Kirk: And it's great to have you on the Faith Revolution Podcast today. We're going to be talking about a subject that's not easy for me, because it's about transparency, and about being real, and how that can make our faith a little more attractive to those around us if we're willing to be transparent.
Jenn: You're known across the country for your transparency, that's one of the things people love about you. But it's funny, because there's always a deeper level.
Kirk: There is. I guess, how I got to this subject is last year, you and I got invited to the K-LOVE Fan Awards with some friends and we heard the song Maybe It's Okay by Darren Mulligan and We Are Messengers. And so we're sitting here and we're listening to that, and it's the first time I had heard the song, but you had heard it before, right?
Jenn: Right. I was already in love with the song, I had been listening to it for quite a while.
Kirk: You're way ahead of me on so many things on a deeper level. But listening to the song and he talks about, "Maybe it's okay to be not okay, maybe it's alright if I'm not alright." And I think, wow, that . . . To me, that resonated for some reason, listened to the song a little bit more, and this year, I work with Heartbeat International, and we had a conference scheduled for Seattle, an in-person conference. Then the COVID epidemic comes up and we have to go virtual. Well, I thought, you know what? Since we have to go virtual and I'm here in Nashville, let me see if I can connect with someone in Nashville who can give a virtual welcome to our audience.
And we had heard Darren and We Are Messengers at a worship event in DC earlier in the year as well. I reached out on Instagram, and if anybody knows how those messages work, you don't necessarily go to your messages from people who you don't know. But he did, he found my message and said, "So what are you looking for, and who are you?" And I emailed him back, got in touch either through messenger or email, and then it was funny because he got the message on a Saturday, and by Saturday evening he had cut a perfect intro, a perfect welcome for our 1500 folks who were going to be attending virtually. It was just amazing.
Jenn: Well, and we listened to it, and not only that, but as you and I were sitting there listening, we were out on our back porch and we were both in tears listening to what he said in his heart, and it just . . . I'm feeling teary-eyed right now talking about it, because he was real, and it's so awesome when you see someone who is involved in a very public position in worship, and in this case in Christian music, and you realize they're real, and they do care and they do love people and they love the Lord. And that was really precious to me.
Kirk: But in my emails, I said, "Hey, 30 to 45 seconds would be great," and he comes back and he says, "Is it okay if it's a minute and a half?" and I'm like, "Yeah, it's great if it's a minute and a half." And again, I think what really impressed me is he didn't need to give me the time of day. And I wouldn't have felt bad because I know that Christian artists and others get so many requests and they can't say yes to everybody, but he did, and he put his whole heart into it and he captured the heart of our conference perfectly. That just made me say, "Okay... " in fact, I emailed him later, said, "I wanna get coffee with you." And so we've got a very tentative coffee planned at
some point in the future. But anyway, that got me thinking on this whole thing about how transparency, that maybe it's okay to not be okay, really makes our faith more attractive and we don't realize it does.
A Revolutionary Thought
Jenn: Well, here's a weird thing, when I first heard this song on K-LOVE, I was sitting there and thinking, "Wow, I can't... " I don't know, it just felt like this is kind of revolutionary, this isn't necessarily the normal Christian narrative. It's saying something kind of to challenge us. And that song was needed, that's the funny thing about it. Those words were needed, in a weird way more than we could imagine going into the COVID crisis, this idea that it's okay when we're not okay. I think so many of us as Christians have been challenged through this season. "I don't feel okay. In fact, I feel pretty terrible right now and frightened," and it's challenged us to say, "But I'm supposed to have faith, I'm supposed to trust in Jesus. He's got this," right? But talking to a lot of people, a lot
of friends, thank you friends for being so real, it hasn't felt okay.
Kirk: Yeah, I mean, there have been times... Deep down in the core of my being I know that God is going to work through this. And frankly, you and I have seen some miracles through this in our own lives, but there is that niggling thing in the background that tells me, "What if it doesn't all work out?" I mean, I've looked at my work, I'm a speaker, I go out and speak at events, and people said, "Well, how are you doing?" And the temptation has been to say, "Oh, I'm great. I just trust God and God is going to work through this and I'm looking for Him to do some amazing things," and you know I am, but at the same time, I have to admit there are times when I question, is He really gonna pull us through?
Jenn: Well, it's funny because we're weeks into all of this now, and one of my dearest friends, yesterday was the first time I really just opened up to her and said, "Hey, our finances have really been honestly in question and in a mess. We haven't known for sure what we were going to do." And I just told her, and she's one of my closest friends. Well, why is that? Because there's something in me that doesn't want to say, "It's not okay," because I do know it's okay, I really do.
