So last week we were doing simple adding and subtracting, this week we are moving on to geometry. Just kidding, let’s leave the math to the math people. Really what we are doing here today is talking about my word for the year. I know, it is already essentially February and you have already chosen yours and you have already heard everyone else’s but give a girl some grace, ok?
The truth is that this word came to me months ago, in the middle of the semester and in the middle of my mess. I felt like the Lord was opening my eyes to the amount of dishonesty flying around my life, whether it was my own or the dishonesty of others around me. I became aware of how often we all are telling lies, either through blatant untruths or by leaving out any kind of detail of our choosing. Often we think we are protecting the people around us by withholding information. I have started praying for the Lord to give me, essentially, a better BS radar – that I would be able to hear people and know whether or not they were telling me the truth.
Here is the thing. We live so much of our lives thinking that lying will make things easier. We lie to our parents when we are in high school. We lie to our professors when we are in college. We lie to our friends about all kinds of things – we think by lying that we can make people like us more, or protect our image, or get invited to more things. We live a lot of our lives in the darkness where the devil whispers, just tell half the truth. Or, just leave out that one minor detail, it’ll never matter.
One of the assignments I give in my class is for my freshman students to write a letter to their graduating self. One of my students last semester wrote something that I’ll never forget: Never lie, it is too much to remember. How true is that? And it got me thinking about how entrapped we get in our stories. We leave out details or add something in to make something sound better, but then we have to remember that version every time we tell the story in the future. How often do we find ourselves here: If I don’t tell so-and-so that part of the story, then I have to be careful not to tell her friend because what if she finds out and then I’m caught in the middle of my own dishonesty?
So the Lord brought this word, congruency, to my mind. The initial definition really is about geometry: congruency is when two figures or objects have the same size and shape. In life I would define congruency by this question: does my life match? Am I doing the things I am telling others to do? Am I presenting my true self to the world? Or am I living in a different way than I preach?
One could also call this living with integrity. David mentions integrity so many times in the Psalms. He believes that his integrity will uphold him (and he saw how a lack of integrity could destroy him). He says that people who walk in integrity are JOYful.
I have walked with students through some hard situations in the past months. And I have wondered, “Am I living my life in the same way I am telling them they should live theirs?”
I’m telling them to have the hard conversations – am I?
I’m telling them to be honest with friends about deep wounds and heartache – am I?
I’m telling them to trust people again – am I willing to do that?
I am telling them to have boundaries and practice self care – do I?
Telling the truth feels like the most significant way to live a congruent life. Likewise, being dishonest is the greatest form of incongruency. I have felt so convicted of this recently. In Isaiah 28, there is a description of the incongruency in the lives of leaders. They say they have made “a lie our refuge, and falsehood our hiding place.” The Lord responds and says, “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.” (Verses 15, 17). I don’t know about you, but I would much rather measure my life by righteousness than take refuge in a lie.
So, in this year, I am making myself and you a promise: that I will do my best to live my life in a congruent way. This means I will be more honest, with you and with myself. It means I will do my best to live in a way where nothing needs to be hidden. No secrets that are unhealthy to keep. It means I will be examining my words, actions, emotions, beliefs to see what lines up with what the Lord asks of me and what doesn’t. It probably means saying no to a lot of things, and probably some hard yeses as well.
Friend, hear me when I say this: the truth will set you free. As hard as it is to believe that, it is absolutely true. Dishonesty or incongruency is the darkest space you could choose to live in. Hiding who you are from the world is a disservice to you and the world. Honesty is light and lovely. Lying chains you to keeping track of your story.
An example, and then I will get off my soapbox – I went and saw the Tonya Harding movie with some friends last weekend. I don’t know what it is, but we just literally cannot get enough of this story (if you don’t know it, google it). But our hearts were full of sorrow for her, because it feels like she does not even know what is true anymore. And we kept saying to each other, “If only she knew the freedom of telling the truth!” She has lived in the darkness for so long – and who knows, maybe she has told all of her truth – but I wish she could be set free from the chains of incongruency. I wish she could know that living in the light of the truth is so much better than protecting a story that she’s been telling for over twenty years.
Again, what I want to tell you more than anything is that the truth will set you free. The lies that you think are protecting you are actually enslaving you. The incongruent ways in which you are living are not serving the purposes you wish they would. The white lies we are telling, or the information we are omitting are adding darkness to the world, not light. I want to practice living my life in an honest and congruent way, being honest with others, with God, and with myself. I’d encourage you to ask yourselves these questions today: Where in my life am I living without congruency? Where can I step into the light of truth?