtu.be/PMl8CNiLAHM

Graph #2 represents how we craft our self-image. I call it the “photoshopped me”. We compose our self-image by collecting all our best memories and most successful moments and putting them on display. We tell ourselves that this is who I am. We also project this image to all those around us, after all, we want to be loved and valued so we project the best image we can – competent, lovable, likeable, smart, funny, attractive, etc. – whatever sells. What we are doing is taking a photo of ourselves and then “photoshopping” all of the scars and flaws out of the photo. We then cut out the new-improved photo of me, glue it to a popsicle stick and hold it in front of our faces. This is the person I wish I were and so this is the person I project to everyone around me. We then describe our photoshopped images relating to one another as “fellowship”.

Graph # 3 represents the missing parts from our self-image. We never include the lows because they represent failure, pain, loss, and shame. As well, they are the work of the Devil and so should never be included in our Christian image. To include these things would only be giving credit to the Devil. And why talk about unpleasant experiences anyway, just ignore those memories and dwell on being a “new creature”. After all, I should never be defined by my failures and losses – that would be a lack of faith.

 

Right away we can see the flaw in our photoshopped me – there are no flaws. Because there are no flaws, the image we are projecting is not true. If it is not true, the relationships we have as a result of that image are also not true. They must, logically, be shallow. Because they are shallow they are not satisfying. Because they are not satisfying we experience our faith as incomplete and not satisfying. Church seems to be missing something. There must be more, but what is it that is missing? How do I get this deep experience that the Bible talks about? What is wrong with this picture – literally?

 

Insert Graph #4 in POWERPOINT HERE

 

Graph #4 represents what is wrong with my picture of myself and what is wrong with my understanding of myself. Usually we all have a few very low lows that we will do almost anything to avoid thinking about. The really bad ones are intentionally buried very deep. The problem though is that they are not neutral or inactive. The worst ones wait for another low experience to connect themselves to. The result is that this present low experience now seems much worse than it really is. It feels much like L-1. And this goes on and on with every low experience until we have an undercurrent of depression, doubt, sadness, numbness and sinking self-worth. Also, relationships become harder and harder to maintain because our false, entirely positive self-image, is becoming harder and harder to maintain because it is becoming harder and harder to believe in. We have now woken up to living a lie. Or maybe we never wake up, we just keep on trying to believe that we are better than we are. We are “thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought”.

 

The solution is obvious; God knows all about our dark times. No matter how bad they were He always had a plan to “redeem” them – to bring good out of the Devils work. The amazing truth is that if we will face our dark times honestly, we will experience God’s hand of blessing through them. If we will be honest with Him about facing them, we will find His love at work through them. We can then incorporate them into our self-image and begin to experience relationships based on truth. We will experience the joy of having nothing to hide. Nothing to hide means having nothing to lose. This is genuine freedom in our friendship with God and others. It was for freedom that you were set free, so start enjoying getting real.

 

Getting Real

Today we would use the words “transparency”, “vulnerability” and “honesty” to describe deep friendship. Transparency, vulnerability, and honesty are the foundations of any true Christian friendship. Loving relationships require honesty.

Here’s a thought:  you cannot love someone you do not know!  We have a word for the feeling that happens after you think you have gotten to know someone only to find out they were faking their thoughts and feelings and reactions to you. The word is “disillusioned!”   It is both a feeling and a fact. The fact is that you were deceived, you were given an illusion of who that person was, and you found out it was false. The feeling is one of being abused, tricked and violated.

Nothing destroys a relationship faster than dishonesty. You can put up with a lot but when you no longer believe the person, the relationship is over. Even when you are hearing what you want to hear, “I am sorry” or “I love you”, if you don’t believe their words it is worse than not hearing them at all.  Think about it; in the world of relationships a pleasant lie is more destructive than an unpleasant truth.

Dishonestly is not merely dangerous to a relationship, it is its opposite.

A good application question to ask ourselves at this point is; what stands in the way of deep honest friendships? Here is one answer from the book of Romans which we just finished studying:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3

Most of the time when we read this verse we take it as a warning against pride, and it is. To think of ourselves more highly than we should is usually an indication of pride. BUT NOT ALWAYS. Sometimes we engage in self-deception when we think of ourselves. We often do this out of a desire to be loved and lovable. Paul counsels us to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”. What this term means is that we should use reason to arrive at a very realistic understanding of ourselves – a true and balanced understanding. Is this the way we usually see ourselves? I think not. Let me illustrate how we usually arrive at our self-understanding.

Check back in a few days for the rest of the sermon