The Prodigal's Son
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either one of them falls down, one can help the other up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)?
Well, we weren’t lying down but we were together. We were nipple-deep in a frigid lake, kicking at sunfish that were nibbling on our toes. The sky was sheet metal, the water was ink and the air was arctic.
There were fifteen of us—guys and girls, ranging in age from 18 to 50, and we were posing for a picture. The weather had been disastrous all that week and on this day, we had finally given up waiting for a “warmer day” to swim. Just before we’d bee-lined it to the shore, we’d been corralled for a family photo.
I don’t recall what the hold-up was, but there was a slew of technical difficulties and every time someone tried to leave and get out of the water, he or she was stalled with the frantic promise that it would only be one minute more. But it wasn’t just one minute more. I remember thinking the process was taking so long that it would have been faster to acquire an old-school camera from the 1800’s, along with some silver nitrate, to capture the image.
The longer we waited, the more we shivered, and the more we shivered, the closer we huddled into one another. Finally, my uncle Jim could wait no longer. “I just warmed up the lake,” he said. Before I had time to be shocked and utterly disgusted, one of my cousins said, “me, too.” Usually the declaration of warming up the lake was exclaimed as a warning not to get too close. It was much too late for that.
When in Rome, right? One by one each of us “warmed up the lake,” declaring it for affect. These declarations happened as snapshots were finally being taken from shore. At least none of us were shivering anymore.
There’s a joke that you should be careful around a writer because anything you say or do will be used against you in print. However, I have this odd feeling that if my family knew I was going to print this story, it wouldn’t have stopped them.
There is strength and wisdom in numbers. Law enforcement uses it. The military uses it. Customer service uses it-- “this call will be monitored for quality assurance.” We live in a world of checks and balances. Yet in the church, we are very tight-lipped about our lives and the struggles that we are facing. Have you ever said, or heard someone say, “my faith is private”?
That statement simply isn’t true. It is the scaredy cat response to the threat of a spiritual interdependence. The truth is that we are terrified of someone getting too close to our filth.
While Jesus walked on earth, He spoke fervently of His followers as parts of a unit. In John 15 He speaks of the vine and the branches. God created us to be interdependent. Our gifts compliment one another. We are incomplete without each other. So often, we enter into church or our small group, and instead of talking—really talking—we fake. The true struggles that burden our hearts remain carefully unexposed, like a festering wound just below the surface.
The heading on my website says “Speaking Truth with Transparency, Humor, and Love.” True friendship, true freedom, true love and acceptance cannot happen if we are not real with the people around us.
1.) What are you hiding? What is it that you are afraid of others to see?
2.) What value is there for you in exposing your weakness to someone else? What value is there for the listener in you sharing your story?
3.) In John 8:31-32 Jesus says “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” How does that apply here?
When it comes to the transformations of our hearts, and ultimately, our lives, God’s presence is evidenced in the outcome. The ugly before Christ shines a beacon on the new after Christ. Without exposing the old, the bad and the ugly, there is no proof of the God’s goodness in the newness of our transformed life. There is no healing without an ailment to be healed from.
If we are not sharing ourselves, sharing our stories, then we are gypping God of His story.
While I cannot recommend literally swimming in each other’s filth, I want to suggest to you that no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you are not as alone as you feel. True friends will not only love you despite your brokenness. They will love you for the strength you display in your transparency. Let the world around you see the real you, and let them see the Christ that shines despite your brokenness.
There is strength--and warmth--in numbers.