I was reading this and something came to mind that I’ve been dealing with a whole lot. There’s a tendency within the human spirit to pretend, deny, deceive, lie, and even exalt oneself regarding their state. This is part of the old man, part of the flesh, to be sure.
But part of following Christ successfully is to admit that you’re bankrupt. Even to the point of denying yourself (Mark 8:34-37) and dying to self, as baptism illustrates. But part of faith is carrying that out. And part of that is being able to not lie or deceive, but admit that we don’t have it all together.
To say that we’re fine of our own selves is to admit weakness. And the world abhors weakness. Yet that is exactly what we are called towards – to make ourselves weak so that Christ may be strong in us and be glorified. In a sense, this is the reason that trials come into our lives – if we can look at Christ the Master and not think things will be any different for us, we are simply deluded. After all, it is the only way we run the race completely, to keep the faith of what salvation represents throughout our lives until we depart.
Now our problems seem to be that we can’t really see ourselves honestly, and if we do we can’t communicate that and be accepted. Things like this had to be written:
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)
Personally, I can say that this will be one of the harder posts for me to write, simply because I’m going to share some things that I’m not used to sharing. I’ll admit to pretending for a number of reasons, both within myself and created by others.
I already looked at one of those reasons, the need to present oneself as competent. This is a big pressure for men, because to say you’re unsure about something is to paint you as unworthy within self and unworthy with others. Especially when it comes to spiritual matters, this becomes especially incumbent as when the pastor, minister or priest presents himself as “Look to me; to me, in some of my
formulas, to me in some of my developments, and be saved.” To present himself any different makes him unworthy to follow in the eyes of his blind followers, but ruins people otherwise. Then the others take the same example and paint the picture that anything less than pure happiness means you are not saved. I’ve personally been kicked out of groups because I dare speak of problems going on within my life.
Then there is the usual training that men get from childhood growing up at the behest of women to conform to the traditional gender roles. “Big boys don’t cry” we are told, and then shown repeatedly that what goes on with us and our feelings don’t matter. Then it goes to further the sub-humanoid view of men held by most all women and men. One chapter of “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands” (fascinating book, what I’m working on right now from the SoP edit pile) relays that it seems to be a shock to women that men were created in God’s image (a revolutionary concept in light of traditional marriage) and actually have emotions, aspirations, goals, and dreams like them. But you’re not supposed to give those credence as a man, because they don’t befit the woman’s purpose for them to “protect” and “provide” for them. If something’s wrong about you, that’s nobody’s business but your own. Women have girlfriends, church groups, wider society, and the media to listen to their problems and weaknesses and affirm them as “okay”. A man just has…himself. And if he doesn’t pull the cart to expectation, watch out!
Then there’s the general lack of community that exists in wider society and the church. This is even mocked by a tendency to ask “How are you?” as a greeting in church services. I’ve found personally in many cases just how little people love one another as Christ loved them (John 13:34-35) – again for men more than women. The general “layout” of “church” and the tendencies of people in the community trend to isolation. As that Scripture reads, we are told that is how others know we are following, if we love one another. The function of the Church is to allow us to function in community (there’s 56 “one another” commands in Scripture, depending on translation) with the singular goal of Christ and running the race. We’re supposed to be here for each other and get through this life together, yet we’re by ourselves and then seen as failures if we aren’t able to stand alone (the uniquely American traits of individualism and the “self-made man” that’s poisoned the Church).
Unfortunately, I speak so much from experience in such a post as this, simply because these are all things I’ve encountered in my own life. I’ve willingly given into so many of these pressures by wanting to fit in and deny before others certain hurts, heart’s desires, habits, and even sins that cause my spirit and soul to cry out in agony. Then to large part, I’ve accepted the message continually sent that “no one wants to hear about my weaknesses, my failures, my problems”, and that if I’m not perfect in my life, that it’s something I did – and if I would just fix it, all would be well. I have my problems, but they only get magnified by such matters.
But that’s the elemental truth that one must take in faith upon a walk with Christ. I’m messed up. I can’t fix it. I can’t stand alone. That’s the flesh talking when I say I’m okay, I got this, I don’t need anyone else, even Christ. Now, the acceptance of the Gospel points out another one of those indoctrinated traditional gender differences: Women are hard to accept that they are failed in the first place, while men see it but are hard to accept that they can’t fix it.
Denying your failure is hypocrisy, just as presenting a walk with Jesus as the perfect romantic relationship (a bed of roses) is. Denying the flesh is hard, denying the world is hard, coming to terms with your problems is crushing, going against the flow is hard. We are freely given salvation, but we have to take hold of it in faith to receive it. If that wasn’t fraught with peril, if we got “fixed” when we came out of the water, we would not value what Christ does give us, forget Him, and then exalt ourselves over Him.
To conclude, I’m reminded of my fundamental faith moment when I began my serious walk. I used to think these things and worry about my salvation, but when I heard a pastor proclaim his lack of perfection and then I read of all the things David did and see that God still called him “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). I felt a moment of comfort that everything was going to be alright (knowing fellow travelers are out there does that).
How many have been driven from Christ simply because they met these lies and deceptions in those who proclaim His Name? It’s a more glorifying and welcoming message to echo Paul (2 Corinthians 12:5) – if we must glorify ourselves to point out how infirmed we are. “I’m messed up just like you, but Christ accepts me anyway. Let us walk together in His light.” reflects God’s love much more than “Be perfect and if you’re not something is wrong with you. Be gone.” Isn’t it so much better to be honest and reflect love?