November 17th 2015 (2) comments so far
I recently had a friend from Dallas Theological Seminary ask me if she could do a Prepare/Enrich marital assessment of my wife Suzanne and me for a class that she was taking. We gladly agreed; however, knowing that my friend is a very competent counselor, I knew she would pick up on some of the reoccurring “trouble spots” in our relationship. (I thought after 15 years of marriage, we’d have it all figured out…) Her reply to our willingness to help was, “Thank you both so much for being willing to make yourselves vulnerable so you could help me!”
It is my strong conviction that vulnerability and transparency equal authenticity, and authenticity is where true community exists. As a couple, and for Suzanne and me individually, that is our heart’s desire. We have felt the effects of being on an island all by ourselves before in ministry and in life. It was not fun…
You see, the need for community goes way beyond fellowship. True community reminds us that our focus needs to be external and not internal. Only when I’m known and know others do I find authentic community where we can walk through anything together. When we engage each other deeply, we have nothing to hide or feel shame about, and that is a wonderful feeling. We all have a past, and if we are prone to isolation, the story of our past begins to creep in, very slowly at times, and overrides the truth: we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and have a new purpose in God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
I have found myself pondering a comment Dr. Hannah made recently in Grace Gathering. He stated that “looking inside oneself is akin to scuba diving in a septic tank.” As a child of the One True King who has been blessed to be recovered from alcoholism, it is vital for me to have people in my life who keep me from being too inwardly focused on that septic tank. At the core of addiction is self-will run amuck. When left to my own vices, I can quickly fall back into the lies of the enemy and tell myself that I’m not worth the forgiveness I’ve received; I swim in the septic tank of shame and insecurity, where the truth is clouded by filth. I must have authentic community around me to pull me out and keep me focused on living God’s story, not the story I falsely believed for so many years.
I was recently asked how many accountability partners (people who know where my struggles lie and are willing to ask the hard questions) a person should have. I responded 3-5 people. The asker seemed surprised and quickly asked if I had time for that. Without thinking about it, my response was, “I have to; it’s life or death.” The beauty of authentic relationships is that I get to pour into my accountability partners’ lives, as well. We share a common bond that is hard to describe.
I am reminded of Philippians 2:2-3, which reads, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” That’s the wonderful thing about a vulnerable, transparent, and authentic community in any setting. It not only benefits me, but it benefits others at the same time.
Whenever I give my testimony, I try to make a point of letting people know that I am an open book and they can ask me whatever they want. Every time I share how God reached into this broken sinner’s heart and offered hope, redemption, and forgiveness, it breaks the deceiver’s chains of bondage and increases the awe I have for my Savior.
I’ll close by saying that it is my desire for Stonebriar Community Church to be a place where people can tell their story and be met with grace, not shame, so that we can walk alongside them as they pursue God’s purpose and plan for their life. I earnestly pray that as the Recovery Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church reaches widely into our community, it will be the catalyst for a return to the authentic community modeled in the early church for those who need it today—and in my humble opinion, that is all of us!
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Written by Daniel Lebsack
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