Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Power of Honesty

"You really don't have to come.  You've heard all this before," my mom said to me.  She was planning on giving her testimony at church and she was trying to talk me out of coming.  But my mom has been there for every thing I've ever done - It was time for me to be there for her.  I put my baby girl in her jammies and headed out with a good friend to attend our evening service.

Have you ever heard someone give a testimony before?  I have only heard a few but they usually follow a predictable script.  Someone tells of struggles in their life then they talk about their journey to finding Christ.  They explain how their life changed because they now have Jesus in their life and you leave inspired and moved at the power of God's love.  My mom was able to do this with her characteristic wit, humor and a realness that made us feel okay about having sometimes screwed up our own lives, too.

She told of her birth as an illegitimate child in the fifties and her experience living in orphanages until she was five.  She told of her mother finally getting enough money to take her home only to move thirty times before she was ten.  She talked about her crazy extended family and her discovery that if she just did things for them, they would show her love.  She shared that her stepfather adopting her was the first miracle she had ever experienced and the three sisters that followed were the second.

She moved on to her adult years and admitted to our congregation that she had committed adultry in her first marriange and struggled with alcohol and temptation during her marriage to my dad.  She explained that she found herself unhappy with my father when I was fifteen or so and, in an unlikely turn of events, told his sister about her unhappiness.  It was in her arms that my mom first really learned about Jesus.

Instead of coming home "saved" as so many experience, she came home with a glimmer of hope.  She bought a Bible, The Message Bible, and began to read.  She started asking questions and praying in bits and pieces.  She found a quiet, intimate relationship with Jesus and has lived and shared that love ever since.

She was right; I had heard all of this before.  And yet, her speech was so powerful that it brought me to tears.  I spent a few days thinking about why it had affected me so much and I came to a simple conclusion.  It affected me because I had heard it all before.

How many of you, as parents, would tell your children that you had had an affair?  How many of you would admit that you struggled with alcoholism?  If you were her, would you have shared that you were illegitimate?  And yet, she did.  None of this was ever a secret.  It was just part of her story.  She would always say to us, "Take a look at my life and decide what you will do differently.  I want you to be better than I ever was or will be."  That has given us so much freedom to be who we are.  It left every topic open to discuss and broke down the walls of secrecy.  It showed the amazing power of honesty.

I challenge you today to look at your past and your life.  Will you give the gift of honesty to your children?  Can you tell them that you want them to learn from your mistakes?  Can you ask them to question your choices, even your parenting, and accept that they may do it differently?  It takes guts to do that.  But as the child of someone who did, I can tell you that it's worth the risk.  They will love you through it.  Maybe even more.

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