I’m proud to be a Southerner. I use words like y’all and fixin’ on a regular basis. Sweet tea is my beverage of choice. There’s nothing like sitting on a wraparound porch in a swing, and one of my favorite sights in all the world is a field of cotton before it’s picked. I am a Southern woman and I’m thankful I’ve had the privilege to always live in the Carolinas. Yet like any culture, the South has its share of problems, and one of those problems comes in the form of church.
For those of you who live in other parts of the world, the southern part of the United States is often referred to as the Bible Belt. What this means is the Christian church plays a much stronger role in our society than other parts of the United States. It’s not hard to find a church down here because they’re literally all over the place. Even if one doesn’t regularly attend church, more people are familiar with the Bible and it’s teaching than is common in the rest of the world. Many people claim to be a Christian and go to church on Sundays because it’s what everyone else does, even if they don’t realize what being a Christian truly means. Now don’t get me wrong; the more the world changes, the more the South moves away from Christ and His teachings. Still, for those like me who grew up regularly attending church, we know that when we get to church no matter how our day is going, we put on a happy face because it’s what’s expected.
Because of this, pastors now remind the congregation that instead of presenting a good front, people need to be open and honest before God. Rather than pretend everything is okay, we need to come to God as we are and admit when we’re struggling with something. Yet I still remember being a little girl, arguing with my sister on the way to church and being aggravated with my parents, but as soon as we opened the car door in the church parking lot, everything was wonderful. And that little girl in me still sometimes struggles with admitting I need God’s help in changing an area of my life. The Southerner in me wants to put on a happy face and pretend like everything is alright.
So, I struggle with worrying about what the future holds. What’s the big deal? It’s not like that’s a big sin, like murder or rape. Compared to others, I’m good. Right, God?
In Mark 9, we find one of the more quoted verses of Jesus’ ministry in verse 24 when the father of a demon-possessed son cried out to Jesus, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” If you go back and read this passage, you’ll see that this came after Jesus asked the disciples why they couldn’t heal the boy. The disciples had seen Jesus do the miraculous numerous times, and they still struggled with faith. Yet rather than admit they needed Jesus’ help, it was the boy’s father who was honest. And that’s when we see Jesus step in and do the impossible.
Whether or not you grew up in the South, many of us struggle with admitting we need God’s help to change. We like where we are in life; it’s comfortable. We know what to expect. Who cares if we struggle with an area of our relationship with God? In the grand scheme of things, it can’t be that important. Yet we forget that anything which interferes in our relationship with God is a sin.
God doesn’t need or want us to be perfect. We don’t have to have everything figured out before we go to God. As Timothy Keller said, “Helplessness, not holiness is the first step to accessing God.”[i]
Is there an area you’ve been trying to ignore because you know it’s not honoring to God? Let’s get real before God today and stop pretending everything is okay. He’s already aware of the problem. He’s simply waiting for you to cry out to Him.
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” ~ Hebrews 4:16