A Sunday School teacher asked her class this question: "What's small and brown, has a fluffy tail, and runs around in the yard, hiding nuts for the winter?" After a moment of confused silence, one brave little boy said, "Well, since we are in Sunday School, I know the answer is always Jesus. But it sounds an awful lot like a squirrel."
We start by telling it like it is, even if what we have to say seems wrong. Weird. Bizarre. Scary. Unorthodox.
Plain and simple, we tell the truth. Even--and often especially--if we think it's not the thing everybody wants to hear.
Years ago, I heard a sermon with the theme: God delights in you. And as soon as the speaker said those words, I knew I was in trouble. I knew in my head that "God delights in you" is The Truth. But the truth was, I didn't believe it. Not really. I didn't experience "God delights in you" in my heart. What I did experience was a lot of anxiety to do everything perfectly, in a hope to escape punishment.
That day, I had to call a squirrel a squirrel.
For me, telling the truth meant that I could stop trying to save myself and everybody else, and instead trust God to save me and everybody else. Telling the truth means that today I can walk in freedom, and give generously from my heart, instead of staggering around under a load of guilt and obligation.
Elisabeth Elliott says this: "There is no hope for any of us until we confess our helplessness. Then we are in a position to receive grace. So as long as we see ourselves as competent, we do not qualify."
So, we tell the truth about how much it hurts.
How much we have lost.
How painfully we long for what we have never had.
How greatly we grieve.
How terribly we doubt ourselves.
How deeply we feel that we will never be good enough for someone to truly love, if we halt the perfect people-pleasing performance.
So we put the truth out there, where the light can get to it.
And the little boy in Sunday School was right, in the end. The answer is always Jesus.
But not in a Sunday School kind of way.
The answer is Jesus in a Garden of Gethsemane kind of way. Painful, lonely, gritty, real. Full of grace and truth.