Transparency Part 1: The Risk & Reward Of An Honest Facebook Status Update

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“…never again do I want to see / my own children running after me / teardrops on my collar and sleeves / ‘daddy don’t go… daddy don’t go…’ / let some other guy take my place / let some other fool sing these songs…” – Pierce Pettis. Some days I feel this song…

I posted this as my facebook status recently. After 14 days on the road followed by four brief days at home, I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis preparing to leave again for another 12 days, and feeling the familiar ache of having to say goodbye to those I love most.

picture-4My family was with me and we had driven through the night from a concert in Northern Minnesota in order for me to get a few hours of sleep before catching my early morning flight to Orlando, FL. The alarm rang at 5:45 AM after three hours of sleep, and then something remarkable happened.

The alarm went off, quietly, and Taya whispered, “Jayce, you gotta get up. . .I’m turning off the alarm.”

“Yup,” I croaked, and then lied: “I’m awake.” And after a moment of silence, from somewhere in the dark came the fragile sleep soaked voice of my six-year-old little boy, Gus: “I’m sorry dad.”

“Oh, thanks buddy,” I said as I got my bearings and tried to shake off the urge to fall back into a deep sleep. “How come you’re sorry?” I asked. I assumed he was talking in his sleep. But I was wrong.

“I’m sorry you have to wake up when it’s still dark outside,” he said in tender earnest. And all of a sudden I was wide-awake with a lump in my throat.

Empathy!My little boy was feeling empathy for me! I didn’t expect it or ask for it, but there it was. And it was such a gift! It made me both proud of him and grateful to be. . . what? Understood?Acknowledged?Named in some sense?

“I don’t want you to go,” he said next, and his little voice cracked on the verge of tears.

“Oh buddy,” I said as I got up and crawled into bed next to him. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to go away from you either, I love you so much. . .” and then I tried my best to tell him why I had to go, navigating all the complexities of being a father and provider, trying to avoid the pitfalls of explaining my vocation and calling in terms of having to leave to make income for our family (I don’t want him to think it’s for money that I’m leaving) or spiritualizing it in terms of ministry (I don’t want him to think that God is taking me away from him). You do your best and hope that your children understand that your love for them sometimes even calls you away from them. At the very least, he understood the sacrifice of it, feeling sorry that I had to wake up when it was still dark.

I remembered a recent conversation I had with Andrew Peterson about the increasing difficulty of saying good-bye to our families, the ache of it, both of us wondering how much longer we could continue going on the road.

As I showered that morning in our hotel room, a Pierce Pettis lyric kept playing over and over in my head. It was from his song, “No More Sad Songs” – a lyric that I heard more than 16 years ago but still remembered because of it’s poignant transparency. It was a lyric that summed up my feelings in that moment of having to leave my children, and so I decided to post it as my facebook status.

It was an honest decision, but one I seriously questioned for a number of reasons – before and after I posted it. I’m no celebrity, but I do live – if somewhat modestly – in the public eye, which tempts me to edit and manage my public image: to be calculated, to accentuate the positive – at least in the way that I present myself to the public. And yet I often fear that this does a disservice to those who bless me with their attention. An unedited private moment from time to time could add complexity to my public self and hopefully lend credibility to the hope I profess, much like Pettis’ honest lyric about his pain over leaving his kids to go on the road enriched my experience of the rest of his songs.

I wondered if the temptation to let people see only the sunny side of my life might contribute to our culture’s constant distortion of reality, and I’ve wondered if an honest moment, in and of itself, from time to time might minister to people in some way, perhaps even encouraging them to acknowledge their own pain. I’ve maintained over the years that we are meant to be what Henri Nouwen called wounded healers, and yet I find in myself a reluctance to reveal my wounds. But it’s not for the obvious reasons, I don’t think.  There are valid reasons for my concern that I wrestle with. I have no desire to conceal anything, but I also don’t want to bleed on anyone. Nor do I want to – forgive the obvious insensitivity of the saying – “cast my pearls before swine,” or in other words: share from the depths of my heart in a place where people might not take it into the depths of their own hearts.

I admit that it’s probably presumptuous to imagine that anyone cares all that much about my facebook status – each of us have enough burdens of our own to manage without concerning ourselves with the burdens of others. But at the very least, maybe it’s important for me – for my development as a human being – to resist the temptation to always edit my public self.

And I confess my fear that all of this talk about my little old status update may come off as self-important.  And yet I hope that these honest reflections might be useful.

I admit, too, that facebook – a poor substitute for genuine community – may not be the place to bare one’s soul. Yet, as I weighed all of these things, I landed on the side of desiring to be honest in a way that hopefully adds depth, authenticity, and a note of credibility to my public self and the hope that I publicly profess.

Such self-consciousness! Does everybody feel this way when they update their status? Or is this just my narcissism running wild, dressed up as some kind of spiritual prudence? Maybe. . . it’s possible, probable even.

But whatever else it is – presumption, narcissism, or (insert your assessment here) – my status update felt a little risky to me for at least a couple reasons.

1) It carried with it the potential to invite the pity of others, which is the LAST thing I would want. I am blessed and grateful for the good life I’ve been given and I recoil at the idea of being pitied. Blech.

2) It also carried with it the potential to invite judgment. “Maybe it’s time you come off the road and care for your own family,” are the words I’ve heard numerous times before from well-meaning people who fail to understand the nuances of our God-given calling. Which got me thinking about tension and the ways we all avoid it.

We all tend to be uncomfortable with tension of any kind, and so when it inevitably presents itself – either in ourselves or in others – we’re tempted to be rid of it by throwing thoughtless quick-fix answers at it.Sometimes these answers are dressed up as pity, judgment, or anything else that releases us from wrestling with the requisite tension.

