My mother had several phrases she used often, colloquialisms that made her point but required me to think to decipher her meaning. “As clear as muddy water” was one she used when she wanted to let me know I wasn’t making sense. Sometimes, I was confused by these phrases. I am a plain-speaking kind of girl. I much prefer for someone to spell out to me what they want to tell me.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about transparency. It seems I have a knack for laying bare parts of me in a way that others find difficult to do themselves. I receive many comments about my writing and teaching appreciating my ability to expose what lies deep within me. Honesty is a big deal with me. Dishonesty inhibits every form of relationship known to God and man. I have been lied to by people I trusted and loved, and I do not like it. I feel violated and abused.
Dishonesty impedes my relationship with God. Yes, God knows all, knows the content of my heart and mind before I tell Him. His Spirit searches my heart and His own heart. (1 Corinthians 2:10) It is a tremendous blessing that His Spirit can know and interpret what lies deep within me before I am able to decode it myself. But God wants me laid bare before Him, of my own volition with no pretense, no mask.
God gave me the gift of sharing my heart. When I was very young, though, I learned, painfully, to be careful to whom I exposed it. The scars run deep. The freedom to share my heart completely, safely, is what I miss most about marriage–someone to share my heart with, who I know will cherish it and treat it lovingly. The trust between a man and a woman committed to one another in love and in Christ is the greatest gift any two people can share.
I am thankful for the ability to share my heart, to be transparent. It is a characteristic I share with God Himself and it is humbling. He shares so willingly, so consistently with us. Imagine God talking directly to Abraham when He stops him from sacrificing Isaac. God pours out His blessing on Abraham, straight from His heart, knowing the blessing will cost Him dearly in sacrificing His own Son. (Genesis 22:12-18) In the ten commandments, God does not mince words about who He is and what He requires of Israel to be in a relationship with Him. (Exodus 20:1-17) He spells out in great detail what He wants from His people–their hearts, their love, their devotion, their obedience.
And yet, I think I can fool God. I think if I give the appearance of devotion to God I am satisfying Him. I think if I pray with the right words I don’t need to be open with God. I think if I sacrifice anything in service to Him I don’t need to be concerned with what He really wants from me. I think if I fool myself it is okay to fool God, too. My dishonesty, my failure to be transparent with Him, my unwillingness to lay my heart bare to Him will destroy my relationship with Him. I hurt myself and injure the heart of our loving God.
When I withhold my true self from God, from anyone, I think I am protecting myself. I don’t like feeling vulnerable. I don’t like knowing anyone has the power to hurt me so deeply. Vulnerable, though, is the only way to relate to God. With His heart exposed is how He has related to man through the centuries, from His blessing of Abraham to His disciplining of a disobedient Israel to His righteous anger at the horrid abuse of His Son. God deals with man clearly, lovingly, honestly. His approach to me even now is the same.
Transparency with God is essential to my spiritual well-being. King Saul’s mistake was to pursue his own heart rather than God’s heart. (1 Samuel 13:13,14) The prophet Samuel warned the people and Saul, “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.” Saul was more concerned with pleasing the people and the resulting boost to his own ego than with honoring God with his whole heart. Saul blamed the people rather than admit his disobedience. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Samuel 15:22) because true obedience, obedience in heart and body, brings us unmasked and without pretense before God, because it demonstrates pure devotion to Him.
God chose David, son of Jesse, to replace Saul calling him “a man after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14) David would go on to commit egregious sin and suffer horrid consequences because of it. But David, unlike Saul, came clean with God when the prophet Nathan confronted him. (2 Samuel 12:13) He laid himself bare before God in humility and trust (Psalm 51), went on serve God as King of Israel in spite of great heartache.
Some people don’t appreciate transparency; oddly, they don’t trust it. They think it must not be real, that there is an ulterior motive. I live in a world full of jaded people. Such comrades make it more difficult for me to be clear and exposed in this life. The habits of self-preservation and skepticism are reinforced often in my daily life–if I bring them into my relationship with God, I lose touch with Him.
Struggling with transparency is part of the human condition. I am no exception. The more transparent I am with God, though, the easier vulnerability to anyone else becomes because I know I am secure with the One who matters most. Intimate, honest, and safe define the abundant life with God, not “clear as muddy water.”
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.