I think we all do it at times. We walk past a store window, and we look at more than the merchandise. We look at our own reflection. Or we glance in every convenient mirror.
It's just natural - checking yourself out. Wanting to impress, to look good. It's just natural to talk up our wins, our good stuff.
Then - boom! - I read these show-stopping words in the Bible. That challenge our whole image-driven way of living. That I may actually understand now in a way I could not have only months ago.
"If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am" (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Excuse me? I want to tell you about how weak I am?
These startling words were written by a man named Paul, the man who exploded the Gospel of Jesus across the world. Who wrote half the books of the New Testament.
But here this giant is saying, "You need to know how weak I am." Earlier, this apparently fearless apostle confesses that "I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). I think I'd do everything I could to cover that up!
He even refers to his crippling disability this way: "I will boast about my weaknesses" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because they made room for God's power to be unleashed and displayed in his life.
I think I'm fairly normal in this "want to look good" game. We church folks are especially good at it. No matter how we're hurting, struggling, we're "fine." When, honestly, we're faking.
But I'm learning there's something beautiful about being broken. Not pleasant, but beautiful. Because when you're willing to be honest about your battles, your pain, some beautiful things happen.
You give other people permission to be real, too. You open closed hearts with your transparency. You draw people to you. And, if you're a Jesus-follower, to your Jesus. Because they need to know He's for broken people. Messed up people. Like me. Like them.
Right after Jesus took Karen to heaven last spring, I had a decision to make. Would I just spout the "Christian talking points," or would I be honest about how wounded, how bleeding I am?
I chose - as I'm choosing now - to honestly represent the stark realities of a devastating loss. And then to give equally honest testimony to the decisive difference the hope and the presence of Jesus are making.
Because my Jesus conquered death - and because my baby loved and lived for Him - I know she's doing awesome. And that I will see her again. Beyond that, I can hardly find words to describe the peace, the steadying closeness, of my Jesus since that awful day.
I've been transparent about the ferocity of the storm. I'm equally transparent when I say with conviction, "The anchor holds."
I'm convinced that those who are secure in Jesus should be able to be the most transparent people of all.
Being willing to tell a son or daughter, a husband or wife, "I was wrong. I need your forgiveness." That's how healing begins.
Unstuffing the painful past we've concealed. It's defined us for too long. Letting people in means we can be free. And maybe others can be, too.
Telling how Jesus has changed you, not in safe generalities, but explaining specifically what kinds of "lost" you really were. That's when you become living proof of a living Savior.
Letting the folks at church know that you fight some very real battles, not just displaying your medals. Your openness might just be the truth that sets them free.
The Bible says God stands ready to "give a crown of beauty for ashes" (Isaiah 61:3). When we allow our "ashes" to offer hope and healing to others, our brokenness becomes something beautiful.
I'm forever grateful Jesus didn't live to look good. No, "His appearance was disfigured beyond that of any man...He was pierced for our transgressions...crushed...led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 52:14; 53:6-7).
If He had said, "No cross," there would have been no hope, no heaven for me.
Brokenness heals. Brokenness liberates. Brokenness saves.