Of course the difficult truth is that there are many things that we simply must hold in tension and then – having done that – trust. I’m grateful for my work, even excited about hitting the road and experiencing the fulfillment of God’s vocational calling on my life. At the same time, all I want to do is stay home with my kids. And so it is that all of us hold these kinds of good and Godly yet opposing things in tension from time to time, and in the midst of it all we hope for genuine understanding and maybe even, by grace, some support.

Both pity and judgment are too easy and are therefore the enemies of genuine understanding, which, to some degree, requires that we enter into at least a portion of the struggle of those we would genuinely understand. But because that might be painful, and because we are allergic to pain, we flee to the less costly emotions of pity and judgment.

In an honest moment of transparency we are all asking to be known or understood in some way. And yet in my experience, it has often been met with judgment (though I’m still not asking for pity, I swear!). These experiences have caused Taya and I to seriously consider a move to Nashville for the simple reason of being able to be in community with other artist/ministers who understand the peculiar challenges that people of our vocation are required to hold in tension. To receive a knowing nod – not judgment, not pity – that makes you feel understood. . .this is the simple, potent gift of community!

And now my story takes another turn, because this is also the gift that I received from my little boy that morning.

“I’m sorry dad,” a child’s voice spoke in the dark. “I’m sorry you have to wake up when it’s still dark outside,” said Gus, not with pity, but with empathy. He willingly entered my experience and allowed himself to feel for me, to understand. It was so unexpected, and it blessed me and gave me strength.

“Thanks, Gus. I’ll see you in 12 days. You go back to sleep now, I love you. You’re a good boy,” I said to him. “You’re a good dad,” was his reply – the sweetest words a father could hope for, a parting benediction for my trip.

I swear I’m not trying to strong-arm a Sunday School application out of this, but as I reflected on all of these things, my thoughts turned finally to our Heavenly Father and the protestant tradition of speaking the gospel to each other daily, reminding each other of what we’ve been delivered from and what our deliverance cost our Savior.

I wondered if this tradition might be a kind of spiritual discipline where we practice empathy, remembering and understanding the sacrifice of Jesus. Does this bring our Father pleasure? Do we as God’s children bless Him the way Gus blessed me with an understanding acknowledgement of His saving work in our lives? What tension He chooses to hold for the love of us! He loves us whose hearts are “deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9) and who He yet causes to become “the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21)!

“I’m sorry dad,” speaks the voice of a child.

“I’m sorry for the sacrifice you must make to provide for me. You are a good Father…”

I’m the beneficiary of God’s provision of grace – a provision that cost him dearly. I am daily in need of this grace with little to offer in return, but it occurred to me today that maybe I can at least offer my remembrance – a kind of empathy – for His sacrifice. May it bless my Father in something like the way I was blessed by my little boy who spoke into the dark of our hotel room, and loved me with his willingness to know and understand me.


56 Comments

  1. Kyle Triplett

    This was amazing. Heart-wrenching, eye opening, and so many other things. I am a musician who has the blessing to play on stage with my wife and have our son come along with us, but it’s not full time. The times that I do have to leave to play with other bands are very difficult and making those sacrifices sometimes seems unfair, but you really opened it up to me. Thank you so very much for sharing this story and wisdom. I do not readily cry over much (short of death,) but this story put a Big lump in my throat. May God Bless you and your amazing family at all times!

  2. Paula Shaw

    Oh Jason. What a great post. Thank you for sharing from your heart, and with honesty. Community. . . ah yes! Wonderful and sometimes terrible at the same time, depending on how each of us choose to honor God and one another in our daily lives.
    And may I just add that I think you bless our Father more than you realize or will ever know. So, keep doing what it is He’s called you to. All the “stuff” that you have to deal with in order to press into that calling may try to hold you down, or make life more difficult, or make you think ‘is THIS what this calling, this life, is all about?!’, but you KNOW the truth. Be encouraged. You make a difference!

  3. Janna

    Yep, I would say I wrestle with these thoughts too when it comes to status updates — and I’m NOT in the public eye. I think it’s normal to have all those questions swirling when you go to share something personal with many people at the same time, especially when it’s a brief statement. I think you’ve summed up our reactions to tension very well here. Pity and Judgement are much easier than choosing to enter into someone’s story. And yes, allergic to pain — that’s a good way to put it. Thanks for the post, and for your willingness to risk transparency. May it lead to more authentic community, here and wherever your travels end up taking you.

  4. Steve Narrow

    Jason, Blessed is he who works in the mission fields of God’s calling. And blessed even more is the sweetest word ever created: “Dad”. Praise be to Christ for closing the gap and allowing us to call Him Abba. Thank you for being true to your calling and for being willing to bear the great cost of a thousand, million good-byes to spread the good news.

    Steve

  5. Jill Barnett

    Thanks for the reminder. I think, sometimes, we pick and choose with whom we empathize. I need to work on this…

    For what it’s worth, when I read facebook status updates like the one you mentioned, it lets me know what to pray for. When I read through what friends post, I stop to pray for them. Their posts remind me to pray for their health, their spiritual struggles, job interviews, their sick kids, work troubles, or their travels. I’m sure not everyone uses facebook like this, but it’s better than Farmville.

  6. Katherine

    I have strong memories of mornings that my dad left before I woke up. His engine starting in the garage would wake me up, and I’d immediately be running down the street in pajamas and bare feet after his red pick-up, waving my arms for him to stop so we could say good-bye. I can’t imagine the child that is indifferent to their father’s absence. But what a wonderful thing that your children know how you long to be with them, to the point that they aren’t just sorry for their own sakes, but for yours. And what a great example for them to watch a father pursue and sacrifice for a vocation rather than just a career.

