May 16, 2013

Firsthand Experience | Day 29

Finding Real Freedom

Scripture to meditate on: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” ( John 8:32)

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

One of the most liberating and powerful statements of all time comes from the lips of Jesus: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And we’re writing this chapter to tell you something that will set you free. The only way we’ve been able to experience freedom is by making the choice to get completely gut-level honest with God and others.

Here’s how I (Josh) did it.

I finally went to God and just unloaded the ugly truth about my secret sins. All of it. I said the words out loud to Him, even though He already knew every “secret” I had to tell.

And then I did something else. I took the risk of sharing my secret struggles with my friend Dave. We have been friends since junior high, and although both of us have struggled with our faith and made countless stupid, immature decisions, we’ve al- ways shared a desire to be godly men. I figured if I could be honest with anyone, it would be Dave.

Once we started talking, it didn’t take long for me to dis- cover that he was just as frustrated as I was at how easy it is to be fake about our faith, to compartmentalize things about ourselves we’re ashamed of, and to act like we have everything together. He was sick and tired of secrets too.

We decided to talk with each other once a week and be 100 percent honest about our lives, our faith, and our struggles. We wanted to be completely vulnerable. As painful as it was at first to talk about my failures and sins and ask for prayer, good things started to happen right away. I didn’t feel so alone. I felt new freedom to be myself. And my relationship with the Lord began to change in a radical way. I felt free to come to Him with my sins and struggles and accept His forgiveness and grace. I had stumbled into what this book is about—a real, raw, firsthand relationship with the One who made us.

I am discovering that when we refuse to get real with others, it is unloving to them. When we hide who we are from the people closest to us, it just downplays our relationship with them. When I try to stay at the surface level with my friends instead of going deeper and trying to find out what is really going on in their lives, I am essentially telling them, “I don’t love you enough to risk awkwardness and get real with you.”

If we truly believe that the death of Jesus Christ sets us free from all guilt and sin, and if that forgiveness comes from Him alone, what good does it do to live as if we still carry these burdens? We can be totally honest and open about our brokenness because our mistakes and shortcomings no longer matter. At all! Our security and identity are found, not in our ability to hide our shame or overcome our addictions and desires, but in God’s perfection and unconditional mercy. That should be something we cannot help but get excited about!

Our security and identity are found, not in our ability to hide our shame, but in God’s unconditional mercy.

I once heard someone say that we’re only as sick as our secrets, and I couldn’t agree more. When I finally revealed my struggles and sins to God and my friend, I started to heal on the inside. You will too.

And I’m still making a deliberate effort to be open with my friend. Yes, Dave and I have to constantly work at it, and some weeks (or months!) are better than others. But we don’t give up on each other. It is so important to be real with the people you care about.

Telling the truth, even if it isn’t pretty, is like oxygen for a long-distance runner. It fills you with strength. And it’s not optional. If you want an authentic, living, firsthand faith, it’s where you start.

We all know people who put Bible verses or prayers on their Facebook statuses or tweets. I am not saying that is wrong or that they are being dishonest or anything like that. On the contrary, it can be very encouraging. But when do you ever see a tweet that says, “Where are You, God? I need You. Why have You left me?” When did you see a tweet that said, “I feel like a total failure, and it’s killing me” or “Why can’t I tell you who I really am?”

We are so ready to let the world know when God is doing great things. Yet when things take a turn for the worse, we keep it hidden. What are we so afraid of ?

There has rarely been a time in my life when I have been able to say, “God, things absolutely suck right now, but I know You are in control.” Honestly, most of the time my prayer is, “God, things absolutely suck right now. Where were You when that happened?”

As time goes on, I hope I get better at recognizing the Lord’s faithfulness. I want my relationship with God to be real. I am tired of going through the motions, and I am convinced it is better to be honest than to say the “right” thing. God knows how we are really feeling, anyway, and He knows how little we understand about the way He works.