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Do we keep ugly battles out of sight?

May 2, 2007

“We think there’s a proper way to mourn. Ugly battles should remain out of sight. Acceptable battles may be shared, but only if we season our account with hope. A husband may admit to his small group, “My wife and I sometimes quarrel, but we know the spirit is working to bring us closer.” I think I would stand up and cheer if just once I heard a man share, “My wife and I right now hate each other’s guts. We want a good marriage, but we have no idea what to do and we’re scared out of our wit’s we’ll never figured it out.” (I should point out that my applause would be for the man’s realism, not for the state of his marriage.)”

“That level of honesty is reserved for the counseling office. Church is too often a place of pretense and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained, when the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. Where brokenness is invited and received with grace, the Gospel comes alive with hope.”

“The Western church has become a community of either the victorious or the acceptably broken. Either we speak glowingly of our love for Jesus-usually because the blessings are abundant-or we struggle nobly through hard times, convincing others and sometimes ourselves that we are doing better than we are. With each other we are more proper than real, more appropriate than alive.” (Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb)

I made a hard decision yesterday to stop trying to be acceptable and proper, but instead to be real. I made a choice to no longer keep my ugly battle out of sight, but to open it up and let it be known. I made a choice to show my brokenness and pain, my frustration and fear, and my insecurities and doubts. I sat down with two men I have had communication struggles with and I shared my heart as openly and honestly as I knew how. These two men are my pastors. They are people I care about deeply, but I also have struggled to trust.

I was intensely hurt in another church. Knowing how to trust again is difficult enough, but to trust a spiritual leader without reservation is something I can not accomplish yet. My pastors sit as a constant reminder of the pain I went through and what I have to overcome to feel and see myself as healthy again. They hold enormous power in my life, and when misused that can cause enormous pain. Yesterday I opened up my ugly battle and handed over my weapons, surrendering to let them respond how they will, even if it means them picking the weapons up and causing me more pain.

I don’t usually talk about my struggles because I want to be part of that “acceptably broken” Western church. I don’t like my story and my past because I don’t want to be broken, needy, or unacceptable. I have lived trying to convince myself and others that I am doing okay. Many days I am! Other days, I am not even close! A few minutes ago I received a letter from a friend who heard my pain and brokenness on Monday. Her letter reminds me exactly why God tells us we need others. I can’t be honest, real, or broken unless I have others to share that with. Larry Crabb said, “Acceptable battles may be shared, but only if we season our account with hope.” Is any battle really acceptable? The ones that I know about are dirty, bloody, ugly, painful, and horrible. They aren’t seasoned with hope, but through them can come hope, freedom, peace, joy, and new life.

Have you ever let your ugly battles be seen? Have you ever stopped being proper and appropriate long enough to be real, alive, honest, and truly broken instead of proper or  only acceptably broken? Maybe it is time for you to hand over your weapons and surrender them to someone.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2007 5:15 pm


    By the time I was ready to post to your 1st post today you had posted a second time. I guess my comments to the 1st applies to both. Thank you for sharing and being brutally honest. We need more of that, especially when we meet in small groups. I very much agree with what you and Larry Crabb are saying. In groups I’ve been in, the comment “My wife and I sometimes quarrel, but we know the spirit is working to bring us closer.” would be a major break through. I gone to small groups week after week where we are supposed to “share” our personal concerns but those concerns are avoided and turn out to be please pray for so and so…. In one particular group we were the only ones “sharing”. Kinda felt like we were the group guinea pigs each week. But I also have seen those who have risked sharing and gotten scorched by other group members with judgment or be met with pompous platitude not in the spirit of caring or help (help with out the fruit of the spirit like the article No Transformation Necessary you posted about earlier). I was planning on posting at my own blog but you have really got me thinking.

    This situation sounds like an opportunity that is a ministry for you. Keep up the bravery, the sharing and being real.

  2. May 2, 2007 5:29 pm

    I am married – you are single, but we do share the being hurt by a church. About 5 years ago my wife became very sick. She had 3 disks degenerate and the vertebra were so misaligned they on the spinal cord and she could barely walk. The demands of my wife’s family to come visit 2 hours away was just too much. I and my children had to do the things she normally did which was a lot. I was exhausted most of the time. She was out of work for 9 months recovering and still is pretty limited in what she can do.

    Very few in the church (which was small) had any contact with us. The pastor did come at her surgery, but didn’t hear much from him afterwards unless I called him. We had to change to a church nearby because my wife could not take riding in a car 30 minutes each way.

    It was hard to forgive and I know I had to ask for help to do so……

  3. May 2, 2007 10:22 pm

    Thank you so much for your words, your sharing, and your interaction. I learn and grow from how you share with me and I really appreciate it. I am sorry to hear about the lack of care and support from your previous church, and about the health struggles your wife has faced. I know those things can be difficult as I have walked through or with people who have experienced both. Unfortunately there are way too many people that have been hurt or let down by the church, and yet it is still something that is rarely talked about.

    We talked about being the church at home group tonight. One answer regarding what it means to be the church was “we are to be different, set apart”. I began challenging and questioning the answers, not to stir things, but because I honestly struggle with our pat Christianese answers. I have given them myself for years. I think I have outgrown my adolescence where I thought I knew and understood things and can finally admit I know and understand very, very little. I asked: What does it mean to be different? What does living different or loving others look like? The meaning especially hit me tonight as we talked about how to live out being the church, because there was a person in the room that is deeply upset at me and won’t even speak with me to tell me why. How can we be the church to others when we can’t even be real and honest with each other? Being real and honest is important, yet sometimes the most important actions are even harder.

    Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:13-14)


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