Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sins Like Skeletons

It's been a while, hasn't it!  Time flies, but I want to share some thoughts on my heart.  I am far from perfect in this area, but there are some things I think I have learned, and so, today, I will be a beggar telling other beggars where to find bread.

Authenticity is a word we often use. A buzz word of sorts, but the question remains. How authentic are we really?  

I'm often on Facebook. I see a lot on there, from the banal to the serious, from the logical to the outrageous. But one thing I rarely see is authenticity. A real genuine openness, even with those we call our "Facebook friends." I thought a friend was someone we trusted- but it appears we don't trust people online. To be fair, of course, the internet is a dangerous place, but...if you also know that person in real life, there shouldn't be a hiding of your true thoughts and feelings, even if you are communicating by private messages.

Then there is the "I'm fine" syndrome. I've done it. My friends have done it. I don't know anyone who has not. I do it even with my own roommate, who has helped me through so much. And he is no fool. He knows me pretty well. He knows when my depression, my anger, and my feelings of inadequacy begin to show.  

Is it that I don't trust him? Far from it. I do. What I tell him, he has never divulged. He likes to tease, but when I am serious ("I guess I am just a screwup after all") he is quick to comfort. It's just...well, I think there are many reasons why I and so many others play that game. The game of hiding. The game of not telling the truth about ourselves.  

First, of course, is pride. We think we are above weakness. "I'm strong enough." "I'm better than anyone else." "I'm not so bad." We've all said it, or at least thought it. The world, and the devil that rules it, has convinced us that if we are not actually gods, we are one step below that. To admit weakness would mean we are not really that strong. But we have to remember- we are not. None of us are perfect. None of us know all. None of us are immune from the batterings we have been given.  

This one is tough for me. I've tried, over and over, to prove to others I need no help. Even if I was bruised and battered, or if my own sins were eating me alive, I tried to say that I was tough. I didn't want or need help, because my own brains and knowledge serve for me. Or so I thought. God continued to take things away- and he used my own foolishness to do it- until I had to admit I needed help. Even better, until I admitted those things came from him, and that God had given friends to give me aid in the things I did not know.  

Second is fear. We've all been let down. Gossip, deceit, and abuse have ripped through all our lives. Why should we trust? Why should we give our hearts to anyone? Our deepest darkest secrets are our own. Even the Bible says the heart has its own sadness, right? Yes. But a cord of two strands is not easily broken. Its not enough to admit who we are to ourselves. We also need to admit who we are to others.

I mean, I'm intelligent, kind, loyal and soft-hearted. I'm also proud, stubborn, have a weakness for the opposite sex, and sometimes have the attitude that people should just get over their problems, already. I also have the tendency to run and hide from what I can't control. 

Sure, I don't say that lightly. I don't like to admit these things. But they are true and always will be. I need help. I have problems.  

But it is not enough to confess our own problems. We also must have the trust of others- that they can confess to us. Hiding from others just makes others want to hide from us. Trust must flow both ways. We must truly get over the fear that people will reject us. They will not. In fact, it is my settled conviction that when people realize we won't reject them, they will open up their own hearts and not reject us, either.

I have a confession. I am more or less a country boy. Though I have visited cities, I have never lived in one. Moving to New Mexico was a culture shock in itself, but moving to Albuquerque was worse. And one thing about cities is the abundance of tattoos. I don't think it is wrong to have tattoos, necessarily, but I saw them everywhere, and I had long associated tats with the gang life. Though part of my assumption is true, not all who have tats are violent. In fact, I later found out that even many gangsters are scared, and find in gangs a substitute family.  

What's my point? Simply this. We can't judge by appearances. And we definitely can't live by stereotypes. To do so is to substitute an image for the real thing- and we need to know people as they really are. If they have problems, at least we know that we know them, not just an image about them. If they know us, they know who we are, too, not just an image about us.  

I mean, the whole idea of stereotypes goes both ways. If I say I am a Christian, there are certain images of what a Christian looks like. None of those images probably include a nerd that likes to travel, likes to take risks, and likes to have a cold one every once in a while. Or someone who likes mosh pits and classic rock. Or someone who is more easy-going and not a rabid evangelist. I don't like to stand on boxes in the middle of city streets. Too dangerous.  

