If you are alone in this world you begin to realize how limited life is without friends. We were created to be in relationship with others; with God, with family, with friends and with neighbours. Man was not created to be alone. In Ecclesiastes we find this counsel:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone? (4:9-11)
If you have spent any time alone or have been forced to do difficult things alone or even faced a crisis alone, you know the poor state a person is in without friends and companions. The greatest feeling in the world is to be surrounded by the encouragement of friends in times of difficulty. However, friendship is not as natural as one would hope. It requires work and certain elements.
We already know that without love there is nothing. Good strong friendships develop to this point of being bound in love. If we do not give to each other in this way, if we do not sacrifice time, energy, even emotions, then we will not get any further than just as people who know each other. Out of the bond of love comes all kinds of other characteristics of friendship, such as loyalty, trust, forgiveness, longevity, joy. You know you have a good friend when you look forward to being with them. You also know you have a good friend when they stick with you in the worse possible moments of your life, moments you have created by your own actions. One of the most important things that come out of love is forgiveness and sometimes a friend has to forgive you for being you. Yet there is another key characteristic; honesty.
Honesty is important in relationships that we want to last a lifetime. To be friends we need to know one another; we need to care enough to know one another. It is not a matter of sitting down and writing your life history but more a willingness to be honest as topics come up, situations arise, things are revealed. It is not much of a friendship if it is built on lies and secrets because, sooner or later, the relationship will come crashing down. Our problem with honesty is that we fear our friend will not be able to accept who we are, what we like or don't like, what we have done, where we hope to go or become. Fear of the unknown often keeps us from having close friends because we are busy maintaining that wall of privacy. Honesty removes those barriers, making us vulnerable and visible.
Now if this is true for friendship, how much more important is it with the lover of our soul? We may think that we do not have to be openly honest with Jesus because he already knows our heart and our motivation, but there is some part of us that thinks we can fool God. We believe there is some secret room of our heart that we can hide things away, that God will never know and as long as we do that then there will always be a barrier between us and Jesus, not allowing for the intimacy we are to enjoy with him. We also lie to ourselves, convincing ourselves that the lie is the truth. We can be such a stupid people, not willing to be honest with ourself or with God. This is what I am reminded of when I read where the leaders questioned Jesus about his authority:
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
This is an important and legitimate question coming from the spiritual leaders of Israel. Jesus had caused a lot of trouble and disruption to their religious system. They needed to know where his authority to do this came from. The problem is that they were not willing to enter into an honest relationship here, not like Nicodemus in the dark of the night when he came with his questions. These leaders were not interested in truth. So Jesus turned the tables on them:
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?” (Matthew 21:24-25)
They wanted Jesus to make himself vulnerable to them and any good relationship will require it from all the people involved. Jesus was asking them to make themselves vulnerable as well. By answering his question honestly they would show themselves open to the truth. But instead we see that they feared the truth, they feared vulnerability, they feared being honest even about their doubts:
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” (Matthew 21:25-26)
It doesn't even indicate what they thought only that they felt they were in an impossible situation because both responses revealed a vulnerability. They would be exposed and would actually have to deal with their opinion. They were not willing to be honest:
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
As a result, Jesus could not enter into an intimate relationship with them. He could not reveal to them what he had already revealed to his disciples. They could not know him or his heart because they were not willing to be known:
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
Being vulnerable with God should be an easy thing for us but often we want to think higher of ourselves than we should. We don't want to think of ourselves in a poor, wretched state, but unless we are willing to admit it to ourselves and Jesus we will not be able to accept our real need for him. We will be willing to go so far but not all the way. We will let him into certain rooms of our heart but we will not allow him to possess the whole thing. We do not want God to see our ugliness because we do not want to see it ourselves.
The thing about Jesus is that the ugliness is only revealed for a moment and then it is gone, replaced by the beauty he is creating. We have to be willing to bring it out of that locked closet so he can forgive us for it, cover it by his grace, and then create something beautiful from it. The psalmist describes it like this:
Weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
If we want real intimacy with Jesus, if we want to know his heart, if we want to experience his closeness every moment, if we want to grow in this relationship then we need to learn to be honest with ourselves and with him. We have to own and confess our condition so that he is able to reach out to us in friendship to cover these things by his grace. If we try to convince ourselves that it's not so bad then we will lose out and we will never have that intimacy with God. Do not allow fear to keep you from what is legitimately yours in Jesus Christ; open all of your heart to him. Trust Jesus.