    I applaud your decision to choose more transparency – with blogs, facebook, etc., there’s a temptation to stop being honest with ourselves, let alone other people. Wanting to believe that if I can craft an awesome persona online, maybe I will be that person all the time. Or on the other side of the coin, it seems just as tempting to choose the wrong witness to our lives. To choose “the public” over our spouse or God or a friend that truly knows us. To want the feeling of importance that comes with living with an audience. I think trying to strike the balance is a worthy endeavor.

    I really appreciate this post.

  7. LauraP

    Since you risked a transparent revelation, I will do the same. I am tired. Bone-weary, in fact. And I hate to admit it. I don’t want any pity, and I don’t want anyone who relies on me to read that and feel burdened by what they need from me. I’m not complaining either. It’s a good thing to be needed by your children, your spouse, your employer, your friends, your community, your church and even perfect strangers. (My 94 year old grandmother carries the weight of feeling no longer very necessary to the world, and that is a grief of the other extreme.) You are right that all of us hold good and Godly things in tension, and sometimes the tension is so great that we break. The delicate balance between our many loves is impossible to perfectly control, and when the scale tips, relationships suffer. We suffer. The dearer our love, the greater the grief.

    We are forced to live with the frustration that one thing will unfairly suffer sometimes for the sake of another. So we seek wise counsel, do the best we can to prioritize, re-balance, and rely on grace to cover the rest. There is a kind of beauty in our broken stumbling and a necessary lesson about our self-insufficiency. What can we do but to seek God’s direction and his blessing on the sacrifices required of us and of others to follow where he points?

    I’m preaching to myself now, not to you. I only want to offer you what your post offered me — a reminder that our story and our struggles are in some measure common to us all. We are not alone, and even in the mess of life, all shall be well. Peace, peace. For all of us.

  8. Chris Slaten

    This isn’t the direction you took your story and I may be out on a limb, but your post also made me think of this song. Maybe it’s because that whole record often seems to deal with those stresses and ambiguities of life on the road and the need for family. Particularly, the end of the song seems to be dealing with the holy suffering and sacrifice of a traveling voacation and the affirmation of sudden grace in those moments; though I could be completely misinterpreting it.

    At the sign of the times
    He hesitates to navigate his course
    His rite of passage
    Up the stream of consciousness to find its source

    She watches him go
    A sentinel behind venetian blinds
    Keeps the home fires burning low
    Like a vestal virgin waiting in the night

    And clinging to the highway
    Like a baby to the breast
    The distance feeds his urgency
    And his dreams just do the rest
    When he’s down so dark
    She mails him little envelopes of light

    Cicadas in the mist
    Are rising from a whisper to a roar
    The way silk dresses hiss
    As ballroom dancers glide across the floor

    He’s felt the ambience of God
    Like a heat mirage on the highway
    But the closer he comes
    The more it seems to slip away

    Just out of reach
    A single treetop peach
    He’s stretching for with all his might
    And somewhere in his heart
    He comes across an envelope of light

    Driving down the road
    With a feeling that he can’t identify
    A scarecrow is hanging
    Like a crucifix against the thorny sky

    Three days and nights
    In the belly of a whale
    Three days and nights
    In a perfect hell
    Then like a phoenix bird
    Rising in an envelope of light

    And when he’s down so dark
    He gets these little envelopes of light

  9. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason,

    Having a strong transparency gene, I am all too aware that transparency can be used rightly or misused. Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of some soul-storm, it’s better to have one or two people we trust, mature believers who can hear the worst without from then on seeing our soul-storm as our identity. At such times, I have found from sad experience, it is better to keep our mouths shut around those less deep in the Word, who do not see God working in all things. A mature believer sees our real identity no matter what comes out of our mouth. There have been too many times where my transparency has backfired; in explaining how I felt so I could be understood, I was really cementing others in their false-self views of me, in their misunderstanding of me.

    On the other hand, transparency is also an amazing weapon against the enemy. When I am through a soul-storm, through a cross, after I have embraced it, died to the thing, and God has resurrected me through that surrender, it is then that my transparency has the greatest power. I can share my struggles, the death of the cross in them, and the resurrection power that comes to me in that area when I lay it all down. This brings life to others as we comfort them with the comfort we have received; it helps clear the fog a little in their own struggles, and they can begin to see the end from the beginning.

    All must be laid down to die – even our transparency.

    It doesn’t mean I put on a hypocritical act. But it does mean that I am aware of who I am opening up to, of where they are spiritually, of what they can handle and understand. Again, I say this out of real experience of doing it the wrong way (it seems God has a lot for me to learn by doing things the wrong way first).

  10. Jen

    Jason,

    I’m sitting at my desk trying not to cry after reading this. It’s empathy, not pity. Promise.

    I can absolutely relate to the questions that go with tossing our feelings out into that strange sorta-community of Twitter and Facebook. Just last Friday night, as I was trying to find a little peace from the Night of Joy crowd in Orlando (take the group you played for at the conference and multiply it by 1000. oh, and turn the volume wayyyy up =)), I posted my own little update to Twitter about how grateful I was to be there but how tired I was of people. I second guessed myself as soon as I hit send… after all, I’m at this incredible event, and some would give anything to be there. I was part of this conference where I could visit friends that I may not see again until this time next year. I was surrounded by opportunities to connect and make important memories. And here I am sick of people and just wanting to go back to my room and hide. I felt a little embarrassed for sharing so much, but when a friend told me the next day that she understood, it was so reassuring.

