“Help me to see the messes I don’t see anymore.”
That’s what Kristen will say to me when she’s preparing our home to entertain guests. We have four young kids who live full lives on top of our own full lives. Consequently, our house is not always ready for unexpected houseguests. Instead, when we know people are coming over, Kristen cleans. (I would like to say that I help, but I’m not sure that picking up the shoes I’ve left out all over the house really counts.)
Eventually, when she’s done, she’ll come to me and say it: “Help me to see the messes I don’t see anymore.” It is an understandable question. Kristen spends more hours per day in our home than anywhere else. Our walls, cupboards, counters, and tables are beyond familiar to her. Consequently, she has become blind to some of our messes. Not big messes. But there might be a small stack of papers on a desk that she is so accustomed to seeing that she simply doesn’t see it anymore. There might be a certain object that is so frequently out-of-place that out-of-place has become its place and she no longer even notices it. If you get used to a mess – especially a small mess – you stop seeing that mess.
So, wisely, Kristen asks for help. She turns to someone who isn’t blind to the same things she is blind to and she says, help me to see.
For Christians, this is why we need a community of faith. Christianity was never meant to be an isolated experience. The Lord never intended it to be a Lone Ranger kind of endeavor. Yet many Christians follow Jesus in subtle-but-entrenched isolation. Perhaps they gather with God’s people for worship each week. Perhaps they have a few Christian friends here or there. But no one knows them, really, fully. No one has permission to enter into and speak into their lives.
We need people who know us, fully. We need people who can see us for who we really are. We need people who love us enough to tell us the truth, people who won’t let us hide in the shadows.
Such isolationism presents a host of problems for the believer. Here, I’ll address only one: No one is able to help you see the messes you can’t see.
We all have blind spots. There are sinful patterns, tendencies, and habits in all of our lives. Things we often think. Stuff we often say. Decisions we often make. Sin pervades everything, yes, but it loves to hide in the dark, unseen corners of our hearts. We might be aware of some of our sinful tendencies or weaknesses to temptation. But we are all blind to far more than we actually see. We all have blind spots.
How can we repent of these sinful habits and patterns? How can we grow in godliness and pursue holiness? To begin with, we need the gospel. We need the freedom that grows in us when we know we can stop pretending to be something we aren’t. We need to believe that, because of Christ’s work for us, it is far better to stand in the light of truth than in the shadows of secrecy (where sin can fester and grow, unnoticed and unseen).
Beyond the gospel, we also need community formed by the gospel. We need gospel-loving people who know us, fully. We need gospel-loving people who can see us for who we really are. We need gospel-loving people who love us enough to tell us the truth, people who won’t let us hide in the shadows. “James, there’s a mess right here. I don’t think you can see it. How can we pray about that together?”
The combination of gospel truth and gospel community can deal a powerful blow to the sin in our hearts. Like cockroaches scattering when the light is flicked on, what would otherwise be hidden from view can be exposed and extinguished through these means of God’s grace. The messes we don’t see anymore are often seen by others. In love, because of Christ, they can call us to faith and repentance and urge us to walk in the light.
Who knows you? Really? Fully? Who can see the messes in your life no one else can see? Who has permission to speak gospel truth to those messes?
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)