I mean, God knows us absolutely. Nothing can be hidden from him. Maybe its time our skeletons came out around other people, too. Why should people have to figure us out? Why should we test them? True, we shouldn't just trust anyone. This world is full of evil people who want to take advantage, yes. Discernment is invaluable in the world we live in. But there is a difference between discernment and paranoia. There is also a difference between discernment and bitterness. We cannot allow our own bad experiences to keep us from trusting those who have our best interests at heart.  

And what about the box? The box that says, "You must conform." We always say there is no box, but we live as though there is. There are certain...expectations put on us. I'll be honest. When Eowyn says, "I am no man," I like it not just because she proves her quality, but also because she defies expectations. I hate the fact that so many people are pushed down into a box. It makes them afraid. I was afraid. I wanted to be different as a kid. I was. Boys play sports. I spent my time in the library, not on the field. Christians sing hymns. I sang the Beatles. High schoolers have cliques. I had none. I had friends from every clique. You're supposed to go to college right out of high school, especially if you have a SAT of 2200. I didn't.

I'm not tooting my own horn here, or trying to prove I am something special. I'm not. Like I said, I was afraid to stand out. Nails get pushed down. But I refused to let anyone tell me who I was supposed to be. I am me. I listened to God- when we were on speaking terms. But not many others. I still listen to God, but I still have a hard time listening to other people.  

However, all that was external. Inside, I was terrified. I was depressed. I had night terrors. Everyone said I was always tired, and I had good reasons for that - besides laziness. I was bullied. My childhood wasn't fun. High school was better. Developing my faith helped a lot, but I was still afraid. My non-conformity was a mask, and I wore it well, while refusing to talk about what was going on inside. The mask came off eventually, out of desperation. Then, slowly, I learned to trust. I am still different, but I can be open about my differences- the things that make me unique and that God can use. Why should I be afraid of what God gave me? The point is- don't be afraid to be different. And don't be afraid to celebrate your differences, because God knew what he was doing when he gave you them.  

Finally, be strong in Christ. I've talked about different things- sins, struggles, and differences. We aren't perfect, but we are forgiven. I think that is the greatest factor of all- knowing the great love of God. Men may not understand, and may not forgive, but God always does. He loves us with a love different than any other. His love is a warm blanket, a security.

When I was younger, and sometimes even today, I had sinus problems. My health has always been good, but for them. A hot blanket, and a cup of tea, would help a lot. Chicken soup was even better, and it was not long before the warmth would drive away the chill. That is really what God's love is like. It is a security that is perfect, that never lets go even when everything else is chaos and cold. I've never regretted accepting the forgiveness God offers, and I think that acceptance changes some of our own beliefs.  

For example, I think knowing God understands us helps us to accept our uniqueness. Christianity is the only faith that really celebrates the individual. All other faiths (or lack of) strive for conformity. But since God made us all unique, all of us matter, no matter how strange we seem. God used a left-hander, a bastard (using the technical meaning), a shepherd boy, and a fisherman. I'm talking about Ehud, Jephthah, David, and Peter. Moses stuttered, and Aaron was afraid of confrontation. And let's not forget Cyrus, a Persian king with almost no knowledge of the One True God. No, I think God delights in using oddballs.  

And what about our sins and our weaknesses? David had a weakness for women, and Solomon a weakness for gold. (600 talents a year? Really?) Moses had a temper that never really disappeared. Peter was impetuous, and it can be argued that Philip had more common sense than faith. Solomon's searching for the good life led to Ecclesiastes, a sober view of riches and worldly thinking. David's adultery gave a model confession for so many people with "special friends." Moses' temper allowed him to stand up to Pharaoh, and Peter's big mouth eventually brought 3,000 people into the early church.  

Point? God will use all we have to do all we can for his kingdom, weak and stumbling sheep as we are. All we have to do is throw ourselves at his mercy, and he will take what we have and turn it into something extraordinary.  


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