    I’m pretty sure I go through all those same questions — am I sharing too much? whining? narcissistic? But I wholeheartedly agree that when you hit that breaking point and open up just a little, it’s so freeing to be honest, and so powerful when someone understands.

    Thanks to you and your family for your sacrifice. Seriously. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be away from home so much, but I know it’s hard, painful, even lonely work. But know you’re making a difference with your gifts, and it doesn’t go unappreciated!

  11. Laura Droege

    I can relate. I constantly question how transparent to be on my blog and my Facebook status updates. Certain things are off limits in my online life (family issues, etc.) because I have a completely open profile and I don’t want certain people in the world to know certain things about me. (Think predators, creepy people, or people who are judgmental of those with certain types of problems.)

    But I also want to be genuine and transparent, especially in my blog posts, as I am trying to give hope to those who need it and show how God can bring restoration to the broken people. And since I’ve been (and still am!) a broken, messed-up person, many of my posts reflect the troubled times in my life. I want to be real and honest, so others can relate to me.

    Still, I have to be careful what I say; not everyone needs to know the depths of my soul. Like Ron said, we have to be wise in knowing when and who to open up to about certain things, even offline. There’s definitely a tension between being discreet and being transparent.

    Thanks for sharing.

    So there’s that tension and the need .

  12. MargaretW

    Facebook! I have a growing discontent for it. People are so often cavalier in the way they present themselves, unlike the good author here. I was recently so upset by a post from a friend that I deleted that person from my friend list. They had the nerve to announce to the world that they had recently ended a “toxic” friendship to the applause of many others. I was deeply grieved by such a heartless proclamation, regardless of the circumstances.

    And yet, after Hutchmoot I am developing deep friendships through that medium. It is not the same as connecting in the flesh, but it is very valuable to me nonetheless. We are encouraging one another and praying for needs.

    I am grateful for the heart of the author here. I am touched by his candor and encouraged. The Rabbit Room has become a safe place for me when I have so few safe places in my real world, other than my heavenly Father. I did enter into his story because in my home, I am the sole provider and every day I leave a crying toddler and two other boys to spend the majority of my life at work. My husband takes care of the household chores. But I often feel that I’m missing so much.

    Thank you for sharing and for worrying about your words. It helps me to feel not so alone.

  13. Becca (I. Ray)

    ‘Just finished reading _My Name is Asher Lev_ this week. Of course, my relationship with Christ calls me to different conclusions than Potok’s. (Christ fuels my artistic honesty instead of competes with it.) However, I am indebted to Potok for capturing the agony of resisting “whoredom” within a calling.

    “Whoredom” is a strong, ugly word; but it captures a dilemma common to those who wrestle with artistic authenticity. Truth makes me vulnerable. You can hurt me to the core if I tell you mine, so I am tempted to trade my truth for comfort.

    Yesterday, I was listening to _Counting Stars_ for the first time. Yeah, I’m slow; but we just adopted, and we’re on a budget. Anyway, these lines caught in my throat like a rock:

    “As I cast out these lines, so afraid that I will find I am alone. All alone.”

    That happened to me this past month. One of my closest friends was deeply offended by some reflections I wrote down about the adoption. My art was called hateful. Bad. Dangerous. Maybe it was.

    But there’s nothing quite like that pain. Total exposure. Total rejection.

    I’m scared to even vocalize the image this brings to mind. Perhaps it’s not wholly unlike our dear, bare Jesus on His Cross?

  14. Delores

    Jason, that is so AWESOME!!! You could NOT have asked for a better way to wake up! You have a son that is going to grow up a Wonderful Man! Like he said, “You are a GOOD DAD!!” And God Blessed you with HIM! What an AWESOME God He is!! Thanks for sharing!!

  15. Joel Weldon

    Jason. I’ve tucked your post deep in my pocket and will carry it for some time in my mind and heart. Transparency in the right setting is a wonderful gift.

    Bravo, my brother and friend.

  16. Michelle

    Transparency, that’s the bite, isn’t it? I saw your post on facebook and appreciated the honesty and upon hearing more of the story behind it, appreciate it even more. In fact, your story behind it comes at a significant time for me, because I very rarely post a status on fb or reply here or make any kind of ‘public’ announcements. That fact has struck me lately and I’ve been trying to figure out why and I’ve been asking God to show me why (or that its not important, but its been feeling like it is important, not necessarily in and of itself, but as a pointer to a bigger, deeper issue). In response, he has been digging around in my heart and all manner of things have been coming up. The main one is that I can’t imagine that anyone really cares about what’s going on in my life, so I can’t imagine posting anything about me that anyone would really care about. Its funny to me that that’s what is surfacing because I do function on a day-to-day level as a ‘normal’ person who has good relationships and gives and receives care, but when those more visible layers are stripped off, what’s underneath (my truer self?) feels inconsequential and insignificant. Seeing this is somewhat surprising to me, but also seems to be explaining parts of who I am and how I interact with some of the people in my life.
    So I wonder, are there others who also have those feelings of being inconsequential and insignificant? And how do I, knowing in my head that the truth is so different, let that still small voice speak to my heart, and trust him that the reality is truly different from what I feel and have experienced and have been believing and trust that he can change my heart? And what beautiful vistas might lie beyond that transformation?? I’m hoping to find out.

  17. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca,

    We are each alone – completely, totally alone with the Alone. There is no one who will be able to fully get inside our heart and head and life experience; there is no one who will fully understand all that we are, who we are, and what we are here for. Only each of us, living in union with our Creator, can begin to understand that; we begin to understand ourselves, and live from our real selves, because we listen only to His voice telling us who we really are; that Voice is positive and powerful if we listen.

