I believe that if one is concerned about growing closer to God and maturing in one’s own thought process of self-reflection, being transparent with oneself is absolutely key. The people who I have truly marveled at while here at Trinity have not been those that seemingly have the answer to every question. They are not the ones that have the great credentials. The people that I have most respected are the ones that are transparent before others, full of humility, and honest with themselves.
As I began to realize that the people I most respected all had this in common, I realized that transparency is something that I needed to focus on in my life. So I did. It has been helping my wife and I grow closer. It has been helping my friends and I grow closer. And I have found that when I am honest with myself I can move beyond ridiculous facades which hinder intimacy.
Okay, so I felt like realizing that I needed to be more transparent and honest with myself was a big step of maturity. But now what? How do I be more transparent?
For me, I believe it is key to be a good listener if you want to be transparent with yourself. If you are going to identify things in your own life that need to be addressed, you need to be able to identify good and bad qualities in others. If you are talking with someone and they are very positive and full of encouragement, learn to identify it. Tell them that you appreciate it out loud, and reciprocate their attitude. If you are talking with a person and they exemplify poor quality or character traits, learn from that as well. Identify what may be causing that person to act or think that way and question yourself as to whether their attitude also exists in you. If so, be honest with yourself and do something about it. Being an active listener will do wonders for your own growth. Plus it will grow you closer to your friends as you are actively listening to what they have to say. And, if you are close enough friends and the situation arises, you may even be able to work through common issues together.
I have been attempting to do this the last few months and it has been so beneficial. Of course journaling I believe is also a huge help in self-improvement. Which is something that I also do.
The reason why I bring this up now is because I have really been reminded of it this past week. Over the last week I have been exposed to two great song writers who both know how to be transparent. They both have obviously learned how to be great listeners. They both are musicians who have been doing their thing for many, many years now. One was here at Trinity for the week and is pretty well known, Michael Card. It was neat to hear him play his songs and have us sing a long with him. I picked up on two things from him while he was here, and I thought it was pretty powerful. First, he focused on lifting up our sorrows to God. He really finds it important to lift up our laments to God. He stated that over 80% of the Psalms are laments to God. His song “Lift Up Your Sorrows” speaks to this theme and is a wonderful song. The chorus goes like this:
Come lift up your sorrows
And offer your pain
Come make a sacrifice
of all your shame
There in your wilderness
He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds
for He’s wounded too.
The song challenges us to be transparent before God, something that obviously stuck out to me.
Secondly, he focused on what our identities are as believers in Christ. He mentioned that we commonly like to think of ourselves as God’s children, which we are, but the fact that we are slaves of Christ rarely gets mentioned. But he brought up that the Bible is full of slave imagery and that we are indeed slaves to Christ. And if we are not slaves to Christ we are slaves to something that is not Christ, whether it be pleasure, our own pride, or whatever. We are all slaves of something. What stood out about this was the fact that being a slave is not a thing to really be all that proud about. It causes us to be humble as we should be. We are owned by God, and ultimately we will answer to Him. This causes me to be honest with myself because I am naked before the Lord.
The second musician that I encountered this week was Michael Kelly Blanchard at my local church, Village Church of Lincolnshire. This man has been playing music for a long time and it was a joy to hear him play. He is a story teller. He is a poet. He is a fine musician. (Although he looks like Michael Kane, and so I had to close my eyes as he sang or else I thought Michael Kane was singing songs to me). He has the amazing ability to tell great stories of ordinary people and occurrences through song and make you a part of it. You are emotionally drawn into his music in a way that I have not really experienced before. Many times I found my eyes to be watering as he sang the songs of ordinary people. It was quite powerful.
He mentioned towards the beginning of our time together that he thinks that everyone has their few hobby-horse topics they like to talk or preach about. A pastor can preach from any book of the Bible and the things that that pastor feels are important in life will emerge in his sermons no matter what. It’s just how we are. Well, he said he was no different and that he thinks that a theme that really has stuck with him throughout his years of playing music is the idea of “God in disguise.” He explained by saying that we bear the image of God as humans. We can find the image of God in all people. And sometimes it is when we are trying to see the image of God in others that we best represent God to them. (He has a song entitled “God in disguise” which builds on this idea).
I liked his performance. I liked how he thought about things and was supremely thoughtful and introspective. By him being so, he really caused everyone in the crowd to be so, too. It was really a neat experience.
As I began to think about Michael Card and Michael Kelly Blanchard I began to realize that they really were not too different from each other. They are both very talented musicians who reflect and lament. They both are honest with themselves and they carry themselves in a very similar way. I also noticed that Michael Card’s newest album is called “The Hidden Face of God,” which I felt was very comparable to the idea of Michael Kelly Blanchard’s “God in disguise.” These guys seem to have it going on, and know how to be transparent.
I say all this to say that I am currently learning how to be transparent and I think that everyone should work on being transparent as well. It causes us to live naked before God now. We may have to lift up our shame or our wounds to God, but as Michael Card says, “He’s waiting for you to worship him with your wounds, for He’s wounded too.”
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2