In my last job as a Christian schools worker we occasionally came together as staff within a region for a day of training and teaching. Because we met infrequently and were spread over a wide area, we didn’t know each other very well – enough to chat over coffee, share assembly ideas and frustrations with management but not much more than that. I remember an occasion when we gathered for a few minutes at the end of the day to pray with and for one another before heading our separate ways. We were a small group of around 8 and stood together in a loose circle. The person leading us asked if anyone had anything for prayer. There was a pause.And then one of the guys spoke up. It wasn’t anything to do with work, it was personal.
Things that he and his wife were walking through that he said he’d like us to lift before God. His vulnerability was so brave, so bold. And it gave permission for raw honesty in a group where a professional veneer was the norm. As a result two other people in the group opened up about some very difficult and distressing things that were happening within their families. We were able to stand together as family and have a beautiful and intimate time with God, carrying each other’s burdens, if only for a short while. We went home that day having shared something precious.
What if he had kept quiet? Decided that to share so openly was too much of a risk? That we weren’t a group who did that kind of thing? Then not only he, but probably others in that group would have walked away still carrying the weight of all their troubles. And we as their brothers and sisters would not have had the privilege of bringing them before our Father and asking Him to pour all of heaven’s resources into their lives and circumstances.
But here’s what really bothers me. How many other times have I been in prayer with friends or colleagues, house group members or fellow kids workers, where people have had such need of prayer and comfort but have decided to keep quiet? It’s too personal to share this, it isn’t really the time or place. What will they all think? Can I trust them to pray and then keep it to themselves? Friends we are told to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn for a reason – because we cannot do this journey alone. We need people to pray for us when we cannot pray for ourselves, and people to help carry our pain when it is too much to bear.
And we also need to be those who can be depended upon to hold those sacred moments only before the Lord, without the need to share them for further prayer with others who haven’t been told. I like to think of myself as a person who can be trusted, but when I take a long hard look at myself there have definitely been times where prayer has been the smokescreen to share something that has not been mine to tell. And that’s an ugly truth to admit.
In order to cultivate a space in all of our relationships where honesty is encouraged and practised, we need to honour that honesty as a fragile gift. We need to be bold enough to speak it, and gentle enough to nurture it. We need to be willing to share what is raw, and disciplined enough to guard what has been entrusted to us.
I feel deeply challenged to hold honesty with a new level of respect and care. Will you join me?