Yesterday’s post contained an untruth.
Last night I went back and read a sentence that claimed a previous unfamiliarity with the reality that God can meet us everywhere, when in actuality I’ve always known intellectually that God can meet us anywhere and everywhere. This reality has only become experientially truer in recent days, thanks to this mommy’s potty training ordeal and the discovery that bathrooms can be a good place for administering pastoral care in the workplace.
I corrected the sentence…because writing (and re-writing!) is one way I, knowing I can deceive myself, stay honest with myself and with you…because writing vocalizes those things that I have come to believe are true, at least for me…because writing helps to capture reality in its rawest, simplest form.
You don’t have to be in an “AA” group to acknowledge all the tales we can spin about ourselves and our world that simply are, at the end of the day, falsehoods. Maybe if church were more like an “AA” group, we Christians would be more truthful and more trustworthy human beings. Lately, though, and gradually over the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking more about what it means when Jesus says He is “The Truth.” (You’ll find some of these meditations in my forthcoming book, Grace Sticks.)
If the Psalmist in despair can declare that all men are “liars” (Psalm 116), what does it mean for Jesus to be The Truth that sets us free?
The other day I met a woman stuffing envelopes on a warehouse floor with a terrible secret she had carried for nearly four decades. Her first child of four, she told me, had been the product of a rape at age 17 by an older stepbrother. She had kept that traumatic secret all these years for the sake of keeping the peace in her family. She hadn’t even told her own mother.
“At 17 I had things I wanted to do,” she said to me, in muted anger and lament, her eyes momentarily clouding with tears that she stoically brushed away. Those dreams had been snuffed out overnight.
For some reason she had told me- and now she wondered, like she had at various times throughout the years, whether at least her mother deserved to know what had really happened that fateful night.
I wanted this woman to know that she didn’t need to feel ashamed about what this man had done to her- that it wasn’t her fault. I wanted her to know that she didn’t have to keep the family peace- that this wasn’t her duty, if it meant capitulating to a lie. I wanted her to know how strong I knew she was.
I wanted her to know that The Truth would set her free (John 8:32).
But how does The Truth set us free? What does that look like? Does it mean revealing for the first time a heavy secret that one has carried all one’s life? Does it mean learning to claim The Truth as that which defines us, rather than our most shameful secrets? Does it mean telling the truth no matter the consequences and whatever the fall-out? Does it mean following Jesus and simply forgiving? Does it mean putting away any claim we might have to justice?
Stanley Hauerwas has said that the task of Christian ethics begins with telling the truth.
For me, dwelling in The Truth means telling my own story as truthfully as I can- and I don’t think this means sharing with the whole world in full detail all of my dirtiest secrets about how I have failed or about how others have failed me.
Maybe The Truth does ask us, however, to share precisely those things that have held us in bondage or would claim our allegiance in place of God or would seek through lies to drain the life right out of us…maybe The Truth demands our honesty about these things, so that God and a few trusted others can help heal these broken places in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors. Sometimes this step in the direction of The Truth, depending on the circumstances, may require pursuing legal justice. Sometimes it may not.
In a world of lies and illusions, it can be easy to despair; in the light of One who calls Himself The Truth, I take heart that we really can begin to live more and more as free people. The question is…how, concretely? What does it mean that The Truth will set us free, and how do we live like it? Leave your thoughts below.
Next up, a continuation of our Jesus Epithets series and the first interview in our series, There’s Power in the Pen, with author Amy Julia Becker. I hope you’ll keep coming back to this intersection between God and life.