A couple of years ago, I got to hear Larry Crabb speak at a convention here in Dallas. Larry Crabb has been a Christian psychotherapist for over 25 years, and has written more than a dozen books about healthy Christian living. So when he got up to speak, I was stunned to hear him say that he gets tired of going to church, tired of living with the expectation that he has to have it all together. Instead, he dreams of a true community. He called it this: a place to look bad in the presence of love. Being real is scary stuff for a (somewhat recovering) perfectionist like me. In fact, the only way I can be even a little bit real with you is because I believe that God loves me no matter what. I’ve field-tested this belief under stringent circumstances and I am (almost always) convinced that nothing can separate me from His love. Put it this way: I know God loves me. I know He does. And yet some days, I realize that my level of anxiety is incongruent with my belief about God’s love for me.
The reality is, I’m not done yet. I’m still being transformed. There are days when things are not great in one way or another. And at those times, it is really, really tempting to pretend it's all fine--or to find something or someone else to blame--rather than taking a chance on looking bad in the presence of love.
Here’s what Mike Yaconelli has to say about my dilemma: “Pretending is the grease of modern nonrelationships. Pretending perpetuates the illusion of relationship by connecting us on the basis of who we aren’t. People who pretend have pretend relationships.” (Messy Spirituality, Zondervan, 2002)
I don't want to have pretend relationships. I want to have real relationships, where I can tell the truth and hear the truth. I want to be able to look bad in the presence of love, and I want to BE the presence of love, so that others can look bad when they need to.
That kind of relationship requires fearless truth on both sides. And I think the only way we can be bold enough to be that real with each other is when we believe with all our hearts that God loves us, no matter how bad we look right now. There is no need to pretend or lie or blame, because God's love redeems, no matter what kind of craziness we've gotten ourselves into this time around.
In 2003, a friend gave me Brennan Manning’s book Abba’s Child. I am still trying to live out this instruction: “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”