I’ve been doing a series on honesty with ourselves and with God, and it’s importance. I want to finish with a piece which I think is probably the most honest I’ve ever written. My style is pretty open and honest anyhow, but this is honest even for me. It came out of something God was speaking to me about one evening, I just sat down to write and this came out, and I felt that having done a whole series on honesty, the best way to finish was to be honest with you, and witness to what I’ve been writing about. So I hope that God speaks to you and blesses you through this….
I like to write. Its something I started doing regularly as an escape, it was a way of getting away from everything, running away from the pain and hardship of reality and going into the relative safety of my mind, and thinking about idealistic dreams and ideas, about God, about life, about myself, about church. I have come to realise now that these were daydreams, daydreams about a reality that can be partially present now, and in the future, will reach their ultimate fulfillment. When I began I wasn’t doing it as a job, I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, I wasn’t doing it to make a difference, I wasn’t doing it to help anyone.
I was simply doing it because my life at that moment was nothing.
It was lifeless, stale, boring, monotonous and pre-defined.
I used to escape to this fantasy land, which was set in reality and looked and sounded like it was some great vision – and maybe it was in a sense – but my heart behind it was a man, or a boy, in hindsight, trying to escape and be in total control.
At that point writing was easy.
I found it very easy to devote lots of time to it, and wrote some good stuff to be honest (well that’s what people who read it thought of it anyhow). But when I look back at that writing now, I realise how much I needed to grow.
How immature and naive I was.
It wasn’t that what I was writing was childish at all, but it wasn’t grounded in reality. Even the biggest, craziest dreams need to be grounded in some kind of reality, even if its God’s reality, and some of mine weren’t all the time.
But God was up to something. In 2006 I moved church to a new, fresh, young church with good teaching, an emphasis on discipleship, and which didn’t let me get away with living in a fantasy, but compelled me to face up to myself and who I was, and deal with the issues in my life. I was doing counseling for various issues I’d just ignored for a long time – relationship with my Dad, losing my mother, bullying from schooldays, anger, and guilt. I had my first experiences with women, going on dates, which was something I’d not done before. I was reading more books, and in 2009 I did a discipleship course with my church which proved to me I could do the daily prayer and Bible study thing and got me giving to the church, something I’d always struggled with.
Just after that I did a healing/restorative course called Living Waters which was to do with sexuality, relationships and family issues, which opened my eyes to see things about myself in a whole new way. And finally, in October 2009 I got baptised as an adult, in front of my church and my family. I had already started to get more involved in our church and serving the local community and now that stepped up a gear.
Looking back God was definitely ‘on the move’ and all the time this was happening – over a period of about 3 or 4 years – my writing began to change as well. It was more grounded in practical reality, it was more honest, it still had its idealistic heart but it was more mature, more like me. I was starting to find my voice, and my enthusiasm for writing stayed strong.
Then about a year after my baptism, another year of growth and development, I began life coaching. This took things up a notch. Suddenly I had to be professional, and take these things seriously. Suddenly writing wasn’t just a hobby, something fun I did, it was something I needed to work on and develop, and my attitude needed to be more professional, and I needed to devote more time to it. I was beginning work on a book, which was a big commitment, and I was investing money in myself, in my website and in a laptop for writing, and suddenly I began to see what I would need to do in order to move the next step on with God, and in my own development.
God was challenging me to start taking more responsibility, to be a leader – God was calling me out of potential into achievement, just tiptoes, but definitely calling me out.
I knew this was going to be the hardest step of all – but I thought that as I loved writing so much it wouldn’t be an issue.
How wrong I was.
When writing became something I took seriously and had to devote serious hours to – both in preparation and actual writing – and something I was doing to a high standard, trying to be professional, suddenly it became hard.
I realised it was writing was going from being some fantasy ideal in my head, some romantic idea I imagined myself in, to reality. It was becoming the thing I escaped from, rather than the escape.
God was challenging me to start moving out of the fantasy world I’d locked myself in, and out into reality, sharing my thoughts, reflections, ideas and gifts with real people in the real world. Using the gift I had for the benefit of others, and for the glory of God, not as a way of escaping the pain, but a way of helping others with theirs.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t enjoy it anymore, but it wasn’t an option anymore, it wasn’t an escape anymore, it wasn’t a fantasy I could control anymore. This was God’s and God was now in control, and my duty was to show up and write, and to make sure I was devoting proper time to it.
All my life I’d avoided work. I wanted to work for the church from a young age in one way shape or form, and no job I had had up to this point was what I had dreamt of, or what I still dreamt of. I wasn’t one of those lucky people who had the resources or status to be able to whatever I wanted.
