A good friend of mine recently said something that hit me like a lightning bolt:
If you tell the truth, your path gets clearer.
In that moment of illumination, I knew that her statement could provide desperately needed guidance as I navigate the tricky waters in my relationship with my church. Telling the truth struck me as the only possible way for me to maintain spiritual peace as I try to find my place within my church community. If I’m to maintain my integrity (and I think that’s what God desires from me), then being honest about my experience, struggles, joys, questions, and desires is the only way forward.
But telling the truth is dangerous.
It’s not always safe to tell the truth. People can get really reactive when they feel afraid or challenged.
If I tell the truth, I may be judged, misunderstood, and labeled. Intense feelings of tribal loyalty, emphasis on institutional authority, and a history of persecution of the church (both actual and imagined) could bring a strong backlash of fear, judgment, and defensiveness if I voice questions or express views that fall outside of the cultural norms. If I tell my truth, people who don’t know my heart might view me as incendiary, faithless, traitorous, or even “apostate” (to use the nuclear term in my church’s vernacular).
If I tell the truth, I may be rejected. Like in any tribe, if I express feelings and thoughts that are too different in the church, I could be isolated and pushed to the cold periphery of the circle. My honest differences could be viewed with pity or skepticism. Ultimately, if the church perceives my honesty as breaking the rules of the tribe, I risk not only punishment and marginalization, but also expulsion.
Even in writing this, I make myself vulnerable. But vulnerable or not, my heart knows this:
Not telling my truth is even more perilous.
If I tell the truth, I may be misunderstood, judged, marginalized, or outright rejected.
But if I don’t tell my truth at church, I risk suffocating and burying myself in a coffin of silence. You see, my desire isn’t just to attend church. I don’t want to go for show. I can’t force myself into a mold that doesn’t fit the contours of my own expanding soul. However correct or incorrect my views, I just can’t pretend that I always agree with things that just don’t fit for me about God and the church. I’m seeking something deeper. I want to belong.
Only as I express and treat my own truths with loving acceptance can I find a place of faith that feels like home. If I’m going to have a real chance at discovering a place of belonging and communion, I have to tell my truth at church.
Otherwise, I’ll never know whether I can truly belong there.
My joyful hopes
Although I can’t see into my future, I hope my choice isn’t between mutually exclusive options of either (1) telling the truth and being expelled from a community I love or (2) keeping silent, pretending, and faking it just to get along. My joyful, vulnerable hope is that telling my truth at church will be understood and received as an imperfect but sincere gift from my heart: an offering of vulnerability, an act of authenticity, and an extension of trust.
I imagine that I’ll face the decision of either telling the truth or hiding many more times in the future (don’t we all face that decision every day?). I don’t know through what terrain my path will lead. Sometimes I’m afraid, and sometimes I’m hopeful. But I will surely find my heart’s home, and I know that these principles will guide me there:
Tell my truth.
Go toward joy.
P.S. If you know someone who can resonate with this message, please share it with them by clicking on the social medial buttons below! Also, I’m always interested in hearing your comments. Just tell your truth :)