We love to tell people, “Be honest with me.” But do we really want the answers to that statement?
It’s like when Lynn and I were newly married, maybe two weeks in, and we were about to go out and meet some friends. Lynn came out of the bedroom and asked the question that husbands have dreaded since the Garden of Eden. As the words came toward me, I felt like I was watching a train wreck in slow motion.
“Does this look good on me?”
I was flabbergasted. I mean, I knew this day would come. But so soon? And right before we went out? No good could come from this. This was a surefire way to absolutely annihilate the fragile “honeymoon” period of our new family. I was truly scared and—so unlike me—absolutely speechless.
Suddenly Lynn flashed one of her radiant smiles. That freaked me out even more. I started to plan out my own obituary: Young pastor’s wife loses her mind on her husband, and he drops dead from fear…
“Oh, Daniel. Don’t worry. I really want to know. My dad was always really honest with me about those things, and I’d like for you to be also.”
Now my momma didn’t raise no dummy. This was my first real “husband test.” And it was a nasty one. I’d heard what she’d asked, but what was she actually saying? I realized I was upstream with no paddle.
“Daniel, I really mean it. Just tell me what you think. I really want to know.”
So I took a deep breath, tried to get some saliva in my parched mouth, and wiped the sweat off my brow. “Sweetheart, you look beautiful.” And I waited for what seemed like an eternity.
She smiled and said, “Really?”
“Thanks. But I really don’t like it, so I’m going to change. But thanks for your honesty. I really appreciate it.” And she turned and went back to the closet. I stood shell-shocked—what on earth just happened?
I tell this story because often we’re willing to ask for what we don’t need, which is fake honesty from others, but we’re reluctant to ask for what we truly need, which is real honesty from ourselves. Even though we know we need it. Crucially, this need for honesty involves our entire being. We need to be honest about everything that makes us us. And at the deepest, most fundamental level, this means spiritual honesty, which involves who we are in light of who God is.
Without honesty, we aren’t living in reality. Without honesty, at best, we’re simply playacting, and at worst, we’re completely deceived. We desperately need honesty—and that need for honesty, God promises, is satisfied when we practice the art of reflection…Simply put, reflection is self-honesty before Jesus. Better than our reflection in a mirror, reflection in the face of Jesus shows us our truest selves, inside and out. Not just what others see about us, and not what we can comfortably admit. Our true selves aren’t even what our best friends know about us. All of those are, to an extent, false reflections.
Let me show you what I mean with an actual conversation—which seems like a fake conversation, I realize!
Dude: Man, I’m totally a good person!
Me: How do you know?
Dude: Well, it’s not like I’m Charles Manson!
Me: Stop it! You’re not a good person just because you’re not on death row for murder!
Dude: What am I, Hitler ?
Me: Just because you’re not the worst possible version of yourself doesn’t actually mean you’re good!
Look, if we’re going to check out our reflection in a mirror and be truthful about who we are, let’s make sure it’s a real mirror. Our need for honesty will only be satisfied when we com-pare ourselves to Jesus. And here’s why: Jesus was the perfect human, without sin, while absolutely all of us do sin. That difference is what allows the comparison. Jesus is the only objective, unchanging standard for what it means to be human.
Now you might be one of those people who’s like, “Bro, why all this focus on sin? You pastors are always on about sin, sin, sin. Can’t you be positive for five seconds? There’s good in everyone!”
I don’t disagree with you in a sense. We do talk about sin all the time. (So did Jesus, by the way!) And people can do some amazingly good things. Here’s the deal, though: There’s a right and a wrong way to talk about sin. You can talk about sin in every chapter of a book, every sermon, every conversation, and still be hopeful and encouraging…
Sin is the simple reality that no human, except for Jesus, has ever been as good as they could have been. It’s that stark. Have all your actions and thoughts and motivations always been the best possible? Are you, and have you always been, perfect? If not, you’re a sinner. Sin is not being bad some of the time or all the time—it’s failing to be as good as we could be.
Here’s an example. My wife and I have been married for twelve years now. And recently I finally got it: What my wife really wants and needs from me is love. In some ways, eve-ry husband wants to be Mr. Fix-It. When something breaks, we fix it. For my first eleven-plus years of marriage that is exactly what happened—I would immediately grab my screwdriver and toss on my bandanna and be like, “Babe, I’m gonna fix this for you!”
But this time my brain and heart and hands finally got the message. So when my wife told me about the problem, the first thing I did was give her a big hug and say, “Sweetie, I love you so much, and I’m so grateful for you.” She was impressed. It only took me a smidge over a decade! She was like, “You’re doing so good right now.”
It might seem weird for me to say this, but in this specific area I’d been sinning ever since I got married. I hadn’t been doing anything wrong, exactly—but I hadn’t been doing things as right as I could have. I’d been lacking some of the fruit of the Spirit in that area, such as love, kindness, and gentleness. What’s interesting—and very biblical—is that our best moments of growth and learning often reveal how badly we’ve been missing the mark up to that point. The reason is that we see Jesus, and then we see us, and all of a sudden the light bulb goes on.
We realize that Jesus is the one person who can say, “Yes, I pleased God, not only in action but also in motivation—100 percent of the time.” Us . . . not so much.
That’s hard to hear, because we want to be good people. But it’s honest…Our need for honesty is satisfied by reflection as we humbly compare ourselves to Jesus. God isn’t surprised about or scared of you right now be-cause he already knows you and loves you. God will never leave you or forsake you. Anything—anything—you’re suffering isn’t worthy of comparison with the eternal joy set before you. That’s why we can be honest. That’s why we can practice reflection. No matter how bad your batting average is as a Christian, it’s never too late. If you’ve struck out over and over, and you can’t even foul off a single pitch, come to God right now and say, “Jesus, do a work in me. I want to follow you. I want honesty, and I need grace.”
Let me tell you, if you say that to God, with all your heart, you’re going to hit it out of the park, and Jesus is going to be high-fiving you as you come around third, okay? When we see ourselves reflected in Jesus, honestly, we’re exactly where God wants us. Completely vulnerable. Filled to the brim with hope.
From Upward, Inward, Outward by Daniel Fusco and D. R. Jacobsen
This book is about discovering together how to understand and live the Greatest Commandment. We’re not after the “art of thinking about God a little differently.” We’re here to uncover the needs God created within us—needs for meaning, intimacy, honesty, humility, justice, compassion, and more—and how he designed us to find those needs fulfilled in him. This is the art of living Jesus’ spirituality. God gives us the key in the Greatest Commandment, but we’ve got to do this stuff in the right order. We begin upward, with loving God. The God. God of the Old Testament, God of the New Testament. God the Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We continue inward, with understanding our true identities in Jesus. And when we get those things right, God’s Spirit sends us outward, on mission into the world. These three movements—upward, inward, and outward—mirror the Greatest Commandment and help us learn the art of living harmoniously together in a chaotic world. Learn more HERE>>