As I continue to grow in my walk with the Lord, I am realizing that being transparent is vital for growth and maturity. It is also crucial for developing strong, close relationships with fellow believers. What does being transparent mean? According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, it means: a) free from pretense or deceit (frank); b) easily detected or seen through (obvious); or c) readily understood.
I recently attended a women’s retreat where many women shared their stories of struggles, pains, and joys, and I felt more connected and blessed because of their openness. I think being transparent helps us in many ways, and is helpful for both the person sharing and the person hearing. Even though we may have never endured what the other person is going through, we have compassion for and an understanding of that person, and more importantly, this moves us to pray for that person. Another reason is that we may see a little of ourselves in that person, and it helps us to realize that we are not the only one who has ever struggled with or experienced a particular issue. This is especially true for me. At times, I have felt like no one could understand or relate to particular issues I have battled with, things that are very personal, and at times painful or shameful to discuss. It was when someone shared their deepest troubles, their past experiences, things that I could relate to, that I was able to open my heart and grow and let go of these feelings of shame or inadequacy that has kept me down for so long.
Early in my walk with the Lord, it was hard for me to feel connected to other believers. I felt like I didn’t have any one that I could relate to. It seemed like people kept discussions at the surface level, and it appeared that they had their life together and were super Christians. It seemed that everyone had been Christians all their lives, were married, happy, and being blessed financially. I was the total opposite: a new Christian wet behind the ears, a single parent struggling with depression, and broke. As a result, I felt I was an inadequate Christian, and that I must be doing something wrong because my life wasn’t perfect. Looking back, part of the reason may have been because of the type of churches I was attending; prosperity was the focus. I didn’t want that brand new BMW, I just wanted to be loved and accepted as I was, and to feel released from the burden of shame and guilt. It wasn’t until I started attending churches where transparency was evident, and hearing personal testimonies from the pastors and people at church, that I began to feel connected. I can’t explain it, but there is this sort of bonding that happens when people share their stories, unabashed and unashamed. We open our hearts and cry with them, or we silently cheer for them at what they have overcome with the help of Jesus, and we marvel at what the Lord can do with anyone and any circumstance.
At the retreat I recently attended, many women shared their personal battles that they had endured or continue to struggle with. Some things were very heartbreaking to hear and very painful for them to share. But it was because of their willingness to share with us, to be transparent, that all of the women were blessed. I think it made us feel united in Christ and encouraged us to keep fighting the fight, whatever each of us may be personally be going through. I also believe that because of the environment of safety and love and encouragement that was present, it made it easier for the women to share. And they bravely did so because they have been set free by the love of Jesus, where there is no condemnation, only restoration. I know this has had a big impact on me. It has always been hard for me to open up to people for various reasons. It can be scary to share your personal struggles with others. It feels risky. I often thought, “Will they judge me?” “Will they look at me differently?” Of course we should use discernment and be discreet when it comes to being transparent, because not every environment may be safe to do so. I have been very blessed to find sisters where I can do so safely. I have realized that I have also found freedom when I have shared my experiences. I am not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because I feel like burdens have been released. The scriptures say that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), so perhaps when we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are no longer hanging onto our pains and sorrows, but are releasing them, and in turn being prayed for and encouraged by our Christian family. It is like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. The problems may still be there, but we are not alone.
When we are transparent, others see what we have been through and see how faithful we are to the Lord in spite of how difficult life may be. They see how He has pulled us through whatever trial we’ve been through. They see how He has transformed us from the old person we used to be, to a new creation in Him. Being transparent encourages others and gives them hope that they too, can overcome or can endure. One of the most important things I have learned from other’s testimonies and frankness is the forgiveness and grace of God. When I heard women sharing stories similar to mine, and I saw how they have experienced the forgiveness of God, it gave me hope and peace that I also can be forgiven and set free from that bondage of guilt and shame.
There are many examples of transparency in the bible. David and Paul are the first ones that comes to mind. Paul often talked openly about his weakness, failures and past mistakes, and I have been encouraged time after time when I read his words. How many times did David cry out to the Lord about his weaknesses, fears and failures? The Psalms of David are the most loved and most quoted scriptures in the bible because they are so encouraging; we have a real man, a powerful man, being real before God and real before people, faults and all. Above all though, we learn from King David that being transparent before the Lord is the most important thing. Yes, God may already know what’s in our heart and every little detail about us (Psalm 139), but by openly crying out to Him our innermost pains, desires, sorrows, and joys, draws us closer to Him, and strengthens our relationship with Him. The more we open our hearts to him, the closer He gets to us, and our relationship continues to grow deeper and we experience freedom in knowing He forgives us and accepts us, no matter where we came from, or what we’ve done.