Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaking the Silence

Please welcome guest author Katie Mumper! Katie works on staff for UnWorthy Servants, blogs at Beauty Restored, and would describe herself as "busy living the season of life I'm in while keeping my eyes and heart open to whatever God decides to bring next." Enjoy her challenging post, and join her in breaking the silence.

Have you ever been intrigued by the fact that a recovery program that's all about groups and sponsors would have the word "anonymous" in its name.  It's not very anonymous to stand in front of a group of people, announce your name, and then admit to being addicted to alcohol.  But perhaps some of the power of the program comes from the fact that anonymity isn't really an option.  The message seems to be: You think you're alone in this, that no one sees or understands your situation, but that's not the case; there are others who have struggled and found freedom, and they want to help you.

Have you ever wished church services were more like AA meetings...  People could stand and share their struggles without fear of judgment.  Everyone else would respond with understanding nods as they think of their own struggles.  Once you shared your story, you would be paired with someone who would be your mentor.  This person would tell you their own story of finding freedom in the Gospel, how they're still learning to walk in the grace of God.  They wouldn't be a mentor because they had it all together.  They would be a mentor because they would know how far they had come and Who had brought them that far, they would know that walking in the truth of freedom is a daily process. You would know that you are not alone and that there is hope.

Perhaps our unwillingness to be real and honest with each other about what’s going on in our lives has been detrimental to ourselves and to others. How many people go through life missing out on what God has to offer them because they're stuck in sin and pain and lies?  How many are stuck because they don't want anyone else to know what's really going on, because they fear that judgment and disappointment will be the reaction?  How many spend every Sunday morning never realizing they’re sitting next to someone who is going through or has gone through the exact same thing?

So how do we fight the silence? With the Gospel, of course!

Why do we stay silent? Because we fear the condemnation and shame that so often comes with admitting that we aren’t perfect. But the Gospel says there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1)! When Jesus said, “It is finished!” from the cross, He accomplished what was needed so we could break the silence. He ended our need to live perfect lives in order to be saved. He ended shame. He ended our identity as slaves to sin. He ended the power of condemnation by bringing grace and forgiveness, by giving us the opportunity to be new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), by defining our identity with His righteousness instead of our sinfulness. The Gospel gives us the ability to shout into the silence, “I’m not perfect, but Jesus is! And because of Him, I’m forgiven and free from the power of sin!” Not only that, but the Gospel also gives us the ability to encourage others to break the silence by extending to them the same grace God has shown us. Because we know that we don’t stand condemned, we can respond to others’ stories with grace and love instead of judgment.

So how do we take all of that and make it happen practically? Here are three things you can do to break the silence:

  • Ask For Courage: Fear will stop you from moving forward in this endeavor. Find courage by being secure in the truth of the Gospel, the truth that condemnation is gone and there is only grace. No matter how people react to your story, God’s grace and love for you are still real.
  • Share Your Story: This seems pretty obvious, but it’s probably the hardest. Sharing your story requires humility on two levels: 1. You need the humility to realize that when you choose to talk about it, you can ask for help and find the accountability you need to make (or continue making) freedom a reality.  2. You need the humility to realize that when you choose to talk about it, you can help others to know they're not alone and that there is hope for freedom. You share for God’s glory, not your own.
  • Create A Safe Space: This level of honesty and vulnerability doesn’t usually happen in a large-group setting, and it doesn’t happen easily. There's some work required to create a space where people feel safe enough to share.  You have to be willing to get to know people, to spend time with them, to listen to them, to begin sharing some of the small things before you move into the bigger stuff.  You have to be willing to do the work of building trust so they know their story will be met with grace and love and truth instead of condemnation. 

So do you have the courage?  Whether you're just stepping out in the search for freedom or you've been walking in freedom for some time, do you have the courage to break the silence and share your story?