I’m a hot mess.

Seriously, I don’t know how I manage to appear like a grown-up most days.

The key word in the last sentence was “appear.” Because, honestly, that’s all most of us are doing. We are making an appearance to the general population of what we want them to think we are. Especially on social media, but that’s another post for another day.

it’s all just hair and makeup

Since the day of my salvation, I have had a heart for teens. The worst decisions I’ve ever made were in my teen years. I was an even “hotter” mess back then. Immoral, irreverent, stubborn, rebellious, and rude are only a few of the many words you could use to describe me during my teen years.

A few years ago, while working with an amazing group of teens in my church youth group, I posed the following question to them after some Bible discussion.

I asked, “Do you guys think I have it all together?”

To my shock and horror, they all replied “yes, of course.”

I was stunned.

I spent the remainder of our small group time together explaining to them that I had absolutely nothing “all together” – and neither does anyone else. And I profusely apologized to them for making them think I do. I told them that “it’s all just hair and makeup,” which is my way of saying “it’s all a show.”

“church face”

As Christians, we do each other a disservice by putting on our “church face” and pretending we have no problems. Church communities are supposed to be a place to find healing and hope, yet those who need the healing and hope the most [read EVERYONE] think no one could possibly relate to them because no one else has any problems. This is so far from the truth it would be laughable if it weren’t such a critical problem.

That day in the small group with the teens, I found out that every one of them was looking for someone to reach out to about all sorts of different matters. But they all felt there was no place to go because no one would understand. (Adults aren’t so different, by the way – we think the exact same thing) They felt this way because of the image we all portrayed at church.

the effect of being real

Several months later, at a special testimony service we had at our church, one of those teens shared that they had been feeling so useless and un-valued that they had been cutting themselves on a daily basis. This teen shared that they had tried to commit suicide and been looking for answers for months and that our conversation that day in the small group had been a turning point. They realized then that we all have issues and that we need to bear each others’ burdens.

I had no idea what an impact I had made just being open and real with a small group of teens. God used that time to get this young person’s attention and show them that He loves them.

a challenge to be a burden-bearer

My point is not to pat myself on the back with this article. Rather, I want to implore every Christian reading this to ditch the “church face” mask and start being open and honest with each other. We need more knees on altars and tears on faces. We need more brothers and sisters staying just a few minutes longer after a church service to cry out to God on each other’s behalf and on behalf of our congregations and our nation. We must start noticing when someone says they’re “fine” that they’re really not and love them enough to say “are you really fine? Because I’d love to pray with you right now if you’re not.”

There are seriously broken, incredibly hurting people walking around in our churches with a smile on their face and perfect hair and makeup. We have got to start begging the Lord for the discernment to know the difference.

restoration starts with me

And those that are broken need to feel safe enough to walk down to the altar without fear of judgment from the rest of the congregation. Your brothers and sisters need to know that, even if there isn’t one other person within the church walls that they can trust with their heart, they can trust you. If you are discouraged by the lack of movement during response time in your church, let it start with you. Be the first one to not care what anyone else thinks of your unashamed, blatant disregard for other’s opinions of your openness before your Lord.

You see, I must remind myself periodically [read EVERY SINGLE DAY] that if things aren’t the way they should be in the church, that I am part of the whole. Restoration starts with me, not with my sibling in the family of God. Please, please, Father, let it start with me.

A special message to teens: I wish you were sitting beside me so I could see the beautiful face God gave you!! If you feel like the teenager I mentioned in this post, please know that you’re NOT ALONE. It is perfectly normal as a teen to think that no one understands you. But – and hear me loud and clear on this – that is a lie from the very pit of hell. If you are cutting yourself or entertaining thoughts of suicide, I am begging you to stop. Go to a trusted adult that knows the Lord and ask for help. You are valued. You are not a mistake. And God doesn’t make junk. The very God of the entire universe created you just the way you are and He loves you more than I could ever describe in mere words. 

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