The truth is that I’m afraid. I don’t mean that I’m afraid of the possibilities of life. I don’t cower under the prospect of hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes. I’m really not fretfully anxious about economic loss or political unrest. I absolutely believe that God engineers my life for His purposes. That gives me a kind of solid platform for dealing with the twists and turns of life. In fact, truth be told there is a sense of relief when I think that God may be deliberately stripping away all the “essential” collection of stuff that crowds out my ability to see the eternal. I often wonder if life wouldn’t be much clearer in a world with much less on the table. I am not a big fan of the American dream.
No, I’m not afraid of what the world might throw at me. I trust God in those matters. I have some history with Him and the men and women of the Bible give me even more confidence that God cares. I might not always like what happens, I might not always understand why it happens, but I think I can honestly say that I am not worried about what might happen.
Unfortunately, what I fear is much deeper. I’m afraid of you.
I’m afraid that if you really knew me, you would reject me. I’m afraid that when push comes to shove, you will turn your back on me. I’m afraid that if I ever really needed a friend, I would find I was alone. I’m afraid that you’re afraid too.
I have plenty of evidence to support my fear. While I can review the circumstances of life and see the hand of God weaving a tapestry of events, I don’t have the same composure when it comes to other people. I see a world caught in an endless quest for self-fulfillment. I see caring people who don’t offer tangible assistance to their own friends because they are too busy managing life. I see people of good moral standing who are systematically blind to the helpless in their own backyards. I see men and women of character who do nothing because they don’t know what to do. And I think to myself, “If this is how they respond to the people they say that they love, what makes me think they will respond any differently to me?”
Occasionally I have the temerity to challenge this evidence. I bring a need before the eyes of the righteous. A widow caring for four children who needs replacement of a car that has just been demolished in a near-fatal accident. “It’s not in our benevolence budget. Sorry.” (Under the table I hear that the real issue was “Why should she get a new van when I have to drive a six year old model”). A colleague who is losing his house because a real-estate contract fell through while he was paying for school. “Yes, I know about the situation but what can I do? I have to take care of myself, don’t I?” A couple that lost everything in a disaster. “You’re problem is too big for us.” (so we won’t provide anything at all. It’s easier to just forget about it). A man who is accused, not yet convicted, of molestation. (”We can’t have him around here. What would it look like if he’s guilty”).
How much easier to relieve ourselves of guilt by throwing compassion at national causes and world crises. Oh, those are quite real. Thanks to the media, they are in-your-face traumas. But what happens to the four thousand inmates who live one mile away from that mega-church with a $7 million a year operating budget. “Let’s pray for them” (but keep our distance).
Why should I believe that you would care for me? Why should I take the risk of opening those dark corridors in my soul?
The evidence might not be so overwhelming if it were not for the final bit of bad news. I’m just like you. I get prayer requests that I ignore. I hear of needs that I push aside. I drive by the jail, turn a blind eye toward my neighbor, spend my time with people I enjoy (who don’t really know the darkest parts of me). I buy the “necessary” luxuries. And I even discover that deep inside of me is this unvoiced intolerance for the plight of the poor. Why don’t they do something for themselves? Why don’t they get off their rear ends and work? Why should they always expect someone else to handle life for them? My intolerance sickens me, but it is real. And I’m afraid, it’s just like you. If I were poor, would you even look my way? Would I?
What would happen if I told you about my deepest longings (they are not always pretty) or my darkest sins (they are not the acceptable kind)? Would your opinion of me be diminished? Would you think less of my efforts to reveal God’s grace? Do I have to be sanctified in order to be loved? Or listened to?
The biggest problem we have is that none of us is Jesus. We sinned. We still sin. But the image we hold up is the sinless man from Galilee. Somehow we have been convinced that we must be holy before we can be loved. We have forgotten Abraham’s self-serving sexual disloyalty, Sarah’s abuse, Moses’ murder, Job’s insult, David’s adultery (and murder and genocide), Solomon’s debauchery, Jonah’s denial, Elijah’s cowardice, Peter’s betrayal and Paul’s megalomania. These are the saints of the church. But if they lived next door, we wouldn’t spend one extra minute with them knowing their secrets.
The most fearful verse in the Bible is this: Bear one another’s burdens. The moral fortitude to accomplish this task is almost more than I can manage. Oh, I’m more than happy to lift you up. After all, I get credit for that act. But the implication of this verse is that I have to let you lift my burdens too. And that requires me to be open, vulnerable and take risks. Heaven forbid. What will happen if I put my real burdens on the table and you sweep them to the floor?
There is no simple solution for this dilemma. In fact, there is no solution that guarantees an answer I want. God calls me to share myself with you even if I am crushed in the process. Why would He do that? Because He wants me to learn two things. First, that exposure to rejection is a reflection of His own heart. If I am going to be like Him, I cannot spend my life protecting my emotional image. If I am going to be like Jesus, I will have to risk being rejected while I honestly present myself, a forgiven failure. And secondly, God wants me to discover that I am emotionally secure with Him. I will never be able to risk myself until I know He loves me as I am. That love has to reach far below the surface. It has to get down into the putrid water in the sewers of my life. It has to pry open the closet doors nailed shut from fear. If God can love me in my secrets, I might be able to take a risk with you. Maybe. [skip moen]
I read this and felt like falling apart. God...how true are his words??? I simply cannot express my thoughts on this just yet. I want to fully digest first.