When my grandparents were in their last four years as active Salvation Army officers before retirement, they served as the Social Services chaplains for the Western Michigan/Northern Indiana Division. This particular appointment gave them a variety of ministries to take part in, including a women's and children's shelter, a living center for teen mothers, and my personal favorite, the Grand Rapids Turning Point.
The Salvation Army Turning Point programs are designed for those coming off of various forms of chemical dependency. Even as a ten-year-old kid, I loved going to the chapel services my grandparents led there. The people had such an authenticity to their worship of Jesus as their savior. I didn't understand it at the time, but I have come to realize that the realness of their worship came from the reality of their vulnerability.
Turning Point and other programs like them have the unique characteristic of causing people to expose their problems and shortcomings. You don't go there unless you have something that needs fixed. The masks and defenses that keep people in the bondage of addictions and sin have to come off, or else the program is ineffective because the real issues can't be addressed. It is a great desire of mine that the Church could have that same effect on people.
One thing my grandma often said to build the comfort level of the men and women at Turning Point was, "We are all recovering from something." In other words, you're imperfect? So am I! Wow, we have so much in common! Let's work on that together, shall we?
The Apostle James even shared that removing those masks and barriers to each other was vital to healing from sin, bondage, and spiritual illness:
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." - James 5:16a (New International Version)
Unfortunately, there are many factors in this world (and the Church is sadly no exception) that keep people from doing just that. It's hard to open up to anyone when you know how prevalent gossip is in our culture. It's hard to open up to someone with a "Holier than thou" complex, as revealing sins and faults to them would only feed into that complex. It's even hard to open up to a pastor because, well, we're so close to God that we wouldn't know what it's like to have shortcomings, right? (If any pastor ever actually says that or intentionally tries to make you feel that way, they're lying, and I highly recommend going to a different pastor. Most pastors that I know of come from some of the lowest points in life, which fuels their passions for wanting to help others find freedom through Christ.)
Honestly, though, I think the hardest one to open up to is God Himself. It's hard because God doesn't allow for those masks, either. He already knows everything about us, including the junk that we try to hide. For many of us, that's quite scary. However, He also doesn't want us to use His omniscience as a cop-out to not confess our sins and shortcomings to Him - not because He needs us to tell Him what's going on (He already knows), but because we desperately need to be able to open up and let Him in so He can work in and through us, destroying the sins and shortcomings to make us more than we can ever think or imagine. This is a hard process, and having open, transparent support from others is vitally important, too.
I was sitting in on a recovery group recently, and during his presentation, the leader looked at me and said, "Sean, I don't know if you have a history..." but before he was able to finish, I cut in and said, "We all have a history." Yes, I am a sinner, too. Perhaps in personal conversations, I may share more, but dirty laundry isn't for the internet. I'm also a pastor, and if you'd like for me to be, I can be a friend. I can't take away your burdens or remove your sins, but here's what I do know.
"There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." - William Cowper, SASB #132
We are all recovering from something. So let's recover together.