    Though rejection is painful, we do not need the good opinions of others. All we need do is abide in Christ – resting, trusting, living from His power and sufficiency in us – and say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” We get up from our soul-wrestling, as Jesus did, make our statement of faith, call the situation, no matter how bad, “My Father’s cup,” and we drink it to the dregs. When we do that, we can reign in the situation as Aragorn, not as fearful, dualistic, self-hating and other-hating Gollum.

    This doesn’t mean we no longer feel the pain of rejection; it’s just that we are now living according to a completely other reality, in which the rules of this world hold no sway. I speak from my experience of rejection, suffering, and the Word, not from head knowledge of it.

  18. Lori

    Jason – thank you for sharing your heart. I look forward to munching on future transparency parts. If it’s anything like the multiple parts of “everything sad”, we have much to look forward to.

    Ron – post #18: many thanks. I was just relaying to a friend this morning how I felt like Gollum inside. I am inserting my name in Becca’s place (no offense, Becca), and being reminded to remember who I am. bitter and sweet.

  19. Mark O

    Jason,

    Thanks for posting and risking being judged or pitied. I have never read your blogs and have never knew about rabbit room until Joel Weldon linked this in on Facebook. There will always be those who judge you if you are in the public light; however, this post was a blessing to me and I am sure many others. Please don’t ever let those who judge you triumph over those who are blessed by your posts.

  20. Heather Irene

    As I read this I am writing the first draft of an article on my experience at the Hutchmoot to be published in our church’s newsletter next month. One of the main points of my summary (and plea to the congregation) is about honest community and the willingness to drop your guard (no matter how scary that sounds!). This was definitely an encouragement to me.

  21. Nicole Smith

    Jason,

    Your willingness to be transparent to your audience, whether in person at a concert or in someone’s home, or on facebook – is quite encouraging. I too struggle with status updates on facebook, mostly because a large majority of my family is on there and I do not want them to worry about things, and sometimes I just don’t feel like explaining everything a hundred times from people asking. But in this posting, you unveil that desire to be left alone, not pitied and unjudged (is that a word???) as a real and understandable feeling. I recently dealt with something very difficult – yet most of my family and friends don’t know because I didn’t post anything about it – mostly because I’m not strong enough to be able to have a conversation about it yet. Sometimes it’s easier to keep these sentiments to ourselves that way we don’t envoke pity (which I definitely don’t want), judgement or sometimes even the attention that comes with it. I think it is good for people such as yourself to expose the not so glamorous side of what you do – because it makes you more real to all of us, but I can understand the desire to keep such things to yourself. Sort of reminds me of your song “How I Ended Up Here”. Blessings and love to you and your family Jason. We can’t wait to see you again.

    Nicole
    (Of the Delaware Smiths) 🙂

  22. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Chris – thanks so much for posting that Pettis song, another of my favorites from that record. And I’ve always interpreted it the way that you did, too. In fact, I call phone calls from home when I’m on the road “envelopes of light”. Such a beautiful song…

    Ron – totally agree with you (as usual). Here’s what I wrestle with, though, and I wonder what you think and what kind of insight you might offer here. It is prudent, to be sure, to be selective with who I’m transparent with. You described the situation so well in the way that it can backfire and cause more misunderstanding and further distortion in the minds of less mature believers…

    I absolutely agree and practice this, but what I wonder about is where prudence becomes a kind of lie or at least an avoidance of conflict. Is prudence the end goal? I think of the matter of alcohol, for instance (oh no, I’m risking transparency again! This is a topic I intentionally avoid online, though more and more I won’t avoid it in conversation and sometimes even from the stage). There is, of course, no biblical prohibition against alcohol – the abuse of alcohol, yes, but not the moderate consumption and enjoyment of it. And yet there are scores of Christians who consider it a sin to drink alcohol, or at the very least a poor witness. This mistake leads, in my opinion, to multiple kinds of distortions and misunderstandings that cloud the gospel.

    I remember early in our marriage that there was a recipe for an italian white wine sauce that we were going to make, and I made my wife go in and buy the white wine for fear of people seeing me and judging me and my ministry. It was a cowardly thing to do and I’m so embarrassed by it.

    At some point I got the conviction that what I was labeling as prudence and a “good witness” might really be conflict avoidance, and that my actions were contributing to a lie that distorts the gospel. I was modeling legalism and fear. I was playing along.

    I now believe that it can be a fruitful thing for people to see me demonstrate both the freedom I have in Christ and Holy Spirit guided moderation if they spot me out with my wife drinking wine, or at a pub sharing a beer and conversation with the brothers Peterson.

    Does it invite judgment and misunderstanding and all kinds of mess? Probably, but my stance right now is to trust the Holy Spirit to do what He will with that – that messiness is better (and more useful to the Kingdom) than a carefully calculated image I try to manage out of the fear of being judged. In many cases, I would hope that somebody seeing me enjoying wine in moderation, even if they were offended by it, might cause them to think about it and hopefully drive them to the scriptures.

    And yet there are other times where I operate in Holy Spirit guided prudence and don’t partake of any kind of alcohol because it’s not the hill I want to die on, or because there is someone present who might struggle with alcohol addiction. (which, by the way, I think there would be less alcohol abuse in our culture if there were better models of moderation.)

    Anyway, I think you know what I’m getting at here – the idea of when prudence is a way of lying to people and cooperating with their misunderstanding of scripture, or worse – their slavery.

