Rising Leader Series: Week 12 - Truth Telling
Updated: Mar 30
FIRST LOVE, THEN TRUTH
The tax collect cheat, Zacchaeus the short,
Caught sight of visitor, crowd forming ‘round.
Up tree he scampered to see, hear, report;
then something observed seized... struck him spellbound.
Jesus (the visitor) called as He passed:
“Zacchaeus, come here! Together let’s dine.”
In scrambling down to prep the repast,
Corrupt civil servant met Love Divine.
They met by the tree, then met eye to eye,
then met at the knock of his soul’s closed door.
“I’m a cheat!” he blurted. “I stole!” he cried.
“To each defrauded I’ll return– times four!”
Praise the change that befalls when, gripped in sin,
Final we stoop to let Christ’s love-truth in.
At eight years old, on the morning of my mother’s suicide, after my father had sat me down on the couch to shatter my world, while our church minister and a couple of police officers shuffled around talking to Dad in our living room, I gathered my six-year old sister and four-year old brother together. I found my little Bible, not much larger than a wallet, and opened it up, and just started to read. We were all crying. It was one of my last acts of unquestioned faith for fifteen years.
I grew up. I carried around a dark shadow of anger and guilt. Could I have been a better child? Would that have made a difference? Three years after Mom’s death, Dad remarried. I became part of a Brady Bunch family, three joining three: a new Mom; a sister nine days older than me; two brothers two months apart; two Debbie’s in the family. Wounded soldiers we were. Against all odds we emerged into a genuinely loving family– and are still one to this day.
As I headed off into adulthood, I was nonetheless weighed down by a lot of unresolved baggage. Mom’s years of rising mental illness and eventual death continued to carom across time like a tumbling boulder, slamming and slamming into the tender parts of my soul. As a preteen, teenager and young adult, I acted out. I was selfish, and in that selfishness hurt others. I didn’t let anyone get close to my heart. I chased experiences. I severed any connection with God.
And then in darkness, driving back home one evening through a torrential rainstorm to a post-college townhouse shared with friends outside of Miami, a feeling of great dread descended upon me. As I pulled into the parking lot and climbed out of my car, I was struck by a bolt of lightning. Literally. I came to, lying in a puddle of water, heart beating faster than a drumroll. The shock to my system scared me. Something dislodged. I realized I was lost. I realized I was in mourning– not just for my lost mother, but also for my lost God. This event was a truth moment– the starting point for a long, winding, multi-year journey back to Jesus.
Jesus comes to us first in love, but then in truth. We all have sinned. Obsessions and compulsions can all too easily take control of the steering wheel. As I said in my first letter to you, all people and things are connected in love. We sin when we violate those connections in one way or another. This puts us into a soul-tangle, like a fly caught in a spiderweb, there to remain until we come to terms with what we have done. When at long last we turn to Him, Jesus brings truth to us– or perhaps better said, He brings us to the truth. He reaches out and takes our hand, offers a reassuring smile, and leads us into the dark shadows of our souls– there to confront that hidden truth. Only once we confront our sins can we descend into the humility of sorrow so necessary for healing. We fall to our knees, we suffer through tears of shame and regret, and then we look up. There before us stands Jesus, the One who was always there and who always will be, eyes shimmering with love.
Life with Jesus is a journey back to our original goodness. He teaches, footstep by footstep. He calls us from depth to depth– first to confront our big sin boulders, but then to detect and address the less obvious rocks and pebbles– the patterns of self-centeredness, prejudice and pride that lurk in our souls. He teaches us not to fear the truth, but rather to acknowledge it– while still loving ourselves. It’s humbling to face our transgressions. Humility is good, insofar as it is paired with self-love. We get there when we remember that Jesus loves us with a passion beyond understanding, just as we are. He went to the cross to prove it. Knowing we are loved that much by Jesus helps us love ourselves. And so Jesus carries us forward, from love through truth to grace.
Rising leader, you are called to live in authenticity and truth. Your followers deserve no less. It takes courage to see things as they really are. Lao Tzu once said, “Truth lies waiting for eyes unclouded by longing.” In your daily time with Jesus, you chip away at the longings and self-made walls that separate you from truth. Jesus puts you in touch with yourself first, and then with others. The more in touch you are with yourself– with your tendencies towards sin, with the tender spots in your soul, with your attitudes and even biases– the more capable you are of self-regulating, apologizing, forgiving and course-correcting.
Next week, we will ponder the awesome gift of Jesus’ grace.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” --Mark 8:34
Yours in servant leadership,
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