In a time long past, when kids clustered in cafeterias without fear, held teachers hands, and when washing your hands was seen as a good thing, but not life or death, my son got in trouble at lunch. Austin was playing a boys game called “Punch.” Essentially Austin and his friends would punch each other and see how big of a whack each other could take without crying. Of course, there is nothing that could make me more proud, but I would never condone such actions publicly.
The lunch monitor put an end to this game within a couple hits and there were tears. Not because of a punch, but because they got in trouble. Instant shame overwhelmed Austin. It was all he could do to pull it together to go back to class. When he got home, he told my wife what happened and as he told it, he burst into tears. As Adrienne consoled Austin he said something that I haven’t stopped thinking about.
“Mommy, don’t tell Daddy.”
One of my favorite Tim Keller paraphrases is this.
To be unknown and accepted is comforting, but superficial.
To be fully known and rejected is our greatest fear.
To be fully known and accepted is to be loved like God would love.
Where lying starts
That is where lying starts. We feel shame. We feel we won’t be loved. We feel that if people really knew who we really were, then they would see us for the fraud we are. This happened to Adam in the garden and this happened to Austin in the cafeteria. Adam when he heard God coming in the cool of the day hid. Austin wanted to hide his sin from Daddy when he came home. Lying to cover shame only exacerbates the problem and that is what makes us slaves to sin.
Our culture further gives us reason to hide. Everytime a new person enters into the political arena every indiscretion, every sin, every mistake is highlighted and people are grilled about what they did and didn’t do 20-30 years ago. So there is a reason to hold our secrets close. In a world where karma rules and grace is seen as giving in to the other side, we of course have become a culture of secrets.
Bible Hero Shame
A casual perusal of the Bible reveals something really interesting about even the most godly humans.
Adam had only one rule and had only one other person on the planet and he ended up disobeying God and trying to cover it up. Abraham the “Father of our Faith” lied about his wife Sarah and gave her to two different harems, because he was afraid of being killed. Isaac followed in his father’s footsteps and did the same thing. Jacob lied and stole his brother’s blessing. Judah sold his brother into slavery and then hooked up with a prostitute who happened to be his dead son’s wife, and through their union, Jesus would come. Abraham’s nephew Lot who was considered a righteous man, got so drunk he didn’t realize he was having sex with his daugthers who used him to get pregnant, creating nations of peoples who would be enemies of God’s people.
Moses murdered a man, covered it up, and then ran away before God called him to lead Israel out of slavery at age 80. Rahab was a prostitute whom Israel trusted to help their battle in Jericho and somehow she got into the lineage of Jesus. Gideon led a battle against the Midianites and freed them from slavery and then spirituallly enslaved them all by having people worship his golden ephod. Samson was a hulk of a man who put his own strength and sexual desire ahead of God’s heart and yet he judged Israel for 20 years. Eli was the high priest of Israel who got fat off the sacrifices of the people and failed to discipline his sons for extorting the people of God.
King Saul after leading Israel to victory, built a monument to himself, murdered the priests of God, tried to kill David and eventually turned to witchcraft. King David committed adultery with the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers who was also known as one of his Mighty Men. And then he had him killed. King Solomon built the temple and dedicated himself and Israel to worship God and did so until his wives led him to worship foreign gods. Elijah who had God speak to him, did incredible miracles demonstrating the power of God, was able to run at the speed of time, became so depressed that he became suicidal. Jonah heard from God, disobeyed God, was disciplined by God in a fish and still couldn’t get on board with God’s agenda to save people and not destroy them.
Peter after boasting he would never deny Jesus, denied Jesus to a middle school aged girl. Peter to whom God revealed that the Gentiles should be treated as equal heirs of the kingdom of God, went back to racist ways when he got around racist Christians. James and John had competition issues and wanted to make sure they got more special treatment than Peter and even brought their mom to beg Jesus for it. James and John also wanted to murder an entire Samaritan village for the Samaritans rejecting them.
I don’t think anyone would say that the people listed above didn’t want to love and serve God. I don’t think anyone would say they aren’t in heaven, but there were moments when circumstances overwhelmed them. There were moments when temptation won out. There were moments where the darkness crept into their hearts.