  23. Becca (I. Ray)

    Ron,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I needed that, and it applies on levels that might surprise you.

    Typically, I don’t bruise too easily, but this rejection was of a different type than what I’ve ever experienced before. It was from someone more deeply ingrained in my life than an average friend. I was trying to be vague earlier, but I’m not sure that’s going to work. So, I’ll share a quote I’ve been trying to memorize this week. That might bring some clarity.

    “The gospel frees you from making parental approval an absolute or psychological salvation, pointing out how God becomes the Ultimate Father. Then you will neither be too dependent or too hostile to your parents.”

    -Tim Keller

    I’m married. Young kids. Independent. Past the insecure age, right? I had no idea that I was looking for “God’s voice of approval” in a human source. Especially not this one. I thought this relationship was spiritually, emotionally, intellectually safe.

    But I wake up one day and suddenly, there’s a fork in the road. I have to make a horrible choice. I feel torn between paternities. It’s a shameful, dirty feeling having to hang my head and quietly whisper, “No.” Disappointing someone who seems half of everything. It was a choice I never wanted to make.

    “Asher, drawing is foolishness.” The gravity of that.

    So, I’ve fallen off the swing, and I’m lying here looking for all of the lost breath that apparently ran away with my courage, and the concept of God’s loving Fatherhood appears calling to me from places like your note. I’m grasping for it bare-knuckled and heavy-hearted. I’m so grateful you took the time to encourage me. Thank you.

  24. Derek

    Jason,

    Your post got me all choked up at work. Thanks. : )

    My 5 year old daughter Selah has all of a sudden been asking more probing questions about my work, what I do, and why I do it. As you alluded to in your post, it is tough to work through those questions and try not to focus on money. These questions come only a couple weeks before I have to leave for China on business.

    Through all of this though, one of my favorite parts of the day is when I walk through our door and hear: “Daddy!! Daddy’s home!” Followed by the sound of little feet running to me. That will never grow old to me, no matter how big they get.

    I imagine it is quite the same for our Father in Heaven….When we go running to Him each morning.

    Thanks for the post Jason!

    Derek

  25. MargaretW

    “Though rejection is painful, we do not need the good opinions of others.”

    Following this thread and reading Ron and Becca’s posts has spurned me to reflect on my own insecurities and personal anguishes due to misunderstanding through transparency. I wrestle with this because: I WANT the good opinions of others.

    Then Jason… “You described the situation so well in the way that it can backfire and cause more misunderstanding and further distortion in the minds of less mature believers…”

    So is the lesson here coming from Psalm 41:9? “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Do we take the pain that comes along with being transparent(I know-not exactly the pain of what happened to David when his friend betrayed him) and give it back to the Lord and know that we are sharing in His suffering? Because this world is fallen and there will be misunderstandings and pain because of sin. We know that the giver of life understands our hurt because he too was rejected. And then should we take the attitude of Joseph–you meant it for evil but God meant it for good?

    God can use pain and sorrow to strengthen us. We do not intentionally want to hurt others with our truths and transparency and we try to avoid it, but sometimes we just can’t.

    Maybe I’m taking this post too far–just trying to deal with my own issues biblically.

  26. Emily

    “Does everybody feel this way when they update their status? ”

    Yes. I do at least. And it seems others here do as well.

    “I have no desire to conceal anything, but I also don’t want to bleed on anyone. Nor do I want to – forgive the obvious insensitivity of the saying – “cast my pearls before swine,” or in other words: share from the depths of my heart in a place where people might not take it into the depths of their own hearts.”

    This also sums up my feelings; online, in face-to-face conversations, I’m always trying to gauge what’s appropriate.

    As many have said, thank you for your transparency. I have a feeling this was a good place to open up about this because I think more people than you would find in average circles are likely to “take it into the depths of their own hearts” and respond with empathy.

  27. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason,

    I think it has to do with motive – again, a false self/true self idea. The false self would abstain from drinking because it does not want to be thought badly of, wants to avoid conflict, doesn’t want to be judged. The real self might abstain, or not, depending on the situation. For instance, if there are Christian young people about who are impressionable and see me drinking at a bluegrass festival, they might be inclined to copy my behavior without having a heart that abides in Christ. Or if I am with someone who has struggled with drinking and has now quit, it would be better to abstain. In both of these cases, the motive is a concern for the other person, not for myself. If I abstain, it is not because I am worried about being judged; “It is a small thing that I should be judged of you,” said Paul.

    So again it comes down to living from the real, authentic, true self in Christ, which is a for-others being. It does what is best for others.

    I think you’re right about moderation. Typically, parents who either had parents who drank excessively or who drank excessively themselves in younger years end up teaching their kids to fear, judge, and despise those seen drinking a beer. Such kids either end up alcohol Pharisees, or, if they rebel against the legalism, they end up drinking without moderation. But as I often explain to such young people, it is possible to drink a beer, or a glass of wine, and not be going for a buzz. Not everyone who drinks a beer ends up an evil wife-beater, laying in the gutter. Like anything else – food, sex, movies, golf, caffeine, or music – it can be used to excess, and can be a form of anesthesia.

    To be bluntly honest, I think a lot of our concept of “being a good witness” is a giant crock of bullshinola. Any such self-conscious goodness ends up backfiring; people either think us to be a goody-two-shoes, or a hypocrite hiding something. The best thing is to be real. That doesn’t mean saying everything that comes into our head. But it means acknowledging we struggle at times, and also pointing the way to the only real Answer.

    But essentially, as I said, the answer lies in the motive (really the self) we are operating from – false or true. Looking good to others, or loving others.

