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The freedom to be real - from disconnection to encounter.

Updated: Mar 3

Dear friends, dear women of God

I recently listened to a podcast in which one word was used to describe the German church landscape:

Disconnected. Not connected.

Yes, it is like that, not only in the churches, but also between us.

The desire to fulfil the Christian role well all too often leads us to say not what we think, but what we think is appropriate. We want to encourage and we want to glorify God. But all the peripheral issues, all the depth, all the unspoken struggles, doubts and our lack of answers to suffering - these get swept under the carpet in this zealous effort - far, far away.

I was going to write about something completely different today, but what I'm facing now is triumphant.

I see pain, separation from life, weakness.

I hear stories of abuse, marginalisation, insecurity. I see people collapsing under the pressure in communities. I am reminded of a scene. A scene where my heart overflowed with compassion: a leader fighting back tears in the middle of a speech, exhausted, putting aside her inner turmoil for the role she had to play. "Not now", "not now, not here, it's not appropriate".

Yes, our inner struggles are always somehow inappropriate. Terminally ill parishioners are inappropriate. Overweight people despairing about their eating disorders are inappropriate. Those who complain of loneliness behind the smooth church facade are inappropriate. Those whose marriages have failed - they don't fit in. Those who are so obviously down on their luck - they are not the paragon of the congregation.

Disconnected, not connected.

Real encounters. Sharing hearts. Being carried. Being allowed to be who you are. Being allowed to be who you are. Not having all the answers. Being allowed to waver, even with the greatest anointing. To be allowed to disappoint people, even when you are in the public eye, even when you are so blessed by God, even when you have a name like Lawrence Crabb, like Dan Allender, like Virginia Satir. To have the right to still be human.

When we start to confuse Jesus and our identity with role-playing, with fulfilling expectations, when we start to carry our Christianity around like a monstrance, then it becomes harder and harder to connect.

Behind the doors are the secret tears that no one must see.

We must not falter, we who support, we who bless, we who write, preach, pray, counsel. We must be strong for those who are not strong at the moment. We must be a support, a shadow in the burning sun, a stream of water in the desert. Always. 24/7. Always. We think- and sink in.

And faith - it becomes a burden when others laugh at us, when they shower us with pious platitudes and Bible verses and the story of that Christian for whom everything always went smoothly. No, we can be sure that there is no such story and that we all have these struggles within us.

I have a friend in the States whom I have grown very fond of. She is rebellious and does not submit to etiquette. And so she freely tells people in the most legal communities that she goes to the supermarket and asks them how their day was. At the cheese counter. At the bread counter: "How was your day, dear?" It is so beautiful that it leaves me speechless.

People are surprised, taken by surprise.

Try it, in your community, in your environment: just ask people, "How is your heart?" "How was your day?" "What fascinates you about Jesus? "What do you like to eat?" Show interest - instead of responding to superficial, factual messages with pious Bible verses. Admit weakness to the seriously ill. Don't tell the sad person that Jesus will comfort them, but be there. Tell him that Jesus is in the midst of his grief. Don't tell the doubter that Jesus is already keeping his faith, but tell him that he can bring his doubts to Jesus and that you are happy to listen, even if you don't have the answers.

We are not all in this alone. If we think that being a Christian is like being successful at work, then we will hide our insecurities. Our doubts, our struggles. Our everyday worries. Our need for help. We will be veiled from each other, tense and strained. We will hope that the other will not recognise us. If being a Christian is nothing more than a positive personal training session, then the mercy and goodness of Jesus, his comfort and support, are really far away. The despondent does not become courageous by being told: "Be brave and strong! The sad person does not become joyful because he is told: "Rejoice, I tell you again, rejoice!

You may feel totally overwhelmed by the expectations placed upon you, by the eyes upon you, expecting light, expecting healing, expecting answers. Maybe you feel that you can't fulfil your role, that the demand and the ideal that is held up to you as a mirror is something that you can never achieve.

But you know what? It's the same for everyone.

We dance at a masked ball, we hide behind Venetian masks in pompous costumes. But the truth is: the real beauty is hidden in your tears. In your struggles. In your confession, in your search, in your longing for truth, beauty and clarity.

Disconnected. Unconnected.

The string of lights, the connection in the Holy Spirit, it only works where we become real. Where we take off the masks and show the exhaustion underneath. Where we say, yes, it would be good if you were there. Yes, it would be good to just be quiet together. Yes, it would be good to know you with all your faults and quirks - because then you're not so far away. It's good to see your struggles - then I don't feel so alone with mine. It's good to see that you're not perfect yet - that makes you so lovable. And you know I trust the Holy Spirit to bring us to perfection. Let's seek Jesus together. And with me you don't have to be afraid that I will judge you. Come to rest, be yourself - and do you want cheesecake?

Being a Christian is not a role. You are not an avatar in role-playing. You don't have to be invincible, you don't have to be infallible. You don't have to be Jesus.

You have to belong to Jesus.

May we learn to share our hearts. To meet each other. May we learn how healing it is to let go of our masks. And may we be allowed to say to the dying:

It is good. Go home, go to Jesus instead: In the name of Jesus you are healed!

For sometimes that is the greater comfort, to be allowed to lay down our arms.

Be blessed.

With goodness, love and grace. Let us join hands. For it is so good to have you here.

Sibylle/Daughter of Zion.

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