“Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without recognition and confession of our sinfulness, we are unable to rely fully on God. It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance when we miss the mark.” — Charles Stanley
Working in missions and evangelism with individuals who are frequently at the margins of society demands a certain amount of transparency and directness in order to establish and maintain trust and credibility. For some In other venues, that degree of honesty may be uncomfortable. Today I was asked by someone new to the Titus 2 program if I (Cathy Byrd) had a personal history of substance abuse. I told her ,”I do not, unless you include binge drinking to the point of blacking out a few times in college in that definition.” I gave some of my personal testimony that included our ministry philosophy of “addiction to sin” and the fact that it can take a variety of forms. When I finished she said, “I know why I am here, why God has brought me to Titus 2.” She and I went on to have a longer more private conversation that gave us a good basis on which to build trust with one another, a critical component in relationships, especially in the counseling clients with whom I work.
Those who have been privy to some of the more personal aspects of my testimony, which gets rarely shared except in the context of recovery counseling, may be shocked by it. But women coming from addiction backgrounds usually relate. Unfortunately because of the work to which God has called me, nice middle class people sometimes don’t relate to what I do in evangelism and discipleship ministry with the homeless, addicted, and broken. Others, with little or no personal experience with me, have concluded I have some sort of mental health pathology that makes me yearn to “save” the downtrodden for my own self-aggrandizement or ego needs, to be someone’s “hero” do-gooder, to forever ingratiate them to me- in other words, a totally co-dependent rescuer type. Anyone who thinks that certainly doesn’t know me, the ministry I do, or how God’s call on one’s life can take one to strange places!
Having observed the “knowing” looks passed among some individuals questioning me about what I do, it has seemed clear that at times that they were drawing conclusions with limited information and without actually talking to any of the individuals whom I have taught and discipled over the years. They have observed my directness and honesty and surmised that I am insufficiently discerning. I admit to lacking discretion at times in the “polite ” company to which some are accustomed. I am not, however, lacking in discernment, I believe. I simply choose to be more honest than some can tolerate, especially if it is with regard to emotions or perceptions that might offend someone. Those who hide their own flaws and judge what they perceive to be the flaws of others are like the Pharisees, whom Christ often criticized for their hypocrisy. Am I direct to the point of abrasive at times? Yes. Am I too honest? For one like myself whose “before Christ” life was characterized by secrets and deception, I don’t think there is such a thing. Christ’s requirement in my redeemed life in Him was and continues to be for honesty to govern. No telling people what I think they want to hear, no lying by omission, and no hiding the truth of how I feel – regardless of the cost. And there have been times it has cost me greatly. I spent too many years hiding and denying feelings to the detriment of myself and relationships with others, though. So no matter what it costs, being dishonest about Christ’s call on my life and his work in my life and the lives of those whom he has brought to me for guidance in spiritual formation and healing is not an option.