Thursday, March 10, 2005

Telling the Truth

“O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart."

~ Psalm 15:2,3 (NASB)

“Having the courage to speak your own truth always paves the way for someone else to face their own truth.” ~Oprah Winfrey

One thing I really appreciate about Joyce Meyer is that she’s not afraid to share personal stories about her own shortcomings. For example, she talks about the time she was in McDonald’s and there was only one booth left so she engaged in a foot race with a man who was crippled. “What makes matters worse,” Joyce said, “is that I was right in the middle of teaching a series on walking in love!”

In my own small corner of the world, I am also striving to be real and honest. I have no interest in pretending to be smarter than I am or better than I am. We all struggle with certain aspects of our personality that we would like to change, so I want to embrace that commonality. I can’t help or encourage anyone by purporting to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect person or the perfect Christian. After all, there is no perfect human being on the face of this earth; we're all in this together. The only difference is that some people admit their faults and strive to do better each day, and others want to deny that they have any areas of their life that need change or improvement. But nobody grows or learns or reaches their full potential by being in denial.

Having said that, this week I’d like to share a very personal story which illustrates the point I’m trying to make.

A recent conversation/argument at the Umbehr house:

Setting: Eileen is walking on the treadmill in the basement of the Umbehr house while watching TV and listening through a set of headphones. Keen Sr. is studying in his office in the next room.

Enter Stage Left: Keen and Eileen’s two youngest sons, Keen II and Kirk Van, decide it will be funny to catch their father off guard by luring him away from his desk so they can break a clay pigeon over his head. (Don’t worry – it doesn’t hurt; the clay pigeons are as fragile as egg shells.)
Eileen hears Keen shout an expletive and runs into the room to find out what all the commotion is about. Keen Sr. recovers from the shock and joins Keen and Kirk in a round of laughter and high fives. Meanwhile, Eileen is standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips and a look of utter dismay on her face.

One hour later: Keen and Eileen engage in a heated debate over the appropriateness of shouting an expletive loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Keen counters with a complaint about Eileen’s “mothering, disapproving look” while standing in the doorway of his office. Eileen responds by emphatically stating that she most certainly did disapprove of him yelling the expletive at the top of his lungs.

Regrettably, during the process of lecturing Keen about saying the expletive, Eileen manages to repeat the expletive herself several more times throughout the heated exchange.

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
~ James 3:8-10


Keen: Do I ever bring up any of your faults…..ever?

Eileen: No, but I wish you would! Because every time I want to talk about something you did, that’s your standard response.

Keen: Well, I’m just not like that. I choose to love you and give you the time and space you need to change.

Eileen: Well, Dr. Phil says you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge - so bring it on!

Fade to black .……

All I can say is….be careful what you ask for.

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject criticism, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding."
~ Proverbs 15:31,32 (NLT)

Here’s an excerpt from a poem I wrote for my husband titled, Ode to Keen.

He never chooses to point out my faults,
he acts as if I don’t have any;
and even though I appreciate this,
we both know that I have many.

In twenty years of marital bliss,
not one unkind word has he said;
I only wish that I could say the same,
But Lord, You know I’m the hothead.

As I reflect on the truths about myself that were revealed after I boldly invited Keen to “bring it on,” I realize that the truth really does hurt. But even though Keen obliged me by revealing some painful truths about several of my less-appealing qualities, it doesn’t mean that he was being unkind. Truthful words are not unkind words. They may feel that way to the recipient, but they are not.

“…You took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. Where is that joyful spirit we felt together then? In those days, I know you would gladly have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?”
~ Galatians 4:14b-16 (NLT)

On a recent episode of Joan of Arcadia (which airs Friday nights on CBS), Joan was reluctantly instrumental in exposing a shocking truth about her friend’s mother. As it turns out, the woman was a social worker who had actually kidnapped the girl from an abusive home. Although the woman’s motives were pure, she was still sent to jail.

After the revelation, Joan’s friend became angry and resentful towards her for causing so much pain and disruption in her life. The following dialogue depicts a conversation between Joan and God, who takes the form of ordinary people in the show. This scene took place in the book store where Joan works when she walked into a storage room where God was busy replacing a light bulb.

Joan: Whoa. When did you get here?

God: I’m always here, Joan. Even when you can’t see me.

Joan: Subtle. Why don’t you let me fiddle with the light bulb and you can do your own dirty work?

God: It’s painful, what happened to your friend. It’s very difficult to see something like that.

Joan: Yeah, what did Stevie do anyway to deserve that big lightening bolt from on high?

God: I don’t punish people and I’d never ask you to harm anyone. You know that. What you witnessed was the power of the truth.

Joan: Uh – but isn’t that supposed to set you free – not kick you in the head?

God: The light of the truth can be harsh to those who’ve been in the dark. Could you flip that switch on for me?

Joan: Isn’t it your job to let there be light?

God: It’s everybody’s.

Fade to light…..

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”

~Luke 12:2,3