I was one of those people still working to get to that position, someone who was doing a job to pay his bills and to develop himself, but who desperately wanted to be doing something he felt was more worthwhile. I didn’t exactly dislike my job – the people were great, the work was challenging, the pay good and steady and the organisation a fantastic one to work for.
I had no complaints necessarily. I had just always felt born for more.
What I had come to realise though was that this attitude was part of the problem. I wasn’t treating my job as a gift from God that it was, and I wasn’t being professional enough. I realised through my life coaching that professionalism is an attitude, it’s not something you put on for work. It’s an approach you take to whatever you do, whether it’s your job or any kind of discipline. And I realised that I had never taken this attitude to anything, including my diet as well.
I just hadn’t taken the important things seriously enough or worked hard enough. I had been a quitter, apart from when it suited me. For example, as a teenager I became obsessed with cricket for a while, and because I wasn’t very good I used to practice and practice and practice for hours and hours on end – in front of cricket on the TV – with my cricket bat, copying and listening to everything on the TV, wearing down the carpet with my bat. And as a result my batting improved.
Why? Because I’d had discipline and put my mind to it. Because I was determined to do it no matter what. I found I always did this with things that I fantasised about doing, like with football computer games where I could pretend to be the manager. I just gave hours to these things because they made me feel better about my life, because the rest of it had sucked as far as I was concerned.
One thing I had never done, was devote that much energy to something I could actually do, that would actually lead to something, that could end up with me being successful or having some kind of career.
I had never given work or even my writing that much discipline until recently, and it was only when I had that it had improved, and I had grown up. I had been reading a lot more, writing a lot more, and over time those skills had developed and improved. I had now got to the point where more improvement, a more professional attitude and some hard work might take things further.
And I was afraid.
But I wasn’t afraid of failure. I wasn’t afraid of being rubbish. Oh no, that was the least of my worries.
I was afraid of success. Of achievement. Of what I might be capable of if I took that next step up. Because it was unknown to me, and would involve trusting God and taking that next step not having a clue as to what was going to happen. It was uncharted territory for me.
Then only last weekend came the most sobering moment of my life.
I was having a drink with a friend from church talking about this and he called me on who I am. As a good friend does, he was honest with me about my failings. He said that I was hypocritical, that this was the truthful experience they had of me. I felt a feeling of true honesty – suddenly all the clever words I could come out with and I could write – the things which usually came out at these times – sounded empty and dead.
I said nothing. I had no words.
So I just did the sensible thing and shut up, and reflected on what had been said. I was tired of talking and making excuses, it was time for a bit of honesty and self-examination.
I didn’t even try to counter my friends’ arguments. Because as difficult as it was to hear, I knew it was true.
I have talked about living a counter-cultural life, about the flaws of consumerism and a capitalist system, whilst participating in it.
I felt like the Pharisees in Jesus day. A hypocrite. I can’t even tell you that my life changed radically instantly, because it didn’t. I just became aware of my own weaknesses and flaws. The process of transformation isn’t going to happen overnight, because we live in this consumer, secular system and it’s all around us. But I’ve become a whole lot more self-aware, and honest with myself about where I’m going wrong, and that’s a start.
That’s where all transformation starts. With honesty – above all with yourself.
My friend reassured me of one thing – that I wasn’t the only Christian hypocrite, that there were and are lots and lots of us. And the biggest problem isn’t that we’re not perfect – because none of us are, we all sin, we all screw up and don’t live in tune with the way of God all the time.
None of us can escape that.
Reflecting on this I realised that I needed to re-set my standards to God’s standards. I needed to raise the bar in my life to God’s standard and not settle for anything less. Because, I realised that even if I miss the mark – which is another way sin is described in the Bible – I will be growing.
I will be getting closer to the standard God has set for me, and fortunately for me, and all of us, God loves me enough and His grace is big enough for me even if I do mess up.
The more I thought about it the more I realised that although God wants me to be more like Him, and to reach a higher standard and continually aim for it, that He knows that I’m never going to make it 100%. I mean, God knows everything doesn’t He? He made time itself, He knows the number of hairs on my head, it’s safe to say He knows that.
But that’s kind of reassuring in a way.
I think sometimes we are led into believing that we have to meet God’s standards all the time and if we don’t He won’t love us or bless us as much. That’s what religion often tells us, and that’s simply a false view of God.
God knows we will deliberately screw up – sin – by the thing we do and don’t do, but He still pursues us, He still wants relationship with us, and He still wants to transform us and heal us.