Jenn: But what am I doing when I'm not just honest about it? I think sometimes we don't want somebody to fix something because people love us, and this particular friend, I know them so well, they would do anything for us and we'd do anything for them, but sometimes we just need to be able to sit in that place with each other and say, "Yeah, we don't know how we're gonna get through this. We don't know what's on the other side of all of this."
Kirk: That's right, and being able to delineate between, ultimately, yeah I trust him, but there are times when we just don't. And I was reading this morning before we came in here about that time when the storm hit Jesus and the disciples on the lake and he's asleep, and they're, "Hey, wake up, wake up, this thing, my goodness, we're about to go under," type of stuff, and Jesus says, "O ye of little faith." And I've always looked at that, Jenn, and I don't wanna take us down a rabbit trail, but I think it's really important. I've always looked at that, is Jesus being a little bit ticked off? "How could you guys not have faith after all the things you've seen?" And I'm not saying that there maybe weren't those times, but my first response is to think that Jesus is ticked off at them. How could you not be there with faith? You've seen these things, you know... And of course he calms the wind and the sea and everything's cool, but I wonder if maybe... And I wasn't there, which is gonna shock everybody. I wasn't in the boat.
Kirk: But I wonder if he didn't kinda have a smile on his face and go, "Ah, little faith guys, it's okay." But he wasn't angry, 'cause I feel like when I fall short in my faith and I'm questioning, that my first thought is sometimes, "God's kind of mad." And I've heard it said that having no faith or having not enough faith is kind of a sin, if we're not trusting God we're sinning. And then I'm putting myself in this guilt category that not only is my faith struggling, but I'm also sinning, so I'm really in trouble.
It's Okay When You're Not Okay
Jenn: And this is real, these are the things we struggle with. I know it's funny because you saying this reminded me, I'm a cancer survivor, and when I was going through all of that with cancer, people would come to me and they... I mean, you don't mean to, but they would be like, "What are you learning? What deep truths are you gaining from God in this time?" Because what did they want? They wanted me to be okay.
Kirk: Yeah. They did.
Jenn: They wanted me to be good.
Kirk: And when you're sitting there going, "You know what I'm thinking, I'm thinking I just threw up and I'm about to again. That's what's really going through my mind right now," or whatever it was.
Jenn: Right. Well, and pardon the word, but I remember thinking in my head as somebody asked me that one time, "I'm thinking life sometimes just really sucks," and that's what I was thinking. I didn't say that because I knew that person needed something different from me at that moment. But I'm telling you, it is really... Sometimes, if we're just being real, things don't make sense, things aren't easy. When there's an illness, when there's financial struggle, it's just sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it is absolutely not okay.
Kirk: And going back, I think that my next thing is when they are hard and when they're not okay, and when I'm struggling a little bit, I'm afraid almost to tell God, "I'm afraid right now," because that's lack of faith, a sin. And I'm in this cycle that I can't get out of, instead of just putting it out there and being not okay a little bit, because I don't view Him as father, I see Him as taskmaster.
Jenn: Right. And I think that also leads, like what I did with cancer, is I didn't wanna tell people, "Look, I can barely pray right now, I can't read my Bible. I'm so sick I'm not doing the things that people with faith should be doing. I'm not doing it right now." Well, I didn't tell people that because I didn't want to ruin maybe my image, what I thought their expectation was of me. I don't know, I would have to think through that, but man, we don't wanna say it to one another sometimes.
The Love of Transparency
Kirk: Yeah, and I think that's kind of where we're going today, is it's okay to be more transparent. You mentioned in the beginning of this that that's one of the things I do. I realize when I go out and speak that the one compliment that to me is higher than anything else is people say he was transparent. I'm kind of giving people permission in some ways, 'cause sometimes I'll tell a story that when the kids were little the person I was married to left us, and I was kinda high and dry raising three kids on my own, and I remember being angry at God. I was working in a ministry at the time and I remember yelling at God one night and saying, "You pulled the rug out from under me. How could you do this?" Blaming God for something that wasn't his fault. But at the same time, it was a real struggle of faith at the time, and I came through that and kinda laughed with God later on and said, "But I got nowhere else to go," but I had to walk through that time when it wasn't okay, when my faith was wrecked. And sharing that with people, I've heard people come up and say, "Hey, thank you for sharing that 'cause I feel the same way."
Jenn: Well, the natural inclination we have as people is to fix it. And so we wanna bring the right Bible verse, or we wanna bring, "Well, this happened to me," and sometimes really the best thing... I heard somebody say this once, the best thing you can do is just take the casserole, say "I love you," and you cannot fix it. The best thing you can do sometimes is walk beside someone in their sadness and their pain, have a listening ear, you cannot fix it, and that's gotta be okay, you know?
