I don’t often live whole-heartedly before the eyes of the world. I don’t think my heart is much desired, so I keep it tucked away inside and give the world what it seems to want instead: my services, my skills, my social face.
Sometimes I’m tempted to think that I’m unusual, but I’ve been reminded by several sources, recently, that I’m not. One was a friend saying she’d realised that she hardly ever expresses her opinion if she thinks that it won’t be well received – to the point that now she struggles to know what her opinions are. Another was a section from Captivating talking about the effect of fear on how we live as women:
We hide our truest selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe. We act in self-protective ways and refuse to offer what we truly see, believe, and know.
And I don’t think it’s something that just affects women. It’s a strategy that’s tempting because it seems to offer safety. I’ll make myself bland so I don’t invite your disapproval. And even if you do react badly to me, I can comfort myself that it isn’t really me you’re reacting badly to. You can’t reject me for who I truly am if I never show you.
But it’s a strategy that leaves me isolated. Captivating, again:
We cannot have intimacy with God or anyone else if we stay hidden and offer only who we think we ought to be or what we believe is wanted.
You cannot reject me for who I truly am, if I don’t show you, but you can’t truly know me either.
Even more than that, though, it’s a strategy that cuts me off from grace. My true self cannot be rejected, but it also cannot be accepted. If I never let anyone near enough to see my flaws then how will I ever find out if people can love me in spite of them? Some very dear friends of mine have just moved away. One of the reasons they’re so special to me is that they’ve seen more of the real me – and more of my flaws and selfishness and ridiculousness in the process – than most, and yet they’ve continued to love me. They have ‘put flesh on’ the grace of God, for me.
And that’s been important, because it’s easy to extend the attitude of not sharing my true self into my relationship with God. It’s one of the enemy’s best lies that we have to ‘keep up appearances’ with our Heavenly Father. Hallelujah that the gospel says that that approach is nuts!
Firstly, we’re so sinful that no amount of ‘keeping up appearances’ is going to help us. This isn’t a matter of you finding out that I have bad breath or like to collect my toenail cuttings (I don’t do this, by the way – I’m way too insecure to share my real flaws on the internet!). This is us being sinful and rebellious to our very cores, rejecting our loving Creator and choosing to live a life bent in upon ourselves instead.
Secondly, the LORD who made the universe can’t be fooled. We can keep up a social facade with people much of the time, but God knows our every thought – who are we kidding when we think we can try to put on a front with Him?
Thirdly, wonderfully, despite our massive sinfulness and His perfect knowledge of it, the Triune God, in Jesus, has made a way for us to be accepted and loved anyway. God sees all the worst things in us, and yet He has paid the price for it all. Now He can see us ‘in Christ’ and count us to be as acceptable and beloved as His holy, perfect Son, Himself!
So the gospel means I can stop hiding from God – indeed, the only sensible response is to give up my pretences, go to God and, in repentance, let it ‘all hang out’. To tell Him even the worst things in my heart and ask Him to forgive and to heal them.
Then, once I’ve experienced His grace and acceptance, maybe I’ll start to live genuinely, whole-heartedly in the world, and be able to show something of the same graceful acceptance to others…