I rarely dream, I must say, but every now and then a dream comes along at night. That can be a beautiful dream, but sometimes it is a nightmare. Such a bad dream with recurring themes that you sometimes hear from others. For example, you are in danger of drowning or you are being chased. Another common theme with nightmares is that I am standing on a large stage in front of a room full of people. People are giggling and laughing because it turns out I’m standing there in my underwear.
This is what the moment felt like when I climbed the stage of the Stadskerk in Leeuwarden together with Annemarije last Sunday (February 17). Richard, the pastor in this congregation, had asked me if I wanted to give a sermon together with Annemarije on the theme ‘How are you doing?’. The intention was that we would talk about the past years, in which Annemarije suffered from a major burnout.
To be honest, my first thought was to make it a beautiful and safe story. Say that it was a tough time, but above all mention the good things. Of course, as a speaker I have a reputation to uphold. By airing my dirty laundry, I run the risk that people will think differently about me and I lose the authority that I should have as a speaker.
Honest and raw
It was Annemarije who said she wanted to tell the honest story. The honest story is raw, sad and embarrassing. It is about despair, arguments, the children who suffer from this and I feel hypocritical when I stand on stage preaching after an argument. Why should I want to stand in my shirt like that on a stage?
The letter to the Galatians (5:13) states that I am called to be free! With the addition that I should not use that freedom for my own desires. I may use the freedom to serve in love. From the Kingdom of which I am a part, I am asked to take a different path than I normally would. In this case, I tend to make myself appear better than I am. The Bible not only teaches me not to listen to that tendency. The point is that I learn to make an opposite movement. Doing the opposite of what I would want from my desire, in order to become free from my pride and hypocrisy.
“A special service this morning, huh?” So began a short conversation in the toilet room after the service. “Yes,” the older lady replied. “We don’t live here. We are in Leeuwarden for a few days to visit family. But when we get home I will definitely tell this in our church. We are not used to this, but how beautiful, precious and valuable this is.” Just a reaction to the service. Many couples come to Annemarije and me for prayer and some with tears in their eyes, because they are happy that a story is being told that they recognize themselves in. There was even a response from a woman in the congregation who said, “Marriages were saved this morning.”
Truth and vulnerability are not always comfortable, but it is never a weakness. It turned out to be a great power that Sunday morning and even to build up the Kingdom. What I am very ashamed of, God can use for his name.
The sermon of that Sunday, February 17, can be listened to here