Kirk: And what was okay for me is that I was able to share this with friends. And I had a group of close guys that they just allowed me to vent and talk about the struggles I was in, and they didn't say a stinking word. That's what meant a lot to me is they weren't... This is what made them so close to me during that time, is there wasn't, "Well, Kirk, you really need to pray through that issue." It's funny, 'cause there's one person in that situation who was constantly trying to correct me through there, and I was listening because I thought I need a corrector maybe, but I realized that the real help came from those who listened. And that was just an amazing thing in my life.
Not Okay with Another Baby
And another thing I've shared when it comes to transparency is, as many of the listeners know, I speak at life-affirming ministry events, pregnancy help ministries. That's what I do. But we faced a time right after we got married, six months after we got married, when we found out we had a baby on the way, and I am the pro-life guy and I'm supposed to be excited about this, my faith tells me this is a gift from God, but what hit me was, "I'm going to be 65 when this kid graduates high school. I'm never gonna stop parenting." And I just wasn't happy like I was supposed to be, I wasn't doing the Christian thing.
Jenn: Well, for me, it was a little bit different feeling because I didn't think I could have children, and then bam, we're having a baby. And I thought our older kids were God's blessing and provision for me, but the truth is, just being real about it, we had lots of plans. We were gonna travel, we were going to do stuff, and it all got put on hold because, "Oh, we're gonna be parents of a new born."
My faith got rocked and I had to be reminded that children are a gift from God. - Kirk
Kirk: Yeah, and I was... My faith got rocked there, and I had to over time come to the
realization that if God says Children are a gift, get to that point where you recognize it's a gift. And it took me a while. And I'm thankful that you were there, who walked me through that time a little bit, and others were there too, and got excited for us to help me get excited about that one.
Jenn: Yeah. It was really hard for me to hear you say that for the first time, 'cause I didn't fully get the gravity of how you had felt, but yeah, just that we could be in that moment together, I hope I was there for you.
Kirk: You were.
Jenn: And just know like, "Wow, this is not what I wanted, and right now I don't feel okay." But He did work in our hearts, your heart. I was in a different place than you.
Kirk: Well, yeah I was in that place that said, "I've raised these three kids for nine years on my own and I'm ready for a break. I'm ready to rest, I'm ready to say I made it through that trial of nine years as a single dad. It's over, life is gonna get on the easy track now." It got on the more challenging track.
Jenn: No diapers to change, middle of the night waking up, and now we're facing teenage years again after all this time, so.
Kirk: Yeah, and it's great, but when I tell that story to audiences, that I wasn't excited, when I put the transparency forward, what is freeing is, again, every time I share that story, someone will come up, almost every time, and say, "I've never told anybody that but I was an older woman and I just, at 41, 42, I just wasn't ready for this. It was hard. And thank you for sharing that it was hard for you, because you get up there and you're the speaker, and the idea is you're supposed to have it all together."
Jenn: Right. Well, and we put that on one another as Christians so much more than I think we realize.
Jenn: And it's been a journey you and I have been on and we've talked about so often, we're not helping one another when we put these expectations of, whether we realize it or not, of sort of this perfection, that if I am a good strong Christian, then I don't walk through... If I'm walking through the valley, I'm doing it with my hands raised, and "Praise God," and "Everything's gonna be okay," and the truth is it is not always okay, and we're not really helping each other when we aren't real about the valleys, because then when our sister or brother is going through the valley, and it's real, and we hid the real of our emotions and our frustration, then they think they're failing, and they don't see, "No, you know what, been there, been at the bottom, and He still pulled me up, and I still got on the other side of that darkness. And it didn't make that moment okay, that moment was horrible, but I got on the other side and you will too." You feel like you're in financial ruin. No, you will get on the other side of this, whatever it is.
Kirk: Yeah, that's exactly right. If we're transparent, people will come to us and we can be go to people. And we talk about how can we share our faith, how can we reach people without faith sometimes, and I think willingness to be real, even with those without faith, and put it out there so that they go, "Oh, well, I don't have to be perfect." 'Cause I do believe people who are outside of faith right now, they may look at us and go, "I kinda have to be perfect. I mean, I have to have it all together. They have it all together." Maybe it's alright, maybe it's okay if we're not okay with people who are yet to come to faith. And for those that are in faith, I do think we put great expectations on ourselves. I don't need to appear to be really vulnerable, I can do a little vulnerableness, but not too much. And I'm not talking about spilling our guts about every problem we've ever had, but I do think there's a place to be more real than we think we can be.
