by Bob Allen:

Over the past several months, God’s grace has become more and more real to me. As days pass, I find myself captivated by the depths of his love and Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf. During a recent conversation with a dear friend, God peeled back layer upon layer of guilt and shame tracing back decades. I felt like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when, after he was transformed into a dragon, Aslan arrives and begins rending his dragonish exterior to expose who he is on the inside, a boy.

I cannot describe how liberating it was. I can’t put it into words, at least words that aren’t  cliché. It wasn’t a weight that was lifted or some baggage I had dropped or some jagged edge being ground down or any chains being removed or some light breaking through in a darkness like the sun piercing a grey canopy of clouds. It’s one of those individual experiences which only the one who experiences it can fully grasp.

My best attempt at explaining is that I allowed myself to feel fully known for the first time.

I have preached God’s grace for years. I have stood behind a pulpit and exposed it in scripture. I have sat knee-to-knee with other brothers and sisters in Christ and encouraged them with words of hope of reconciliation with God and with others and have cried and cheered when hope became reality.

But deep down, I’ve harbored a sense of being a fraud. That somehow I was saying something I didn’t actually accept for myself.

I have long harbored self-accusation at my core. I have suffered through internal debates between voices that simultaneously cried, “You’re the worst!” and “God still loves you!” and the former was always the louder voice than the latter. I shielded myself from being known fully, even from my wife, because I fear rejection more than anything else. The unease of my internal dialogue has haunted me since I can remember. I desperately desire being understood and heard and accepted but I also desperately fear being turned away, disliked, ignored, and shunned.

But here’s what I’ve been learning.

I am accepted and understood by God.

I’m not any less broken. I’m not any more worthy of his love. I’m the same guy I’ve always been, but now I understand being open with God about being broken.

So, let me share my experience about how to get there.

Transparency

There is nothing hidden from God. He made you. He knows you better than you know yourself. But he will not make you open up to him. Trying to measure up can feel like his eyes are laser-focused on the darkest humiliation of your heart, but God doesn’t manipulate that to get you to open up. He doesn’t take a crowbar and pry open your insecurities. He lovingly allows circumstances, and sometimes consequences, surrounding these tightly held apprehensions to weaken your grip on them. He places his hand on your shoulder and knowingly looks at you with compassion. When the scripture says that you have a high priest who is able to sympathize with your weakness (Heb. 4:15), take that to heart. God knows what shatters your heart. God knows what makes you feel like half of an orange in the juicer. He knows it and accepts you. He knows it and loves you.

In order to feel that more deeply, be honest with him about what’s really going on in your heart. He knows it already, but he wants you to come with all of your doubts and fears and anxieties.

Do you know what you’ll find when you do?

Peace.

Confession

The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1:9) Sometimes, the burden of sin resides in the shame of making it known. Satan loves to make you feel like your sin is too awful to be forgiven. He accuses you, naming you by your sin. You can quickly spiral down a hole of feeling unforgivable. Hearing the whisper of God’s love over the deafening noise of the storm you’re experiencing becomes nigh impossible; the numbing effect of your guilt makes it difficult to feel God’s love for you. “Footprints in the Sand” is a punchline, but not untrue. In the darkest moments, when you feel the most unlovable, God is there, right next to you, speaking truth to you if you will listen. He is ready and waiting for you to come to him and seek his forgiveness, “a humble and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:17)

If you want to be free from your burden of sin, confess it to God. He knows what brought you to it and he is there waiting for you to confess it to him and repent. God knows all about your failures and, just as he handles your fears and insecurities, he is waiting for you to bring them to him to be healed and forgiven.

Do you know what you’ll find when you do?

Restoration.

Support

As great as it is to bring these things to God and find peace and restoration, you cannot walk this path alone. An ancient African proverb says, “Alone you go fast; together you go far.” Walk with other people. There are some weights you cannot bear alone. To the Galatians, Paul writes, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal. 6:1-3) This encouragement and warning encompass the nature of Christian fellowship. Keep a close watch on your own walk but also be there to help other believers in theirs. You need the support and encouragement and, occasionally, admonishment of others. Be transparent and confess, not just to God, but to other Christians.

Do you know what you’ll find when you do?

Accountability.

When you are fully known by God, grace abounds.

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