I had the opportunity recently to indulge one of my passions, driving a clear mountain road through pristine pines and glistening snow capped peaks in a spunky little turbo-charged hatchback. There’s something about the mix of modern technology and the majesty of creation that electrifies me. But that’s all an aside. My attention was drawn away from the outside surroundings to the interior dialogue flowing from my CD player (yeah, I still have CD’s). I was listening to a fascinating interview with a contemporary Christian author.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” the interviewer quoted from the 60’s Janis Joplin tune. WOW, did that strike me. My first response – am I free? Do I have something to lose?
It might help to give the context. The interview revolved around the theme of transparency in our Christian walk. They were wrestling with the question, “What’s it like to have no secrets, nothing to hide, nothing to protect?” My thoughts went deeper – am I hiding anything, keeping secrets, protecting a favorite indulgence? I turned this over in my heart several times asking the Lord to bring any darkness into the light. Thankfully, I couldn’t discern anything I was consciously trying to hide from God or anyone else.
That hasn’t always been true though. I have bitter memories of lurking in the shadows with hidden demons. I, like the author being interviewed, know the guilt, shame, fear, despair, thrill, arrogance, and bi-polarity of that existence. Like the author, I’ve had my demons exposed, one by one in excruciating detail at the worst possible moments with the maximum of embarrassment…and grace. Having the bright light of justice and grace uncover my personal failures was painful, not just to me but all those near me. I thought I was navigating life pretty well until God broke in to display my hypocrisies and my bondage. That was prison – what about freedom?
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” rings true to me. I had a lot to lose when in bondage - I’m free now. All my demons are out in the light. They don’t like that. Like water on the Wicked Witch, keeping them in the light shrivels them. So let’s talk about freedom.
Freedom means you’ve already lost everything – your reputation, your position, your family, your spouse, your income, your doctrine, your standards, your pride, your secrets, your indulgences, everything. You are free from calling or claiming anything as yours – it’s all subsumed in Christ. Everything not Christ-like is in the light to be shriveled. If I own nothing, I don’t have to protect anything. I don’t have to hide anything. If we haven’t lost everything we have something that can bind us.
Freedom is elusive. All those things we don’t want to lose keep shouting at us to stay in the dark alleys where our badness can’t be exposed. Our fears of what naked honesty would cost keep us cowering in the gloom. Our Christian community might cast us out. Our spouse might call it quits. Kids might be irretrievable. Job could be lost. Ministry shattered. People devastated. The shame and grief may be overwhelming. All these things are possible. We live in a cursed world. But, what if?
Ask yourself: What if I were to be transparent about my demons AND be accepted by my Christian community? What if I could confess to my wife and be forgiven (even if it means losing her trust and having to rebuild it over time)? What if God would save my children in spite of me? What if I lost my job but gained a crystal clear conscience? What if my church is devastated WITH ME and agrees to walk WITH ME to healing and recovery? What if I lose my reputation and position and GAIN Christ? What if God is still on the Throne of Heaven and knows the brilliance of what I could be if I would only come out of the darkness? What if He would bear His mighty arm, reach down into my pit, and yank me out with only the tatters of my destroyed life to cling to? Could He really make my life worth living if I respond?
That’s for you to discover. The Church is full of people like us. Lurkers in the shadows, players at religion, knowing truth without a clue how to live it, wanting a safe place to fall apart, fearing the consequences of a see-through existence. Tragic thing is that you are probably surrounded by fellow believers that share your reality but are equally fearful of honesty. Sad – but don’t let it stop you.
Take everything you’ve got and lose it. Endure the pain. Freedom is on the other side.
Here’s to all the losers! We count everything dung in order to gain Christ!