“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)
Transparency is basically when light can pass through an object (like glass) and be undistorted. In the spiritual realm, it is the condition of being truthful about oneself. Translucent, on the other hand, means permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that persons, objects, etc., on the opposite side are not clearly visible and are altered or distorted.
Glass that is translucent is opaque so that you can only see an outline of what is behind it. A shadow, or as James puts it, a “shifting shadow”. That’s how we are with ourselves – we only want people (and God) to see what we want them to see, and hide the real details of our life or behavior. We often put on a happy face when we are crying inside.
God, however, wants us to be transparent – where there is no covering up of things we don’t want others to see. Yet people see our faults anyway, and we either ignore our faults by choice, or don’t see them at all. We forget that God sees it all, just as Jesus did when questioning the Samaritan woman at the well about her husband.
Several years ago, I went on a two-day spiritual retreat with several men, the purpose of which was for each of us to listen to God’s voice in an undistracted environment at a Christian retreat center. It would be a silent retreat – we only interacted verbally during meal time and in the evening when we had a time for sharing. I ended up feeling under a conviction that God wanted me to deal with sin in my life but I was reluctant to focus on my sins.
I initially procrastinated and spent time reading passages in the bible with the hope that something else more refreshing would occupy my time. Nothing came, so I finally took out a note pad and started writing a list of my past sins and transgressions. My junk. By the time I got to the third page (single space, I might add), I felt like I was just getting warmed up. It was actually pretty depressing.
I finally took a break and took a walk in the sylvan woods of the retreat center and had a real conversation with God about why he wanted me to make my long list which was still incomplete. After several minutes into my walk, His answer became clear, just as if He had spoken to me. God wanted me to face my many imperfections, and in doing so, He let me know that He could still use me, imperfect though I was.
That was a breakthrough for me – I really felt like I did some serious business with God at that retreat and He taught me a lot about submission to His will, not my own. I was transparent with myself, probably for the first time in my life.
I felt like a burden had been lifted, yet I knew that I still had some work to do – after all, in John 8, when confronted by the woman caught in adultery by the Pharisees, Jesus did not condemn her, but He told her to go and “sin no more.” God never leaves us where we are – he wants us to show progress in our lives, and I still have a lot of work to do.
Have you been transparent to God and yourself, or have you been living in shifting shadows where the world only sees what you want it to see? Do you have a friend with whom you have a relationship deep enough to withstand the test of personal failure? If you have no one with whom you can trust, you are fooling yourself that you can live life alone with no one to confide in and be accountable.
As Solomon rightly says in Ecclesiastes 4, “Two are better than one.” Today is a good day to get started in transparency, so that your sins of your past do not become your sins of tomorrow. Find someone as an accountability partner.