“This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher (Feb. 26, 2017).
When we take on the name of Christ (as in calling ourselves “Christians”), we take on the role of a peculiar (distinctive) people. Lent is an appropriate time to focus on what makes us distinctive. Our political environment is teaching us that being people who strive to speak the truth makes us truly distinctive. But speaking the truth is more than not lying. Truth telling is about doing as well as not doing. We must speak out our truth, God’s truth, in every situation we are in, even and especially when it is inconvenient, dangerous, or uncomfortable.
Our truth comes from God’s word in Scripture, from the life of Jesus, from the whispers of the Holy Spirit, and from communities of worship. It comes from life experiences, especially those that caused pain and heartache. It comes from sharing our lives in community with others – people who are willing to be vulnerable and create a safe space for us to be the same. The learning from these combined experiences fills our reservoir of truth; this reservoir is waiting to be dipped into.
I recently was with a small group of women who were facing the reality that speaking out our truth is difficult. One woman shared an angry outburst she had with someone who was explaining a change in policy – a change that affected work she deeply loved. Later she realized how she had injured the person and made amends. She realized that the other person was not the cause of a problem but merely the bearer of a problem-filled message. She spoke her truth, but it fell on the wrong “soil” and with heat but no love. Now she can get on with speaking the same truth in a meaningful way to the right people.
A second person was in the process of preparing to speak truth to someone but was concerned about not presenting the case well enough – and thus failing. She is learning that perfect performances are not necessary. We only need a Spirit-filled heart and appropriate information to speak the truth. Like seeds, truth must be carefully planted but God is in charge of the blossoming.
A third woman recognized that she was being called to speak the truth in several situations, but she was afraid of being viewed as confrontational. She is learning that we need to separate our emotional needs from the process of truth-telling. If we present truths as apprentices of Jesus (accurately and lovingly), it doesn’t matter how we are perceived or whether we are liked or not. That reality is God’s truth and Jesus’ example.
What truth are you being called to speak to your world?