I recently attended a baptism where a young man, who was in college at the time, talked about the fact that he had spent his life before coming into a personal relationship with Christ wearing masks. By his count, he had about seven of them that he would wear according to whatever group he was associating with at the time. He said that it had become exhausting constantly putting on these masks and removing them. It was exhausting just trying to remember which mask he was supposed to be wearing. What drew him to Christ was the freedom to be himself; there was no longer any need to hide.
This is a powerful truth; we do not need to clean ourselves up to come to God. He accepts us as we are. He knows us and loves us and wants to use us to fulfill His purposes, flaws and all.
Prior to the fall of mankind described in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve had a truly perfect life – they lacked for nothing. They had a perfect relationship with God, with each other, and with creation. After the fall, their first inclination was to hide because they were ashamed. Mankind has been hiding in one way or another ever since. When we truly understand who we are in Christ, it gives us the freedom to relate with God and with each other in transparency. Ephesians 1 and 2 are filled with a litany of the spiritual aspects and blessings of our new identity in Christ. If we truly believe what it says, if we truly take hold of them, why would we need to hide? Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, we are completely accepted by God. No hoops to jump through. No boxes to check. So the question is, why don’t we live this way – as free, beloved children of God? Why do we so often choose to live like orphans – untrusting and afraid? Most often, it is because we believe the lie. We have a powerful enemy who seeks to distract and dissuade us. He was there in Genesis 3 and he is here today. But he is defeated and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact. The truth is we need each other to discern the truth. I am so grateful for the women who have come alongside me – discipling me – helping me to ferret out the truth from the lie. I am grateful for the women who God will send to walk alongside me in the future to do the same thing. I am a work in progress and I will spend the rest of my life being transformed into the woman God wants me to be and I need the help of other believers in order for that to happen.
Recently, a friend told me about a very painful incident from her past. She had been carrying a lot of shame around for far too long. It was a heavy and unnecessary burden and it was hindering her from truly experiencing God’s abundant love. As I was able to point her to the truth and tell her that this is not how God viewed her, you could see the physical and emotional release. There is nothing sweeter than helping someone become free of the burden of the lie. Authentic community is sweet. And it is what we all desire. Christ modeled it for us and points the way to it for us. Transparency leads to peace and love and unity.
I am going to be honest with you – when I first had the opportunity to go deeper into a relationship with God and with others I hesitated because I was afraid. I was afraid that if they truly knew me they would reject me. What I discovered instead is that as I began to gradually open myself up, as I began to honestly share my struggles, quite the opposite happened; I felt incredibly loved and both the fear and shame fell away. It led to an abundance that is hard to describe – a transformation that is powerful beyond words.
If we can be honest with God and with each other, those that do not know God will marvel. How different that is from our culture where it is all about self-promotion and pretending to be something we are not – striving to be something we are not. I know how much it meant to me when my Christian friends welcomed me into their youth group and wanted to get to know ME as I was. Their complete acceptance of me made it so much easier for me to understand and embrace that that was how God felt about me. They truly represented Christ to me. And, every day, I have the opportunity to represent Christ to everyone that I encounter.
2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ – ambassadors of reconciliation. What a privilege! I am so grateful to God that He sent His son to die for me so that I might be free. I want others to know that same freedom and to know the truth and the abundant life that God desires for them, and I pray that He will use me for the rest of my life in this pursuit.