But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1st John 1:7.
I'm going there. I'm doing it. I've had too many "coincidental" conversations and situations recently that have become the straw that broke my back.
I grew up in a church culture of secrecy.
What do I mean by that? I mean that when someone was caught in sin, everyone else was outwardly horrified (though probably inwardly relieved it wasn't them) and that person was gossiped about (i.e. prayed for) for a long time to come.
The pastor caught in pornography. The married man caught kissing someone else. The married man leaving his family for someone else. The girl with multiple partners. The prescription pain pill addiction. The movie watching (remember, we weren't supposed to own TVs or watch movies?). The pot smoking. So many examples I could use. And so many more stories that I know I barely know the inkling of.
But none of these things were ever talked about in an open, constructive, edifying, safe way. Not from the pastors, not from the ministry leaders, not from the families. I never one time participated in a safe discussion about any of these kinds of things.
You struggle with pornography? You better hope nobody ever finds out about that or you'll be "kicked out of ministry."
You throw your food up when nobody's looking or starve yourself? You better hope nobody ever finds out because "Christians don't struggle with those things."
Everything was an either/or situation. Either you don't struggle or you struggle but you keep it a secret so you're not punished or shamed.
Perfection or secrecy.
Not too long ago I was listening to a pastor on the radio who was speaking on the air with his wife about marriage. And she said something to the effect of, "I know this may be surprising but _______ and I have our moments of disagreement."
You know what ticked me right off about that? Why is that surprising? Why would it surprise us that two sinful people married to one another would have a disagreement? Do we really actually think that once you become a pastor or ministry staff person that you leave your sinful nature at the door? Of course you still have disagreements! I can't remember the last alive person I met that had finally reached perfection.
But what makes me really sad about all of this is that at the end of our secrets, Satan wins.
We don't get the perfect family, we don't get the perfect body, marriage, kids, ministry, life, we hoped we were presenting; we just get a lot of hypocrisy and double-living and secrets upon secrets and ultimately, either relational shallowness or relational dysfunction. Because you can't have safe and open and deep relationship with someone who's keeping secrets.
Recently, someone confided in me (and I have her permission to share this; I would never write about someone without their express permission) a very real struggle she has had for years. She had alluded for months that she wanted to talk about it but could never bring herself to share. Finally, one day I oh-so-gently pressed and it ever-so-slowly came out. And honestly? Honestly, all I could do was cry. I just told her over and over again through my tears, I'm just so sorry. I'm so sorry that you've carried this alone for so long and that you felt ashamed about it. I'm so sorry that you felt like that would change the way I would see you. I love who you are. That doesn't change anything about how I feel about you. I'm so sorry.
And I am so sorry. I'm so sorry that so many followers of Christ live in secrecy and darkness because they're terrified of being found out. But being found out about what? That Jesus is still transforming and refining them? That they aren't perfect?
And I'm not talking about license. I don't mean people who claim "freedom" as a means to continue in their sin. Because that person is still a slave to whatever that thing is.
I'm talking about freedom from shame and fear because we're not There yet.
I started Galatians this morning in my Bible reading plan. "Coincidentally" Galatians is chocked full of freedom, freedom, freedom.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
You did not turn to Christ by faith and receive a new nature and Spirit only to continue trying really hard to get it right and live in fear of people finding out you're actually not perfect. And you still struggle with stuff.
That first moment of saving grace that Christ poured out on you when you turned to him in faith, receiving his mercy, was just the beginning. The Gospel doesn't stop there. The gospel continues to be good news to us. I have to remind myself of the gospel on a weekly basis.
It's good news that when I snapped and yelled at my sons yesterday that I'm not a slave to my failure and subsequent shame, that repentance and forgiveness are mine. Jesus, I'm sorry for giving vent to my anger. Your word says that fools do that and I'm sorry for being a fool and hurting my sons' hearts. And then I sit my sons down and look them in their eyes and in complete sincerity and godly sorrow I ask their forgiveness, Boys, I'm sorry I exploded in anger towards you. That was wrong. I got stressed and I took it out on you and that was wrong of me to do that. Did I hurt your hearts? I'm sorry I hurt your hearts. Do you forgive me? And then lots of hugs and kisses.
If the Good News is not true then the bad news is: I'm stuck. I have nowhere to turn except resignation and despair. And trying reeeeally hard.
It's not by my good works. It's not by your good works. It's faith and repentance and grace and mercy and forgiveness. Jesus, you love me. You always love me. I'm covered in your mercy. Your grace. I'm forgiven.
And that compels me to love him more. To turn away from sin and towards Jesus. Do I get it perfect? No. Absolutely not. But then I remind myself of the good news.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1st John 1:9
You need not be ashamed that you still struggle. You need not let Satan enslave you to your secrets in a dark place where nobody wins, especially not you. You need not fear that others will know you're not perfect. You're not and we already know. Because we're not either.
The Good News is really, really good news.
(And because I can't not leave you with a few pictures of my favorite boys and I didn't do a Halloween post...here are Mister Fox, Chubby Raccoon, and my handsome fighter jet pilot.)