Jenn: Yeah, and I think that the Bible talks about, the scriptures, we see Jesus and his followers talking about, "You're gonna know their Christians, they're gonna know you're Christians by your love for one another, how you pick each other up from the hard places," not, "They're gonna know your Christians by how perfect your life is, by how no matter what happens, you just don't care, it's gonna be all right." No, that's not what we're encouraged to think or say.
Kirk: That's right, it's love's... Hey, you know what, if I'm in a position where I see a challenge and I go, "God has this, and I am totally confident," and I think it's great that we can share that with people. But at the same time, there are those moments when we're not so sure, and that's okay to share it too. We need to share all of us. It's not to say that if we're having a great time and things are going wonderfully well that we're supposed to hide that, no. But when those times come, when we're struggling.
Be Real for the Kids
You had a moment like this with a younger Christian who came to you struggling with their situation, their faith, and thinking, "I'm not a Christian because I've struggled in certain areas."
Jenn: And that was such an eye opener to me, because what I realized from this amazing younger Christian is they were feeling like, "I'm still not just... Everything's not perfect, everything's not okay, and I thought that's what it meant to give my life to Jesus and to become a follower, that's what it meant." And I thought we failed, we have felled this person, because they should know that it's not all okay, it's not all perfect.
Kirk: Yeah, and I think you gave this youngster a lot of encouragement or young Christian a lot of encouragement during that time. I kinda watched it take place. And I realized that when I was a young Christian, I had the same things. If I did something, "Oh, goodness, why did I fall short in that area?" whatever it was, all of a sudden, "Well, I must not be. I need to start over and do the whole thing again." No, it's okay if we're not okay. And if we're not sure God is going to pull through, even though we know it in our head, if it's not yet in our heart, it's okay to tell somebody that.
Behind the Scenes
Jenn: Well, and let's be real, that the real depths of our faith come from the truth of our situation. I can't dig in and lift somebody up in faith and prayer when they're never real with me.
Kirk: Yeah, that's right.
Jenn: If you're never real with me about when you're having a tough day, and you've always got that smile, and, "How are you doing?" "I'm fine, I'm fine," then I can't really be love and hope and faith to you when you're in those deep places. So it's a facade, and we maybe never really get to the height we could because we're constantly walking in the fake.
We can't reach new heights when we are always walking in the fake. - Jenn
Jenn: And I know it's not, I don't mean to paint it all as fake, but, you know, when we're...
Kirk: But we put, even if it's a thin facade, sometimes we do that. And I loved it when I was going through my times as a single dad, my pastor, I'd walk in, and he'd say, "Hey Job, how are you doing?" He realized it, he understood it's tough, and I didn't have to say fine to him. I could say, "Well, you know, it was a pretty good week," or, "Tough week, but thanks for asking, we're gonna get through it," that kind of thing, but I really believe, we wanna talk about bottom lines here, I really believe our bottom line today is that a transparent faith to someone else, whether they're a Christian or whether they're yet to follow, thinking about it, whatever, a transparent faith is an attractive faith. A transparent, a real faith is an accessible faith. It's one that somebody says, "I can do that. I can't do perfect, but I can do that." And I think it's a great way to draw people in to our world as a Christian and help them see if we give them a little behind the scenes look at what we really go through.
Jenn: Yeah. And if we just take off the glasses of this need for perfection and we look back at the lives of men and women who walked with Jesus, let me tell you, they had lots of days when they had to say, "It's okay to not be okay today, because I just lost my savior, my friend." I don't think they necessarily even looked at him as savior at that point, but when Jesus died, that was the day when, I'm sorry, it was not okay. When they struggled, when they lost their lives, when they...
Kirk: Yeah, I think when Stephen was stoned, I don't think they were like, "Well, just praise God, this is an amazing day." They mourned. It hurt.
Kirk: And we have those times. And I'm sure they were trying to figure out why. And if they weren't, good for them, but I know I would have been asking why. And I still ask why today, but at least I know where to go, and at least I can be real about it. And if we can be real, that faith becomes something that someone else out there goes, "Hey, maybe it's not so hard to get there after all."
Jenn: Right. So tell us again, what's our bottom line for our precious friends out there today?
Kirk: Transparency and being real I think makes our faith more accessible and more winning than we think it is. I think there's a subtle lie that we feel sometimes that we have to make sure that they see our faith as always winning, always joyful. I think if we can be a little more real sometimes, a little more transparent and let that guard down, I believe people are gonna be more attracted to us, be more willing to trust in us, build those relationships. And for someone who has faith, it'll make their faith stronger. For someone without faith, they may say, "I wanna continue that conversation with that person because they're real enough to share it with me."