If you recall yesterday, I ended with the admission of wearing the best Christian mask ever…no one knew (or at least I thought no one knew) of the pain, struggle, and utter failure I was feeling inside. I couldn’t say anything, I couldn’t stand to be rejected by the people of God. I needed to keep up the pretense. But I no longer could, I was dying on the inside and deeply depressed. A friend who had been in my life for a few years was very perceptive, and he continued to try and get me to talk, to open up, but I avoided him, filled with the terror (this word best describes the feeling) I had of exposure. But he would not relent, one evening in his home, at the end of myself, the dam of denial broke, every bad thought, every struggle, every weakness, every sin poured out, tears of shame and fear running down my face, my heart pounding, aching, I told him everything. When I was done, I expected to here words of condemnation, condemnation similar to that of my father, my peers growing up, my former Catholic school upbringing, and condemnation from my false god. I waited, and then he said slowly and deliberately to me that even though I he did not have all the answera, and in spite of all the things that I had told him, he would continue to love me and accept me just as I am and stand with me though everything. The wall of self protection began to crack within me and for the first time in my 10 or so years as a “born again” I began to understand the unconditional love and grace of God in Christ. Once again my course was changed.
My focus turned from how good I was trying to be, to how good God is to me inspite of myself. I began to experience the freedom that is found in Jesus. I began to love myself…and accept my limitations and embrace my strengths. I read books by Steve Brown, Philip Yancey, Jerry Bridges, Bryan Chappell and others on God’s grace, forgiveness, unconditional love and mercy. I began talk and share what I was learning with others and then I saw a few people begin to change too. Free from “churchiosity” and legalism, and self hatred I went on a mission to teach and preach, and show people what had been missing in the Christian life and how they too could be free. I talked about the need for believers to love, to love the abortionist, love people who use drugs and alcohol, love the person who does not agree morally with you, love gay and lesbian individuals, love the person struggling in the church to get it right. Let them know that there is a love outside human love that is greater, higher, wider, deeper and more amazing than anything they have ever known. I wanted so much for people to experience that love and that they in turn would fall in love with God and seek to serve Him. Serve Him not out of duty or to get on His good side but rather because they are experiencing His extravagent grace and love through the church, His body, His representative here on earth.
Understanding, in some small way this love and grace that flows from God through Christ has been my greatest blessing…and it has been the greatest curse.
Tomorrow I will bring all of this long story to where I am today and why I have such pain within me and struggle so fiercely with my love/hate relationship with the church and with my own personal “demons”.
Peace and grace to all of you who have taken time to read these arduous posts.