Not too long ago, I cut myself shaving. The cut wasn’t that deep, and it wasn’t on my jugular, but I couldn’t get it to quit bleeding. After trying everything from pieces of tissue paper to a liquid bandage concoction, it finally stopped.
Or so I thought.
About thirty minutes later, after I got to the office, someone said, “Hey, did you know you’re bleeding?” No, I did not, and I was frustrated that I was bleeding publicly. Not to mention making a mess on the collar of my favorite Hawaiian shirt.
Then it hit me: I bleed in public all the time. By that, I don’t mean gushing actual blood, but I do a lot of emotional bleeding, which isn’t all that pretty either.
On a fairly regular basis, someone says to me, “TMI!” And, of course, that means too much information. Without question, I can overshare, and sometimes I have boundary issues. Granted.
However, transparency is a valuable and sometimes rare commodity in our culture.
About a thousand years ago, when I was in Bible School, one of my teachers said, “You should never share about your struggles too much or too often as a pastor. And never tell people about your battles until you’re on the side of victory!” My instructor’s concern had to do with losing respect if we got too honest with our parishioners.
My belief today: that’s hogwash.
People need to know that no leader is on a pedestal of perfection. Your organization or church needs to know that you wrestle with God, demons, and yourself from time to time. They need to see your humanness. They must understand that you are in the trenches, so to speak, right next to them, fighting the same battles they fight.
Sometimes, you struggle with depression, just like they do.
Occasionally, you wrestle with feeling worthless, just like they do.
You fight the same temptations, and you face the same fears, questions, and hardships.
And it’s okay because it’s part of life on planet earth.
What’s more, everybody battles with questions too.
Is God watching me and listening?
Does He care?
Am I being punished for my mistakes?
What is my purpose, and have I messed things up too much to experience God’s plan?
Will I ever change?
If we want people to face their shame and learn how to move forward, we must show them the way. And they will only listen and believe us if they know that we can relate to where they are at in their lives because we’re there too.
Bleeding publicly means I am letting people into my heart and soul. I am allowing them access into my experiences, past and present, as I whisper to them with empathy, “I know this is hard. I know you are hurting. But I also know that this season for you is not the end of your story.”
Of course, when you bleed publicly, you can and should offer practical and godly lessons mixed with hope. So bleeding publicly doesn’t mean you bleed out and die on stage or in a blog. You never want to communicate hopelessness. There’s enough of that in our culture.
But bleeding is redemptive when it’s done in an authentic and God-honoring way.
I want you to think about something.
Wait for it...
Jesus bled publicly.
We know horrible and heartbreaking details of his suffering and bleeding on a cross. However, because death wasn’t the end of His story, we too can have hope. No matter how much you’re suffering or bleeding, with God in the mix, there is the potential for a resurrection experience in your life.
Resurrection is God’s specialty. He loves to renew, restore, and rebuild lives.
I’ve told people hundreds of times, “Writing is therapeutic for me.” And it is. So is standing in front of a crowd crying as I tell them about the latest pain in my life. Hundreds of times, someone has said to me, “Kurt, one of the things I love the most about you is how real and transparent you are when you write or speak.”
I usually smile and say, “Thanks. Ain’t God good?”
And He is.
If you’re wondering, the book we call the “Holy Scriptures” is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Stories of a murderer (Moses), an adulterer (David), and a coward (Peter), to name a few. We find story after story of struggle, failure, idiocy, and brokenness. There are a lot of people bleeding publicly throughout the Word of God.
God doesn’t mind authentic, transparent, in-your-face, gut-wrenching, real-life stories.
Because, when the heroes of our faith bleed publicly, we sigh, exhale, and say to ourselves, If there’s hope for them, there’s hope for me.
And there is.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason, I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example
for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NIV)