To me, that makes God even more amazing. If I met God’s standard all the time it would be a whole lot easier for Him to love me. I mean it’s easy to love someone who doesn’t cause you any problems isn’t it? If you’re honest, you find it easier to be friends with people who don’t cause you unnecessary problems don’t you. We all cause God problems and unnecessary hassle. All the time. Yet He not only puts up with us, He pursues us, relentlessly. He doesn’t give up on us even when we’ve given up on ourselves.
That He loves me – and all of us – despite all the things we do wrong, and is just as committed to forgiving, healing and restoring and reconciling us to Him despite that is tremendously life-giving and reassuring for me.
Don’t you think?
I’m always going to miss the mark in some way, either by things I do (sins of commission) or things I don’t (sins of omission). We all are, we might as well be honest about it. That doesn’t mean we settle for lower standards, but it does mean we don’t need to be so hard on ourselves and expect ourselves – or others for that matter – to be Jesus.
God knows how hard it is, and He understands – because He loves us, because His grace is sufficient, because through the cross He has taken care of it, because His value and love for us is infinite, and much bigger than His actual need for us.
That should be a line of great reassurance for us.
God knows that He doesn’t need us to fulfill His purposes and can probably do without us, but He loves us infinitely, and believes in us to a shocking degree. He knows what we’re really capable of – something that I think scares a lot of us – and believes we can be that person, and wants to help us transform into that person, and be who He made us to be, in relationship with Him.
I think that’s a miracle in itself.
Life is intended to be a journey we go on with God into becoming closer and closer to the mark, and God wants us to aim high, and He believes in us. But He knows we are going to miss the mark from time to time, and has love, grace and forgiveness to deal with that and help us turn and live a different way – that process is called ‘repentance’.
So us all being sinners?
Yep, we all are.
But we are much loved and valued sinners who are in process. Relationship with God is repentance, and it’s an ongoing process and we’re all in different stages of it, and the best thing we can do, and the beginning of real change, is simply to be honest about that fact.
That’s where I am right now. That’s why I’m writing this. I am literally in uncharted territory, and writing this really to bare my soul, to be totally honest, to be real. This piece brings that past, the present and future together.
It makes fantasy into reality.
Although it is true of anything a person creates, and as someone who writes it tends to happen a lot, this piece more than most is the essence of who I am at this particular time.
It was largely unplanned. I had neither agenda nor idea when I sat down to write, other than that I wanted to be blatantly and completely honest with myself and with you, my readers. That’s what I’ve done I think.
I have realised again just how much of a sinner and hypocrite I am – but I also know that God has infinite love, grace and forgiveness for me, and the power to transform me and make me into the person I was designed to be. I know that life with Him is the only way I can have completion and fulfillment in life.
Career, marriage, relationships, family, church – none of those are going to fulfill me completely, and I’ll let you in on a secret, they won’t fulfill or complete you either, whatever you think.
They are all good things in their proper place, but I’ve tried to make some of them into idols, and that has to change. God has to take His proper place.
I know that even though I’ve said all these things and been quite repentant here, I will probably go out and do some things – or not do some things – which totally contradict God’s best for me, things I’ll have to repent of. It will be difficult, and I’ll have to ask God’s forgiveness for them and make more changes to my lifestyle – but hopefully I can do so in healthy relationship with God, and in the process be refined and become more the kind of person I want to be, more the kind of man God made me to be in the first place.
Conclusions? I leave them with you. They will be different for all of us, and they largely depend on how honest you’re willing to be with yourself. Maybe you can see echoes of your journey or experience in mine, alternatively, maybe you’ve never experienced anything like this.
Maybe God will choose to speak to you in a way I never imagined, because I won’t know what your story is and what’s going on with you right now, but God will and maybe He can take what I’ve put down and make something amazing for you. I hope so, and I hope this little post hasn’t bored you.
One thing I would say. Try and make the most out of your talents, whatever they are, in whatever way works in your world. Like the Bible says – ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ – not earn your salvation (you can’t, it’s a free gift of grace and love through the cross), but figure out a way of doing life with God, with Him at the centre, orientated around Him but specific to you, a way which works for who you are, with the gifts, calling, character, personality and talents that make you. That’s what that verse really means, it doesn’t mean you earn your salvation, it means you enter into an ongoing process of relationship with God, with Him first and above all things, and work out how to live the life He’s got for you with Him and how you can live a life that reflects Him.
One final word to leave you with? Be honest with yourself and with God.
Bring yourself before Him and bare yourself naked before Him, just like He let His Son be stripped naked, tortured and executed for you.
You don’t have to be famous or a world star for what you do, the reality is everything matters to God. He just wants us to steward the gifts He gives us well, I hope that’s what I’m doing here.
Thanks for listening, I hope you come back soon and share in more of the journey God has me on, and in what He gives me to share with you.
Have a blessed day.
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