I share a lot here about my weaknesses, struggles, and fears. I am, for the most part, an open book. But I have not always this way. And I am still not where I want to be.
For many years in my journey of faith I hid “me” There was this assumption in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist world that when you express your faith in Jesus you get better, and increasingly holy as you move from glory to glory. Constant failure, ongoing struggles with the same “sin” meant that you, in the least, were not very committed, or worse, backslidden. Most of us living in this rigid religious bubble would deny that underlying message, but it was deeply embedded in the culture. Seminars, festivals, books. and podcasts reaffirm it.
If you really loved Jesus you would…
turn from sin,
spend serious amounts of time in prayer, Bible reading, evangelizing,
tithe your money,
give up “worldly” pleasures,
stand up against the sins of others,
and become more like Jesus,
produce the fruit of the Spirit.
The problem with these, and many other expectations not listed, was that we’ve all failed in keeping the rules. But rather than honestly living before each other in the church, we hide.
And I hid well. I adopted the common practice of pretending to be more spiritual by trying harder, and getting even more involved. I was busy in small groups, teaching, singing, and even held many leadership positions in churches creating for myself a faux holiness façade. But inside I was in turmoil, I felt like a fraud, and I knew God was up in Heaven looking down on me as the son in whom He was disappointed and angry.
But I could only do this for so long until one evening in the living room of a friend, I poured out my heart. My soul was laid bare before him, and I held nothing back. To my surprise he did not respond with judgment or condemnation. He did not even offer advice on how to fix myself. Instead, after what seemed an eternity of silence, he said that he didn’t know the answers, or even how to help me at that point. But then he said something that changed my view of God in a way that has been transformational ever since.
He told me he loved me. That nothing I have told him changed his relationship with my as his friend. At that moment I began to grasp the idea of unconditional love. God used my friend to reveal to me that His love is not fickle, or dependent on anything I think or do.
I cannot say that I have arrived by any stretch of the imagination. I am at times weak, sinful, inconsistent. Sometimes I struggle greatly with fear, anxiety, and depression, and I can filled with self pity.
God loves me anyway, just as I am, right now, at this moment with a love that has no restrictions. This past summer as I have been coming to point of walking in the truth and light of who I truly am, the Creator said to me…”You are my beloved son, and I love you just as you are, not in spite of who you are.” There is a grand freedom in knowing this, the freedom to become who God created me to be.
And that love and freedom is available to you at this moment too.