Scars or Merit Badges?
I love the conversations I have with my friend Rocky. One of the most thoughtful men I know, he came out with this one the other day . . . “I teach from my scars, not my merit badges.” For years now, I’ve been trying to inspire men to become mentors to younger men. I tell them “You don’t need training. Life and the Lord have trained you. All you need is a love for Jesus and a willingness to give yourself up, to take off your mask, to admit you don’t have a perfect track record, to be real about your journey and what God has done in your life. You don’t need a vest full of merit badges; just a willingness to ‘go there’ about the crap in your life before Jesus forgave you and what happened when He took over.” Good mentors don’t give advice, they point guys to Scripture and share their stories. They show their scars.
When I share my faith story with men, they yawn when I talk about my accomplishments . . . about my merit badges. But when I open up about my scars, I have their undivided attention! Why? Because it’s real, genuine, and authentic. Yeah, they can read stories about people who made the same mistakes, but they don’t know those people. They don’t have skin. They don’t have tears in their eyes when they tell about how their screw-ups hurt their wives. Or the damage they wrought by worshipping lesser gods like work, money, buddies, golf, sports, poker or a hundred other things. Come on man . . . none of us deserve to be okay with God. The guy who can’t figure out the sin in his life should look up the definition of self-righteousness. And the guy who can’t (or won’t) share his ugly stuff is guilty of image management and probably has a pride issue.
Is there a merit badge you get for sharing the evil stuff God redeemed you from? Not at all. But two things happen when a guy opens up about his ‘dark corners’ with the men he’s trying to influence. First, God gets the glory, not just for forgiving all that stuff, but for creating a clean heart in the guy. Many guys think “If you knew what I did back then . . .” They fear they’ll lose friends and respect when, in reality, they gain respect. They put themselves on the same level as every other man. They’re not saying “Look at all this bad stuff I did and how I cleaned up my act,” they’re saying “Look at how God can turn a man’s life around, even a guy like me.”
The second thing is that a bond forms between transparent people. Mutual respect comes from mutual humility. Instead of counting each other’s merit badges, they’re seeing each other as peers, as equals before God, as “sinners saved by Grace.”
Sharing scars beats the snot out of merit badges.
Scripture: Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)
Mentor Tip: As you tell your story, you’ll have to make tough decisions about how far to go . . . about how much to tell. Ask God to lead you and give you the courage to be transparent. Someone sitting in your group is probably right where you were when you surrendered. God may want to use you to give them the courage to confess, repent and to become the man God designed him to be.