  28. Nick and Susan

    Fascinating topic. I certainly have this inner fight with myself on how I word my facebook status, incase, as you so rightly put it, receive pity or judgement. And then I rebuke myself for worrying about such a silly little thing like facebook.

    What adds to the confusion for me on that place is that there are not only my Christian friends (of whom only a minority would I share my deepest thoughts), but friends from a Tolkien forum and family members. On more than one occasion the latter two have ‘jumped’ on a status I’ve written because it was unashamedly ‘Christian’ or have seen an opportunity to have a ‘rant’ about the fact they don’t like that I am one, and a marvelous discussion has ensued.

    Knowing that they are still reading my thoughts has actually made me re-evaluate the importance of being real, and being careful no to present a pharasaical facade, which is ridiculously easy to do on there.

    Susan

  29. Becca (I. Ray)

    Does anyone else read _The Gospel Primer_ by Milton Vincent? Simple, thin little piece that is quickly becoming one of my favorite books.

    This excerpt on vulnerability seems fitting:

    “The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide. Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them that I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers.”

    Working as a creator (with a lowercase “C”), can this sort of mindset bring peace despite the limits of my crayon liturgies? Peace despite rejection? A healthy recognition of what I am and can never be? Creative peace in the sufficiency of Christ?

  30. Sonia Warden

    Jason,
    You have the most noble heart. This is so insightful. I have often wondered what it is like for artists to have to leave their families. The witnessing you provide through your music is a true blessing. The Lord has touched you with the gift of your talent to provide for your family. The crux of that talent is that you do have to leave them for periods of time. It is a sacrifice you make. You are a loving man, husband, father, and artist. We are all so lucky to have your words to make us think about things in our own lives. Trust that the Lord knows what is in your heart at all times. God Bless you and your family!! ~Sonia 🙂

  31. David

    Jason,

    I hope to give you a different side of your traveling dilemma, I am not saying that I am right but I have peace with God as He and I have settled this.

    I am a bi-vocational pastor and I earn my living with a job that requires lots of traveling. My father had a traveling job – he would often be gone for a month at a time. I noticed something – when my Dad came home, he returned as a conquering hero – he had been out there, slain the dragon and returned victorious. It was a celebration each time he arrived back home. The celebration continued until he had to leave again, after he left we talked about what a man he was, the things he had done, the people he had met and the places he had seen. We waited in anticipation for his return, for new stories of his travels and work – for wrestling matches, adventures and the challenges that he always set before us.

    My next door neighbors had a great Dad, he worked a 9 to 5 and was home every night. The problem was that he was practically invisible to his kids. Nobody seemed to care when he came and went. I always felt sorry for him. I wouldn’t have traded my Dad for him at any time.

    My 4 kids are grown and currently all participate in the ministry of our church. My traveling build a bond that is stronger than many families have. What is the secret? When you are home, be home – be present in body, mind and soul. Don’t bury yourself in computer games, TV shows etc. Do your work and then bury yourself in your wife and children. Make each day a celebration.

    Sorry for the rant, and I suspect that many will reject my views, I accept that as part of being a dragon-slayer. I fear that we, as men, have become to tame and predictable. Your son gave you a compliment – He knows that there is a reason that you leave, that you pay a large price for your calling and that you will return – a hero.

    Blessings,

    David

  32. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    David – great thoughts, that’s been my philosophy, too. And I try to be home when I’m home. I don’t always get this right, and your picture here inspires and reminds me again of the importance of being intentional. Thank you so much!

  33. Gina

    Jason,
    As someone who longs to see transparancy and honesty in a world of facades, I am always encouraged to read the ‘humaness’ of your words and lyrics. I’m not in the same spotlight you are… but I find myself editing my thoughts and feelings online, wondering if they’re applicable, wondering they’re relatable, wondering if they’re legitimate… wondering if they are representative of the hope I have in Christ.

    People need to hear that they aren’t alone… I keep coming back to the psalms- they represent a whole person working through his salvation, a fallen man loved by God. I find myself longing to be honest with the people on the other end of my facebook or blog… to say that life is difficult but I’m not giving up- Christ is my hope.

    Thank you for sharing your life and your thoughts. I pray often for you and the other artists… the life you live is not glamorous- it is ministry. It is sacrifice. It is for the good of many.

    I appreciate your lyrics and the sacrifices of your family.

  34. Chris Yokel

    Jason,

    What I have to say is probably different than what most people’s comments were about, but thank you for sharing about the realities of your career. I think a lot of people tend to think that being an artist is a glamorous life, but like everything else, it’s work with it’s own ups and downs. This was one of the things I considered a lot at one point when I was thinking of trying to throw myself in to a music career–whether I would be able to take the strain on my family. Interestingly enough, being in my current job situation I have at times looked with some wistfulness at the prospect of being an artist. But thank you for making me realize once again that, wherever we are, we are called to do hard things, and that our job is to be faithful in the ups and downs.

  35. Paula

    Jason and Commentators,

    First of all, with transparency, I am not a lucid, professional writer so forgive me for grammatical errors or misinterpretations of what has been penned by others. I will try to do my best to be “transparent” without making others “bear” my cross.

    I have been on the flip-side of being honest about how I was “feeling” or “how things are going?”, it puts me in a predicament. My answer was….fine, and in all truth, I are not. Having gone through a situation that in grime reality, I was NOT doing fine, my heart was breaking, circumstances were not good, I missed out on others praying for me and in truth, I lied. Where do you draw the line?

