Regular readers of the humble ramblings know that eldest Son Matt is an occasional contributor. Yesterday I posted his recent experience with a homeless man named Brett. At the end Matt posed some questions. In the interest of brevity (I know I am long-worded) I am taking one question at a time. Here is the first round and my response to one of his questions.
What will it take to shed off layers and layers of protective amour that guard my heart everyday?
When your Mom and I were dating three decades ago there was a popular book called Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am. The book was written by John Powell and he suggested that we are afraid that people will not like us if they know what we are really like, so we often assume poses to avoid being honest with them and ourselves. He identified different poses we assume to avoid showing who we really are as people. If I remember correctly I was a “clown” and “cynic”.
Not much has changed, huh?
So I went into marriage and my Christian journey as a husband determined to be real and not afraid to reveal who I was, warts and all. That lasted until the rehearsal dinner. I had built my entire facade on being funny, upbeat, and glib (okay…that is my scouting report) so I could not take the risk that I could be likeable apart from that act. So I kept the act going and it gradually damaged my marriage and my relationship with the Lord. Being a phony will tend to do that. Even though others thought I was okay I knew I should be placed on the “as-is” table. Damaged goods. No returns. I knew, they didn’t, and I felt like I had to keep it that way. That is an open door for Satan to mess with your mind and heart.
Because I lacked a college degree I felt like I had to “prove” that I was smart (like that is possible). So I worked too much. My lack of confidence led to defensiveness. I could not be wrong because that would make me look less intelligent and expose me as a fraud. Maybe people would then reexamine me. “Wait a minute…Dave has an ‘as-is’ sticker on him! He is damaged. Who let him in here?”
No one knew the internal struggle. I didn’t even tell your Mom about the lack of confidence and the wavering self-image. Instead I made sure that I made people laugh. Chris Rock noted that “comedy is the blues for people that can’t sing”. There is a lot of truth in that statement.
That is a little background to answer your first question. And here is what I have figured out.
- Recognize that you are uniquely gifted with both strengths and weaknesses. I finally figured out that God has gifted me with some things I do well. Instead of worrying about what I can’t do I finally started asking God how He could use what I can do well for His glory.
- Remember that pride is, as C.S.Lewis beautifully described, the “anti-God state of mind”. Pride keeps us from being comfortable with revealing who we are. What if you think less of me? What if you laugh at me? Recognize that as the grating voice of pride. More on that to come in a later post.
- Recognize that every single person on this planet is limited in some way. Why should you be the one who is not? It is okay to let others know that you are not as strong in some areas. That makes you a member of the human race.
- Realize that Jesus has already penetrated the layers and layers of protective armor. He has seen you at your worst. He has seen the ugliest side of your heart and He has written a message on the cross. I love you just as you are. I forgive you just as you are. I accept you just as you are.
- Take the risk. I can’t promise that you will not experience someone who will see you in your raw and authentic state and turn away. That is their problem. The risk/reward factor is worth it. Because when your bride and few real friends see you as you are and still love you it is life changing. Being loved as we truly are is a earthly demonstration of grace.
Casting Crowns has a song called Stained Glass Masquerade. The lyrics talk about how everyone at church seems so strong and the writer wonders if he is only one that is struggling. And then the question is asked. What would happen if I dared to let them see the truth?
Is there anyone who’s been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage
The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay
Take the chance Matt. If you have found a real friend then the love of Jesus will be more than enough to make them stay. If they do not stay then you have learned a hard but valuable truth. They were not your friend. Those real relationships are possible. Those relationships are what make this journey special. You may have to take a couple of painful hits along the way when you drop the armor. But the man that God will mold out of that pain and honesty will be well worth it.
To be continued…