What were the taboo subjects in the family you grew up in? For some of us, anything controversial was off the table. Politics, religion, sexuality, family secrets.
For some of us, the family motto was “Anything Goes.” Nothing was off limits. Passionate debates characterized dinner table talk. Mom and Dad shared stuff that might fall into the TMI category (too much information).
Whether your personality bent is to get it all out in the open or to move right past the tough stuff, we all have stuff that’s hard to talk about. But we’ve got to get past discomfort and start talking.
Just a few weeks ago, I sat down to tables filled with conversation from women leaders in the DFW area. We listened to a panel discussion of women talking about racial unity in the church. Then we shared conversations around the table with women from a variety of backgrounds, all on the topic of race.
It was a great opportunity to see old friends and to make new friends. It was a great opportunity for conversation about race, discrimination, unity in Christ, how to heal wounds and open dialogue, which all served to further God’s kingdom.
I’ll be honest. Talking about those hard-to-talk-about subjects doesn’t come easy to me. I’ve often operated by the southern idioms, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and the more prevalent, “Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open’s one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
I also hold fast to Proverbs 10:19, “When words abound, transgression is inevitable, but the one who restrains his words is wise.”
Yet there comes a time when it’s necessary to have those hard conversations. To talk about sin. To name it what it is. Ephesians 5:6-14 describes the honesty and openness that are to characterize the life of the Christ-follower:
Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them, for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light – for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. But all things being exposed by the light are made evident. For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says:
“Awake, O sleeper!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you!”
Whether we’re speaking up about abortion, abuse, discrimination, race, gender, sexual sin, human rights, trafficking, poverty, mental illness, suicide– whatever opportunity or platform God has provided, use it to speak truth in love for His glory.
I’ve seen so many positive examples of this over the summer months. Our church’s sermons have been about hot topics. The Association for Women in Ministry Professions hosted an event on racial unity. There’s a time to be silent, a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Lately, it’s been time to speak.
The family of God, the Body of Christ needs to be a place where we talk about the hard stuff. Where we acknowledge, confess, and repent of sin. We must walk alongside one another, speaking the truth in love. We need to talk about the painful things. To heal. To grow.
It will require vulnerability. It will require courage. Like the environment I yearn for and strive to create in our home, the church should be a safe place for God’s people to land.
I don’t know how far along in the process we are, but I do think we’re closer to God’s ideal than we used to be.
God has provided me many safe relationships that encourage compassion, community & connection. It’s not always easy to share hard things, but slowly, the walls are starting to come down.
I hope that alongside me, you’ll pray and take steps toward honest conversation. If we can’t talk about it within the family of God, where else are we supposed to go?