Welcome to the second part of my series about honesty, with God and ourselves. We finished last time with much to chew on, about who we really are, about the person we present to the world, and the fantasy we can often allow ourselves to live in.
So now we move on to the crux of it. Honesty as the catalyst for change and personal growth.
You see, who we really are isn’t demonstrated in the show we put on for people, or what we say, its demonstrated in what we do. In how we act when we think no one is looking, or how we react when the gloves are off.
Have you often got into a discussion and someone has wound you up, and over time you have got more and more frustrated and you’ve said
“Okay, you want to know what I really think?”
So before that, you were lying weren’t you?
We’ve all done it, I’ve definitely done it. Its because before that we were putting on this version of ourselves which while it might bear some resemblence to who we are, or who we would like to be, it’s not who we really are at that moment.
I think that if most of us were honest with ourselves, we would recognise that a lot of the time the self we think is the real self is in fact only an idealised version of ourself. Its who we would like to be, who we would wish to be, rather than who we really are.
The great thing about Jesus is that, despite all the lies we tell ourselves about who we are, Jesus knows who we really are. He knows the contradictions, hypocrisies, actions, and thoughts that we hide from everyone else, that we hide even from ourselves sometimes. He knows are deepest fears, insecurities, doubts, things we try to hide from even Him.
And He loves us exactly the same. Perfectly. Unconditionally. Immesurably.
In Alcoholics Anoymous, the process of transformation always begins with a confession. They have to admit the truth about themselves, that they are an alcoholic, that they have a serious drinking problem, an addiction.
That’s how any substantive change begins. We need to admit to ourselves and to God who we really are and how we feel, and what kind of life we’re really living before we can make any real change. But once we’ve done this, then we can make an active choice, a positive choice, to change. To become the man or woman we know we’re made to be.
For that process to begin, we first face up to ourselves and the lies we’ve told ourselves, and the fantasy we’ve lived. It’s not an easy process – as I can personally testify – but it is a healthy, positive process, and once you’ve gone through it realy change can happen.
I have had to admit a lot of things about myself. Things that I’m ashamed to admit here on my blog, but things that are true and that although I don’t want them to be true and I wish they weren’t true, are true about me. Habits, thoughts, doubts, feelings, ways I have hurt people, things I wish I hadn’t done but did do, ways I have been responsible for the hurt others have felt, even when I didn’t intend it to be that way.
It’s not the easiest process to go through.
But it’s the only way I’m going to deal with these aspects of myself I want to change. But even more, when it’s all over, if I want to keep growing I need to keep asking God to show me the areas I’m lying to myself, the areas that need work.
It’s an ongoing process.
It’s called relationship with God.
Now before I make it sound too depressing, its honestly not bad all the time. The times you come through those periods of self-examination and realise you have made genuine and authentic change, the feeling you get at that moment, the confidence you feel and the sheer joy – not happiness, it’s deeper than that – you feel is worth all the other stuff. And you feel less afraid going back the next time, because you know the difference it can make.
I think all of us deep down, when we’re really honest, want to be better than we are, we want to grow and change and mature. We all know we have areas we need to examine ourselves and grow.
One thing I think holds people back from facing this reality is that somehow God will reject them if they admit what they really think, who they really are, the thoughts they really have, and what they really do. Almost as if God can’t actually see that anyway – and didn’t see it before we did. But I know from experience that you can often feel that if you admit your weaknesses to God that somehow He will take away blessing and you will be totally alone. Maybe the church is partly to blame for this, because in the past certainly people who’ve admitted serious problems have been excluded, not just from serving in the church but also socially, which has led to them leaving church.
I am fortunate to be part of a church that has a ‘come as you are’ culture and encourages honesty about ourselves and accepts people with all sorts of issues. It’s one of the reasons I am part of that church.
But many churches in the past – and sadly some today even I suspect – can act in the way I have described – a way which to me is totally contrary to the way of Jesus.
Jesus told His followers to love their neighbour.
When religious leaders were rushing to condemn a sinful woman, who had been caught in adultery no less, Jesus drew a line in the sand and said
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
No one, suprisingly, threw a stone. And when they had gone, He said to her
“Where are your accusers? Is there anyone here to condemn you?”
and when it became clear there was no one, continued
“Then neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”
Jesus saw this woman at her most honest. She couldn’t hide who she was or what she had done from Him. But He didn’t condemn, He loved her, and told her to go and to change her life, to give up the life she had and live the life she was made to live. And this is exactly what He does when we are honest with Him about who we are, and don’t delude ourselves and live in a fantasy.
We don’t have to put on a show for Jesus, we don’t have to be perfect for Him and we don’t need to be the ‘perfect Christian’ to be loved by Him or receive blessing from Him. Jesus knows our deepest darkest, unspoken secrets, fears, insecurities and doubts, He knows all the mistakes we have made and will make that we keep hidden.
You can’t fool Jesus.
The thing about knowing Jesus is that in Him there is genuine hope that authentic change and transformation can happen. It’s not the faint, unfulfilled, dulled hope of the world, the hope of advertisesrs, the hope of secularism – one that never delivers.
This hope does deliver.
Not by making everything okay, and how we want it to be. But by helping us be honest with ourselves so that we can be free of the things which hold us back, by challenging us to make real change – and sometimes it doesn’t all turn out how we wanted it and God’s plans are different than ours.
But God is faithful all the way through.
I’ve been through a lot of painful stuff in my life – losing a parent relatively young, growing up in the middle of an awful and long marriage break up with an alcoholic parent with a disability, and bullied at school. I say that not to brag or boast, or gain any kind of sympathy, but to say I have lots of reasons to give up on God – but God has been faithful to me and never abandoned me, and my life isn’t perfect now, it’s not how I would like it to be, but I know I’m not alone and that I will, eventually get through – and I have hope that healing and change is possible.
So please trust me when I say, that this hope can and will deliver.
Jesus compels us to face up to who we really are, which in my experience is difficult and sometimes painful, but at the same time He offers authentic hope that substantive change can happen. That we can be transformed, that we don’t have to stay as we are – and that change does happen.
The promise of the cross is that there is reconciliation.
It’s a promise that no matter how black things are or how irredeemable we think we are, that actually, there is hope – and that hope comes through growing in relationship with Jesus.
It comes through entering into a lifetime process of transformation and growth, and whilst there will be setbacks and mistakes along the way, knowing that that is okay. That we are redeemable, that transformation can take place, that Jesus has made things good.
That Jesus gets it. That’s He’s in it for the long haul.
That Jesus gets us, and knows us, and loves us anyway.
Even the self we try to hide.
Next time, to round off the series, I’m going to put this into practice in a written form. The final part of this series on honesty will be me at my most honest yet about where I am and what God is doing in me.
Whether it’s inspiration, or an example to you, or something else, I hope my honesty can be a blessing and encouragement to you in some way. Hope to see you for the third part next week!
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