We all have role models in many areas of our life. For example my husband has a major man-crush on Chef Bobby Flay. He loves Bobby Flay and believes he himself should be in an outdoor kitchen cooking fifty dollar steaks on a grill bigger than our queen size bed. Bobby Flay is a definite foodie role model for him. As for me, I just shut up and count myself lucky to have a husband who drools over high end kitchen appliances and dreams of being a master of southwestern inspired cooking and all things grill related.
Our role models are generally rock stars, both literally and figuratively speaking, and hopefully we all have role models that are not just on the celebrity scene but that we know in everyday life. And if you are a Christian you likely have rock stars of the faith. These people seem to ooze with spiritual discipline and are rarely seen in church without their hands raised in worship. They are full of encouraging words and when these people say that they will pray for you, you know they actually do it. Also, at least 72% of their tweets and facebook updates are probably scripture verses. Serious spiritual rock stars.
Now I am taking this to the extreme, I sincerely hope that the people you look up to as role models in your spiritual walk are salt of the earth friends who are real with you. Who you can share a cup of coffee with, and if you stub your toe in front of them and release the inevitable eruption of choice and inappropriate words, they have no judgment. God is gracious, and toes are very tender.
However, one thing that I have learned recently about role models is that we as Christians tend to believe that we need to be in really healthy, marathon runner shape faith-wise to be the type of teachers and role models the church needs. This is a huge error on our part, the people of God need role models and references for all seasons, not just the shimmery summery ones.
I will throw myself in the mix, I have been climbing mountains lately. Most days have seemed like an uphill battle, and going to work and church where I am called to be a leader of students and peers has seemed like a joke to me. I kept my head low at church, and often tried very hard not to make eye contact with anyone. I didn’t want to set off the “not okay” alarm, even though when people asked me how I was I tried to answer with honestly or at least a vague answer like “eh” or “I’m alright.” I thought that I was in no shape to lead or model to anyone. I was a puddle on the floor, deeply hurt and searching for my bearings in the storm.
It took me a few months to realize something. There is a stigma among some that deep hurts should heal quickly. I’ve learned a lot of people feel truly uncomfortable with long term grieving because they haven’t been there and they want to believe that no matter what happens you can get over it in a few weeks. Lately, however, God has been teaching me that his people need to be modeling real life, yes even the messy parts. If the only role models we see are the ones who are in sunny stages of life, we leave people to navigate the stormy seasons from scratch, without the example of those who have gone before. God can use everything right? So this only leaves me to believe that he can and wants to use my current life stage to help other people too.
God wants to use pain as it is happening, not only after it has healed completely. The people who are watching you need to you to model what it looks like to cling to God like a life preserver. To not answer the “how are you?” question with “good” if that’s not where you are.You aren’t letting him use every season of your life if you hide away and pretend. I am not encouraging you to live in despair and depression forever when something hard happens in your life. But when tough seasons come, and you are still living for God when you are beat down, healing and trying to find your feet, it’s okay. We need to have people that are real with the fact that some things in life take a year or more to recover from. Psychologists will tell you that healthy grief takes a good solid year or more.
So next time you see someone at church who buried a parent, or a spouse and still cries in worship 7 months out, know that they are modeling what it looks like to truly be faithful and strong. They are crying, but they are there, they aren’t walking away or backing down from a fight. People who are honest about the hard parts of life shouldn’t make us squirm so much, but should give us hope that when we go through that, even though it will take a while, we can keep walking, keep singing, and keep showing up. God needs puddles and rock stars to round out his teaching roster.