“…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I was at church (Dad was a pastor…I was ALWAYS at church), playing with a friend out on the church playground. It had rained, so there was plenty of opportunity for slipping and sliding. One of us had the brilliant idea of using the slippery circumstances to stand up on the slide and “surf” down it. The “brilliance” of the idea, however, was soon overshadowed by the sharp pain on the back of my head after it hit the slide on my way down. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it had to be bad by the way everyone kept reacting to it, and by the way my parents threw me into the back seat of the car and sped off to the hospital.
This was a day I would face yet another fear on my long list of childhood phobias. This was a fear near the top of the list, one I had carefully and gratefully avoided until now: stitches. I can still remember the word coming out of the doctor’s mouth…He was almost apologetic about it, and yet he was certain. I wanted to ask, “Are you sure?” But I could see it in his eyes. There would be no getting out of this. I knew it was inevitable. So I mustered up all the trust I could find and I put myself in his trained and skillful hands. Mind you, I didn’t really have a choice, so “bravery” or “courage” probably are not the right words to describe it. But I did it. I faced my fear by trusting in someone else.
Pain does funny things to us. It makes us see things unclearly, it makes us recall things incorrectly, but one of the most troublesome results of pain is that it makes us unwilling to trust anyone. When I am in pain, I just do not want to let you close, because I don’t know that I can trust you. That is a problem, because often the healing process requires that I trust someone; it requires that I let down my guard and permit someone to administer the healing mechanism. For physical injuries, that may be stitches, or medicine, or setting a broken bone. But for emotional or Spiritual injuries, it usually means a healthy dose of truth. And truth, it seems, can be the most painful of medicines.
When you are called upon to administer truth into my life, when you must speak the truth in love to me, you must first remove all doubts in my mind about your motives. You must convince me that you have my best interests at heart. You must create an environment where I feel safe and where I am willing to allow you to administer painful medicine. If you do not accomplish this first and foremost, you simply cannot speak truth in love to me, because I cannot hear it.
Speaking the truth in love requires a relationship between us. It doesn’t have to be longstanding (the doctor who gave me my stitches had never seen me before), but it must be a relationship in which I trust your motives. Without that, you are not much help to me.
Have you learned to forge those kinds of relationships? Are there plenty of people in your life who trust you enough to hear the truth from you? This, I believe, is the work of the church. This is where we spend our time and our resources: relationships of accountability, relationships built on unconditional love. Because the injuries are sure to come. That is a given. The question is, when they come are the trusting relationships in place to bring healing?
© Blake Coffee
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