Recently a funny little story about a sheep named Shrek passed across my Facebook feed. It occurred many years ago, so perhaps this is something you have heard before, but for me it was new.
According to the story a small sheep in New Zealand spent his life hiding from those who came to offer the annual shave. Each year as the farmers passed through for the annual shave Shrek would hide in a cave until all humans left. In doing so, he was able to remain undetected and avoid the shave. This avoidance method was effect, and over the course of 6 years Shrek never once experienced the feeling of the shears removing his wool.
After 6 years Shrek was discovered and the gig was up. When all was said and done, this small sheep, weighing in at roughly 20 pounds had a fleece coat weighing in at more than 60 pounds. Enough wool to make 20 large men’s suits.
When one looks at a picture of him it is hard to believe that the poor thing could even walk while carrying such a heavy burden. The load looks so great, and the beast beneath so small. His plight would be the equivalent of me carrying 600 pounds on my back, all day long, every day, for years.
His fear of those who shaved him was the thing that caused his greatest and heaviest burden.
A cute story about a funny looking sheep.
How often, though, does this story apply to more than just a silly farm animal?
Last month I released a blog post regarding a hidden portion of my past. Over the course of the many years I, like Shrek, had hidden from those who were meant to help me ease my burden. Of course, I understand that when I placed my faith in Christ, ALL of my sins were forgiven, but by holding back and refusing to talk I put myself in a position where my burden continued to grow, and in order to avoid my fear of sharing I committed other sins increasing the speed of growth of the weight on my back.
I felt like a man with 600 pounds on his back, every day.
I would like to say that like the sheep, when I made my post I was immediately shaved and my burden is gone. That would be a dream story. I still have much to work through. It is lighter though, and getting lighter by the day. The Lord is faithful, and I have been blessed by this process, though each step along the way has been petrifying.
One of the things that caught me off guard after my post was published, though, is that I am not alone.
So many are carrying around similar weights because of fear they have in opening themselves up to fellow Christians. Some carry weight because of past sins, such as abortions are adultery. Others carry weight because of struggles with things such as pornography or drinking. Others for deceit. The list goes on and on. Many do not have big sins to deal with, but still struggle with daily issues that they cannot talk about.
As people have shared with me, I have been shocked by the weight that we carry on our shoulders.
I now know that we as a church are not like the scenario where there are hundreds of closely shaved sheep, and one Shrek lurking in a cave with a heavy burden. Instead there are many, many who can barely move due to the weight.
It is no wonder that we as a church are losing our effectiveness. The weight many bear is simply too much to do anything else. It is not shocking that so many fall into sin, when they are afraid to open up and talk about the temptations they are facing.
How many divorces could be prevented by couples opening up about their problems in small group long before divorce is on the table? How much pornography could be avoided if people felt safe to open up about the temptation and falls? How many suicides could be stopped if we were able to open up to each other and share our burdens? If we as a church could not only share the weight, but also help each other to remove it perhaps the landscape around us would be quite different.
How much more effective would we be if so many were not walking around as Christian versions of Marge Simpson with a hundreds of pounds of hair on our heads?
Perhaps it is timer for the church to be authentic. To open up about fears and struggles with those trusted brothers and sisters in Christ around us. To stop worrying about reputations and instead focus on healing.
Yesterday morning my front yard looked great (well, at least ok) and from the outside my house looked well. My sewer main though had collapsed causing water to back up in the house. In order to fix the issue we had to rip up the bushes in the front yard, dig a massive hole, crush and kill half of my grass and completely change the way my house looks from the road. Someone without knowledge might think we were just destroying our home value.
In the process of what looked like destruction, though, a foundational problem was addressed. It might take years for our yard to recover and look well again, but when it does it will look well while sitting over a fixed issue. The external might not look as nice, but the internal is finally as it was meant to be.
If you have an underlying issue in your life, or past, perhaps it is time to dig up your front yard. It will be hard, and ugly, and painful, but only by doing so can you began to heal. Only by doing so can you work the way you were designed to work.
Let us not worry so much about the white washed exterior, and begin to deal with what lies within. Stop hiding in the cave and go meet the shears.
Proverbs 27:17 teaches, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of his friend”. It must be said that iron cannot sharpen by way of proximity. Two pieces of iron laying close together will remain dull regardless of how long they sit there. In order to sharpen they must come in contact with each other. They must rub up against each other. Too often we as Christians simply live life in proximity to one another, but because of our fear of authenticity we never allow ourselves to rub against another, and as such, we are not sharpened.
Perhaps of all of the possible solutions being talked about in regards to fixing the church in America, the one that we need most, is to simply be authentic.
What are your thoughts?