just for pastors' wives #8

>> May 17, 2011

Today our friend Joy Dombrow continues the "Just for Pastors' Wives" series. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. Currently, Joy’s husband Joel serves as lead pastor of Willamette Christian Church, where she serves in a wide variety of teaching, serving, counseling and advisory roles. She is passionate about helping women understand and apply the truths in God’s Word and enjoys using speaking opportunities to do so.

Today I shared part of my story in front of a group of seminary students.
The deep personal anguish of suffering that I experienced nearly fourteen years ago has moved out from a place of raw hurt to a place of scarred hope. The scope of time has softened the harsh lines of reality enough so that it is not as sharp and dangerous to share. The further out that I move from that place, and the more victory that God grants me over the hard things, the broader I allow the audience of my story to be.

Today I was vulnerable. I knew that there was a chance I would cry. I knew that there were parts of my story that would bring evaluative judgement. I knew that hard questions could come. But, as a pastor's wife I chose (and choose) to risk the hurt. I can almost hear the cheers of vulnerability-lovers everywhere. This word, along with transparency and authenticity has been batted around over the last several years like a beach ball amongst a large crowd. Speakers and leaders are often judged by their exemplification of these words, perhaps because people are grasping for some sense of humanness from us. Although I can appreciate that sentiment, I also feel that these concepts of openness and exposure have been placed on a pedestal of respect far greater than respect for the leader themselves. We have used these words of vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity so interchangeably that the definitions have blurred together and we often miss the path of understanding.

I agree that vulnerability is important. C.S. Lewis says that, "To love at all is to be vulnerable."
Placing yourself in a position that exposes the tender places of your soul, making you capable of being wounded, means that you are open to being used of God in dangerous and risky places. It is a dying to self and trusting God with your heart and your reputation. In this vulnerable state of weakness, God's strength is magnified. Wise vulnerability is a part of ministry and allows for authenticity.

However, in my own life, I choose to be limited in my transparency. Transparency is characterized by visibility or accessibility of information. Not everyone needs to (or should) have access to all the information regarding your life. Yes, it makes of us feel normal when we hear about the stumblings and indiscretions of another. Yes, it makes us feel special when leaders share these things with us because it indicates that we are in their inner circle of trust, so many people will desire our disclosure and exposure.

Yet, the Jesus that we know from the Bible was not completely transparent. He didn't always make His intentions known. He spoke in parables. He didn't not reveal his human temptations and struggles to the masses. God Himself has not yet revealed all of who He is to us.
I think it can be a dangerous practice to publicly (from a platform, blog, or even entire community group) share sin and personal struggle before God has brought it through to victory. Don't get me wrong...80% of the time I am an open book, but I also know that there is a time, place, and season for everything and the wisdom of the scriptures say that it is better to hold your tongue than to say too much. Sometimes revealing certain things is not appropriate. I need to be careful not to expose my husband, or my church, or my friends. I need to be careful to not cause another person to stumble in my revelation of temptation. My general rule of thumb is that the closer I am to the struggle, the smaller my group of confidants. I must be transparent with at least my husband and God to begin with, but as I move past it in victory, I can enlarge that circle more and more as time passes.

But, no matter how much I choose to reveal in a given moment, what is shared must be authentic. Of all three of these words, I believe that authenticity is the most important. It means to be true to one's own personality, spirit, or character. In other words, not to be a hypocrite or fake. The things that are expressed or exposed are in line with the true nature of who we are. Our lives must be honest and real, and you can be real without being overly-divulgent.
It is my prayer that we would give each other grace to walk in varying degrees of transparency. I may not share all of the nitty gritty in my small group or from the stage, but rest assured I am sharing it with someone, and I promise that with everyone, I will try to be vulnerable and authentic...by His grace and through His power.

Choosing to be authentic,

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