by Alli Patterson
I caught a glimpse of myself as I passed the dining room mirror and paused. I had been avoiding eye contact with the person staring back at me. I finally looked her in the face and said “You are a liar, a terrible friend, a dishonest employee, and the worst kind of wife.” As I spoke those words out loud, something broke wide open between me and God.
The brutal truth was the affair I’d had took away any right I had to call myself a ‘‘good person.” No more pretending. When I told the truth about who I’d become, the relief shocked me. It seemed like those awful words came with power. For the first time in months, I could see something new might be possible. I asked God to remake me into a woman of integrity, and felt sure as I did, that one day I wouldn’t even recognize the woman I was staring at.
I stumbled into the power to have an interaction with God that left me changed. It was all about honesty. Brutal honesty before God taps into his power to go to work in your life. Honesty is the beginning of every new chapter with a positive trajectory—no matter how low down you are at the beginning of it. The stories of people changed by Jesus in the Bible show the same. Through them I developed four questions that might become your new chapter if you set aside polite honesty and try full-on ‘wow-that’s-a-lot’ kind of honesty with God instead.
This was the question I unwittingly answered in the mirror. Confession can be brutal. It strips away pride and puts you on your knees before God. Jesus told a story about the connection between confession and a changed relationship with God in Luke 18. There was a “good person” and a “bad person” who came before God and the one who asked for mercy as a sinner is the one who walked away with a fresh start with God. The “good guy” held onto his dignity—but no promise of anything else. If you wince hearing your words come out, know you’re already moving towards something better.
If you answer this, don’t do it with words you think nice people would say. Tell Jesus clearly and courageously what you actually want. Maybe it’ll crumble under the scrutiny of having to say it out loud. I’ve done that and realized how self-serving or deceitful some of my cravings were. But an honest answer to this question also has the power to breathe life into the very desires He planted inside you Himself! He’s asking you the question he asked many others in his lifetime (see two in Matthew 20): “What do you want me to do for you?” Be honest: tell him what you crave.
Sometimes God works in ways we don’t understand and your honesty will be what prevents a wedge of bitterness developing between you and Him. Ask God all your ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions! Jesus is capable of answering them like He did for a guy named Nicodemus one night. Nico was so confused when Jesus said he had to be “born again.” So he asked “how?” and Jesus explained and it started a bigger conversation that led him closer to God. Jesus met him in his confusion and invited him into deeper knowledge of God. Jesus will lead you closer too—if you get honest about your confusion.
Is there something you feel crazy for even wondering about God? Think maybe your dream actually meant something? Want to know if he’ll heal you? The curiosities that lurk in the back of your mind may be bread crumbs tossed out by the Spirit of God to pique you into an encounter with Him beyond what you were taught is possible.
I lost my car key somewhere in 1,000 acres of woods on a trail ride. I was curious… Could God help find my key? Would he? I was just curious enough to find out what would happen if I asked. Peter must have felt that way when he stepped out of the boat onto the waves (Matthew 14)....what if there’s something beyond all your preconceived notions of God? If you’re honest and ask, you might just hear someone yell out: “Did someone lose a car key?!”
Honesty has the power to break open something new between you and Jesus, but halfway isn’t good enough. Ultimately it’s about bringing your whole heart to Him – which is what he really wants. When you do, you’re much closer than you think to experiencing more of God because honesty is the beginning of everything real.
Alli Patterson is the author of How to Stay Standing: 3 Essential Practices for Building a Faith That Lasts. She holds a master's degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a teaching pastor at Crossroads Church. She lives with her husband, Bill, their four children, and one very bratty cat. Alli is a fan of Mexican food, Ohio State football, geeky Bible maps and timelines, pedicures, long runs, and good books.