    I have learned through that experience, like David, his heart was in the lowest pit. He pinned and felt abandoned, but he knew to “hope” in God. I found this my comfort, but it was not until a whole wall of embittered accusations had to take place. Because I was not “transparent”, I got judged beyond my upright character. It took me so low, I physically got sick and it almost took my life. I knew then, it is more merciful and honest to let others know “how” you are doing/feeling. I certainly don’t mean you have to spill your guts, but to say….”I hurt” or “I could use your prayers”, would suffice and protect you from greater pain than your current circumstance. (this in mind for Believers)

    As soon as I released the pride, I found peace, loving support, from true friends. It became my pillow and I vowed never to cower in self-pity of silence again. “There is wisdom in many counselors”, I have learned. I do not intend for others to bear my crosses, but to pray for them. I desire much to be an encourager to others, how then can I be if they don’t ever see or know that I have been through the wilderness too. “Iron sharpens Iron….so is a friend”

    As in ALL things…moderation and much prayer. “Think before we speak” is a good motto, and I might add…..pray also.

    For Facebook, with as quick as people skim through others statuses, I think it best to encourage. If feeling down, add the hope of recovering from gloominess and show that the sun will shine again. When I succumbed to some sadness’s, my remedy was to reach out and encourage the faint heart-ed and it promptly made my heart glad. A God-given balm or salve….”There is a Balm in Gilead….to heal the sin-sick soul.

    So I rambled, but maybe someone understands my transparent heart.

    Thanks and God Bless You All,

    Paula J.

  36. JC

    Thank you Jason for sharing and for all who posted comments, wonderful place to spend some time and create an atmosphere for self reflection and devotion. Thank you Ron for leading me to this place…My Best to all and God Bless….jc

  37. Matt Conner

    This is a great thread and displays the need for much more transparency within the church in general. Thanks to you Jason for sharing these things. Ron, those are great points as well.

    I can totally relate since I’m a weak shower curtain when it comes to my own feelings and issues. I’m right out there with every single thing and I’ve had that backfire on me several times. More often than not, it’s helped in ministry but it’s also hurt because of a lack of boundaries and that’s irresponsible on my part. Here’s hoping we can all continue to grow in Jesus and become whole.

  38. Leanore

    Taya deserves a mention here as well – a little boy who’s content to have his dad come and go for the sake of Kingdom and art has a mom who covers a lot of territory – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and does it so well that everybody feels secure.

  39. Becca (I. Ray)

    This afternoon I spent about an hour helping our newly adopted son make a fall craft. He’s never had the supplies or attention to make things before, and so he was ASTONISHED to see that he could be a part of helping beauty happen.

    Man, the look on his face… shy and thrilled. When he realized what had happened, he immediately started saying, “Daddy! Daddy!” Ran downstairs. Had to show his father the work of his hands so they could celebrate together. And they did.

    There are volumes in that, I think.

    (Photos here, if you want to see.)

    http://littlebootsliturgies.blogspot.com/2010/09/todays-craft.html

    (My forum name keeps changing back and forth because I’m using two browsers. Same person. ‘Gonna try to fix that soon. Anyway…)

  40. Peter Gaultney

    Jason, what I may or may not like most about this post is the way it is a fully-fledged train of thought – it goes many different and sometimes unexpected places, but that is the mark of an actual train of thought, and not a heavily-edited-for-public-consumption t.o.t. Which is a big part of the point of what you wrote, probably not coincidentally.

  41. Mike Westendorf

    Jason, it has been a joy to watch an artist like you from a distance and get to meet you a couple times. I have always admired the notion of brokenness and confession that you share, two of the most important things for there to be transparency. I’m so grateful that God has given you this heart and that you share it the way you do. At least for myself, your thoughts continue to keep me content at the weekend warrior status of the artist ministry God has called me to. I long at times to have a chance to work with and learn from some of the people you do, but I am grateful that I can build up the church and the body, while not having to struggle with the moment of separation that comes so often for a traveling artist who’s livelihood demands it.

    So in that strange way, your ability to share real life, real pain, real joy as an artist and musicinary – is used by God to bring me real peace. So thank you for your transparency. I’d love to sit down and write over that moment of separation, when fear/pain are met with opportunity/trust. In that sickening second, you feel the searing pain of leaving your ministry of family, trusting God will take care of His own… while trusting that God will use you in the care and encouragement of His own in another place.

    As a human being and a Christian Brother, I am grateful that God has given you the gift to share real life. Jason and family – Be Blessed!

  42. K Tat

    No worries for you, Jason, for you are worthy. Matthew 10:37 says, “Anyone who loves their mother or their father more than me, is not worthy. Anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me, is not worthy.” Although our human emotions get in the way sometimes, it’s our spiritual drive to follow Christ that ultimately counts.

  43. Tim Stromer

    Maybe you can answer it here Jason. How did you end on the current tour, it is just amazing and I’d love to hear your journey there?

  44. Bethany

    Jason,
    I just heard your song “I Am New” for the first time, yesterday. I could hear the truth in it. I came home and got on YouTube to pass the song/video along to a friend at my church. In doing so, I heard your witness, before you played the song. Again, I thought, this person is SO REAL, SO AUTHENTIC, I could feel God working through you. Today I am cleaning at home, and just wanted to hear the song again. I got on my computer, and here I am, an hour later reading through this blog-post and all of the amazing comments from truthful, caring people. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to you, Jason, and to everyone for sharing so honestly. It is refreshing, and I’m a new fan of your music and of Rabbit Room!

  45. Erin

    Jason,

    Sorry if this is totally random, but your post reminded me of a song by Michael Card. It’s called “Mourning the Death of a Dream” from his album “A Fragile Stone”. It goes through the emotions Peter may have felt each time he had to leave his wife for the ministry of Christ.

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