“The truth is: you’re bossy and annoying!” The taut frame of the young girl, rigid with frustration exploded with these words, then she turned heel and ran, her ponytail bouncing exclamation marks after her. Like the girl, our negative but true feelings underlie our bursts of accusation. “The truth is…” usually prefaces revealing feelings held guarded and hidden— feelings that are difficult, painful, and honest. Often the teller doesn’t fully realize she’s holding them until the relationship has hit a point of crisis, and the protective layers of self-deception, social protocol, and accepted behaviors have worn fragile. It is truth, for it is honest, real and unvarnished. This IS how she feels.
There’s an acronym I learned when my oldest was in kindergarten that teaches how to decide whether to share what one wants to say. THINK—Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind? This is a helpful socializing tool but it also illustrates the layers we build around our powerful hearts. We’ve socialized ourselves so much that we cannot recognize what lies at the center, what truth it is we are holding, until all those layers are peeled away. And so we find ourselves, shocked at our own truth, holding a throbbing desire, or a hot reaction, not knowing what to do with it except to throw it at another.
A mature adult is one who purposely works through those layers of socialization, personality, and belief to realize what power, what desire is energizing, what truth is lying at the center of her actions. Where is her motivation coming from? These layers exist to clothe our naked selves into something we believe to be more acceptable. They assist us in feeling safe and valued. But they are illusory and eventually ineffective.
(Spoiler Alert) In Spiderman: Far From Home, the antagonist uses impressive illusion based on his truth to exert it on others. He believes it sincerely, so much so that he uses all his resources to create masterful illusions, draws others to himself who will reinforce his truth, and employs his will to do anything (kill, destroy, deceive) to achieve it. Someone important hadn’t recognized and valued him earlier, a wound he bandages in angry resentment. From this flaming coal of pain raged the destructive plot to impose himself, his truth, as all-important. Spiderman has to overcome the deceptions by believing they are illusions and forcing himself into the middle of them. Only then can he see the props and dismantle them from the inside.
Unlike Spiderman, Jesus does not need to figure this out. He knows our personal deceptions, where exactly we have a crutch or a funny mirror. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the way to the heart of God, and the way into our own hearts. If we have received him, then he resides in our hearts, and he leads us to himself. He is the truth, unflinching before our feelings, and knowing how to lead us through them. We may be afraid of the powerful storms they stir in us, but he is not.
Jesus was untroubled by storms at sea, calming them with his word, and he can master the surges in us so that peace can reign powerfully in our hearts. This doesn’t mean he will make us void of deep feeling, or keep us free of conflict, but that he will navigate us through the truth of the feeling to its root and source—whether it be a heaven-born desire for justice, a deep wounding that needs his healing, or a strange concoction of unmet need tinctured with manipulative striving and holy hope.
We might say that Jesus is Lord, but our actions, fueled by our felt experiences will show whether this is true in the core of our being. James was getting at this when he wrote that faith without action is dead. (James 2:14-26) Accepting Jesus’ truth as one’s own is a long progression toward Truth at the core of ourselves, to increasingly realizing in particular ways how Jesus values you so that the illusions can be entered and dismantled. Just like Spiderman has to break through the deceptions to break them down from the inside, Jesus breaks through ours and shows us the inner workings so that his truth—that he loves you—can work inside of you.
This is scary! We believe our impressive illusions, they make us feel safe and powerful! It feels like Jesus is stripping away our security and our power, leaving us vulnerable and weak. But surprisingly, there lies our strength—in realizing the truth of just how valued we are, even in our powerless state, and that this freedom to accept ourselves as we are is the strength it takes to love others as they are.
What the antagonist in Spiderman: Far Away From Home needed to know was that it wasn’t the opinions of others that would give him his worth. These words from The Unhurried Living Podcast, by Alan and Gem Fadling, could have helped him much: “Who I am is not an object that can be defined by others, it is a gift given by God.” A gift defined and anchored by Christ in me. He knows us better than we know ourselves and will guide us to the truth of ourselves.
No one can face every truth about herself at once, and so it is a progression of courage and revelation, humility and faith with Jesus. But his gentleness precedes us, showing us only what he is equipping us to work through at this time. We may interpret this as a vote of no confidence, or that God is withholding things from us, keeping us in the dark, purposely leaving us to live in falsehood. But it is a sign of his mercy that he doesn’t allow the full awareness of the truth of our feelings and thoughts and selves to be encountered all at once. We would die. For the whole truth is too much for a person to bear in this earthly world. Only the hold of heaven can do that.
So, we have choices every day to enter the truth of our own souls and meet Truth there for that day in that situation, or not. You can refuse to do so and carry on shrouded in your layers of deception and protection, erupting with accusations like the young girl and allowing detailed false pictures of yourself to deceive others and achieve your desired truth. Or you can accept his invitation to walk with him into freedom to be who you are made to be, content with the gift of yourself and his presence within. The first step, and it’s a step repeated often, is to notice and name one’s feelings with Jesus. Be honest with him, be present to your felt reality and him. Be vulnerable with him as we were made to be.
Having been a burnt-out leader in the church, Kimberley Mulder discovered her pace with grace, and now writes to sustain your soul as you serve at www.KimberleyMulder.com. She loves to tend souls with a listening ear and a reflective heart, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Ministry at Portland Seminary with the goal of becoming a Spiritual Director. The outdoors is always calling her name, so when not tethered to a computer, you can find her exploring, gardening, and taking pictures anywhere outside of four walls (some of which make their way on to Instagram @writerkimberleymulder). Her husband and three kids journey with her, adding purpose, delight, and depth to her one and precious life.