God still used them. He still loved them. And more than likely they had more issues than the Bible revealed. We just got a highlight reel of their sin. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it is a complete guarantee that anyone reading this has issues they aren’t proud of and would be humiliated if any of their darkness came to light. It’s out of this hiding that Christian pastors have fallen as well. Men who did great things for God but like Moses, David, and others sinned and sought to cover it up. It’s the cover up that bothers people. And I’m not talking about the cover up that is obvious, like hiding a dead body or concealing an affair. I’m talking about the way before the sin gets big enough to appear at a Supreme Court nomination hearing. What happens to Christians who get put on pedestals is that they have a reputation of perfection to keep. Even though they would say, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Image management is something that is an actual profession. I just looked up you can get a Public Relations Image Management Major. We have turned covering up someone’s flaws into a career. But what if you could live so authentically, you didn’t need that. If your public relations tool was just Jesus saved me. Wouldn’t that be freeing?
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman who has been divorced 5 times and the man she was currently living with was not her husband. She had shame. She had gone to a place of isolation and made life work in spite of the myriad of bad choices and the struggle of being ostracized from society. Maybe people were pointing and talking about her bad decisions and constantly criticizing her. Maybe her name was synonymous with prostitute in the culture. Or maybe it was all in her head, and nobody really thought about her. Out of sight, out of mind. Who knows? All we do know is that when Jesus meets her she is at the town well at the heat of the day when no one else would dare get that sweaty to get water for the day's chores.
Jesus sits down and asks for a drink. The woman immediately gets defensive.
“Why are you talking to me?”
Jesus leans in, “If you knew who it was who was asking you, you would ask him for living water.”
The woman plays along. “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? “
Jesus forces her to ask him for it by revealing that if she asked him she would never be thirsty again and that she would have a well of living water within her.
“Sir, give me the water so I won’t be thirsty or have to come to this well again.” she said.
“Go, and get your husband and bring him here,” Jesus said knowing exactly how she would answer.
“I don’t have a husband.” she stared at the well.
“You are right, you don’t have a husband. You’ve had five, and the one you are with now is not your husband. That’s very true.” Jesus said. No accusation. No cry for repentance. No denunciation. None of the things she expected. But she doesn’t miss a chance to change the subject to worship locations and Jesus lets her know that true worship isn’t location, but Spirit and Truth.
“When the Messiah comes he will explain it all,” the woman said expecting that to be an end of the weirdest conversation ever.
“I, who speak to you, am he.”
Now when Jesus said that, she changed. She dropped her jar and ran into town and she was not trying to be inconspicuous. She found everyone. She let them know she was free. He knew everything about her. All of her sin, all of her hurt, all of her secrets. He had accepted her. He hadn’t even done anything. No transactions. He just knew her. He didn’t reject her or look to use her. All the fear of people faded. She had come to know what real love is. God had chosen to reveal to her who the Messiah was.
Now imagine living like that all the time. Imagine feeling so loved and so forgiven that you wouldn’t look to fill your insecurities with more brokenness. Instead of living in anticipation that things might get better, living with the understanding they already are and the best is yet to come. That changes things. That is how people grow and change.
I think when people read that, their first inclination is to go, “Yeah, I did that already.”
What they mean when they say that is I had that incredible moment where I realized I was a sinner and that Jesus saved me. But I’m way beyond that now. And what they are really saying is I’ve gone back to being afraid of people and what they expect me to be now that I am saved.
How Sanctification Works
But Colossians 2:6 reminds us to live in the moment of our salvation well beyond that day when we chose to give our life to Him.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
But how? What does that look like? The answer is fairly simple. Confession.
Confession to God= forgiveness. (1 John 1:9)
Confession to people with prayer=healing (James 5:16)
1 John 1:8 lets us know how bad we really are. To say otherwise is self-deception.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:9 explains that God is that good to forgive us from all sin.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
James 5:16 explains that restoration and our healing are connected.
Confess your sins one to another and pray for each other that you may be healed.
I’ve wanted my home to be a place that would welcome vulnerability. We have a set of phrases at our house that I make my boys repeat anytime I have to discipline them.
“Daddy loves you when you make what?” I ask.
“Good choices and bad choices.” they respond.
“It makes Daddy happy when you make…”
To make sure that they don’t get confused because this phrase is only used in times of discipline I have implemented a strategy that I remind them in their success that my love isn’t dependent on behavior or success. I remind them that I love them for no reason other than that they are my sons, and we go through the phrases again. My hope is that one day they see the easy transition from their earthly father to their heavenly one.
I don’t think if you are reading this that you think that confession and repentance is bad. You agree in theory. However, making this a practice, let alone a habit seems daunting. Where do I start. Perhaps the first step is taking the blog and sharing it and then talking about it with someone you trust.