A follow up to the last blog that I wrote, dated January 20th, 2016, and titled, "Things will never be the same." In that post I mentioned a talk that I was invited to give in Dallas, Texas on February 24th. It was at Park Cities Baptist Church during a luncheon for about 100 people made up of mostly baby boomers and seniors.
I was a bit nervous to say the least. Not only because this was the first big talk that I was giving since my book was published back in October of last year, but also because I was one of the younger people in the room. I was surrounded by people who were mostly older than me and much wiser than I felt at that moment. One of the participants who I met was 94 years old. I was thinking to myself, "what am I going to be able to say to these people that they haven't already heard before."
To my surprise, shock, amazement, and any other adjective that describes being completely blown away, this turned out to be one of the most awe inspiring and fulfilling moments of my life. For 40 minutes or so I was able to open up and share my life, and the story of my transformation, with a group of complete strangers.
As I was speaking and looking around the room, I could not help but see so many people wiping away their tears. I could see them nodding their heads as if to say, "I hear you. I've been there. I understand that." I felt a bond and a connection that I had never felt before. As I told my wife, Janet, on our flight home that night, I felt moved by the Holy Spirit. It was as though I had opened up a big window into my soul and allowed them to take a look inside. I WAS BEING TRANSPARENT.
I had the opportunity to meet a lot of the people who attended the luncheon after my talk. Many of them shared similar stories of some of the pains, the hurts, the sorrows, and the dysfunctions that occurred at one time or another in their own lives. They all had different stories to tell, but each and every one of them said the same thing to me, "thank you for your transparency."
Being transparent is not an easy thing to do, and by no means is it always completely necessary. Our lives do not need to be open books. Some things are meant not to be shared. But for the important things, the things that we keep inside of us that are real, that are serious, and that are authentic, more often than not these things need to be shared.
Sometimes it means being able to share with a good friend, or a close relative, or probably most importantly (for me anyway), with a spouse. Other times it can mean talking to a counselor or someone who is trained to listen to what it is that we have to say. And then sometimes it can mean, as thankfully it did for me, that we open up to a room full of complete strangers.
I have found that being transparent builds trust. It lets people know that you can be vulnerable. It lets them know that they are not the only ones with issues, or concerns, or problems. That we might all have a lot more in common than we would like to actually think.
My tendency for the better part of my life was not to be transparent. I had built up so many walls and barriers around me that it became almost impossible for anything or anyone to get through. I kept so much stuff inside and bottled up that when it did finally come out of me it was usually not a pretty or pleasant experience.
It's like having a festering wound that never gets treated and continues to spread. The longer you let it go the worse it becomes. There are only a few ways to treat a wound that has gone on for so long and has become extremely infected. You can cut the part of the body off that is sick, or you can administer heavy doses of antibiotics and hope that they will kill the infection.
The problem is, with wounds that are not physical in nature but are emotional, there is nothing to cut off or to treat with antibiotics. One of the only ways to excise these emotional wounds is to acknowledge them and to talk about them. To start to become a little more transparent. I say this not as a psychologist or any type of expert in this field, but only from my own experience over the last eight years or so.
After accepting Christ into my life back on January 12, 2008, my walls did start to come down. The festering that had been going on inside of me for so long did start to break apart. I did not have to cut anything off or take massive doses of antibiotics, but I did need to become more transparent. Transparency was something that God allowed to happen in my life. It was Him who started opening up the doors and creating the opportunities for me to share my story.
None of what has happened to me over the last few years has been by accident or was some kind of coincidence. I didn't receive a phone call over a year ago from a book publisher by shear luck. I wasn't asked by Dr. Nat Burns with Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas to come and talk to his group by mere chance. It wasn't a coincidence that on the same day this past weekend, at different times but within a 60 minute span, that a Doctor of Psychology, a Pastor, and a college senior, all approached me and wanted to talk about my story for different reasons.
None of this stuff just happens. It does happen, however, because God took an individual who for the better part of his life (time wise, not quality of life wise) learned to keep everything bottled up inside of him and out of sight of everyone else. God took this individual and said, "John, it's time to be a little more transparent." It was time to share my story and God was the only one who could, and who can, open up the avenues and pathways in order to make that happen. He has changed my life in ways that I never would have thought were possible. He has not only allowed me, but He has constantly shown me, the importance of opening up my life to others. To share my story so that others may feel freer to share theirs. To be transparent.
The ShoeShine Guy