Permission to be Honest With Yourself

When it comes to having a proper awareness of yourself our society pushes you in two separate and equally unhelpful directions:

1. You are a total disaster. You fail time and time again. You will never get better. You don’t deserve help from anyone. You are unworthy of God and his blessing.

2. You are awesome. You don’t make mistakes. You are the hero of the story. You are a gift to the world. God is blessed to have you on this earth.

In the first instance you are prone to depression, lack of purpose, and doubt.

In the second instance you are prone to narcissism, a self-agenda purpose, minimizing weakness.

For the past two years I have purposefully taken our church through a weekly practice that I call “permission to be honest with yourself.” Traditionally this would be called confession. We begin our weekly church gathering by praising God for his majesty and greatness, and in response to this how can we not help but realize our sinfulness and frailty?

This natural progression of corporately recognizing the greatness of God and the sinfulness of man, and subsequently, the covering of this sinfulness through the work of Christ, is a long-held movement for Christ-followers as they gather. Some churches have a spoken word prayer they recite every week, but I choose to call this confession moment “permission to be honest with yourself,” because it takes on a different feel every week.

Some weeks we recite a corporate prayer of confession, other weeks I describe my own personal weakness, struggle, and doubt. Some weeks we lament current events, other weeks we describe our longing for another place. Some weeks we wait in silence, other weeks we sing our failures with honesty.

This confession-like moment is always different, but undergirding this is a desire for the church to be a place where people are able to be brutally honest about their brokenness within a community of people who are willing to do the same, all in the presence of a God of mercy. I have a lot of goals when helping lead our weekly gathering as a church, but the highest is to give people the opportunity to be who they really are because this is where healing begins.

In our society brokenness is often commodified and used to build a personal brand in the name of authenticity. Or brokenness is flat out ignored in order to go through life like a grand masquerade. But never is brokenness spoken of as the beginning of entering into who we were created to be. Without it we think so highly of ourselves we would never need God. Without God we can never see a life for ourselves past our failure.

Ray Ortlund eloquently says that all people need to be aware of two realities of being human:

1. I’m a complete idiot. 

2. My future is incredibly bright.

Rather than minimizing or glorifying weakness, we declare our weakness to a God who has the power to turn weakness to strength, brokenness to blessing, and death to life. In this, lives are opened up to the healing touch of our Heavenly Father, and then the future is incredibly bright.