Honest to God

(When the Holy Spirit came to live in me, He got on board a Ferris wheel. So forgive me if ‘happy’ posts are succeeded pretty quickly by ones that sound more ‘tempestuous’. It probably makes little sense to apologise, but a great deal to praise God for his patience, and to thank you for yours.)

 

My insecurities and I are on very familiar terms. They’re my constant companion, and if anything, I’m overly attached to them. Ask me to describe myself and they’ll be quickest to leap to my mind- and most often, off my tongue. I tend to think of them as potentially damaging to myself, but otherwise harmless. They’re classical music in a minor key. They’re Durer’s Melancholia I. They’re the Romantics’ poetry. They’re tragic but they make me me, and they’re perfectly innocuous to the outside world. Show me another person’s insecurities ‘inappropriately’ expressed, and I’ll tell my friends to steer clear of them, I’ll disparage them, and hold them culpable for their actions. If only they had been less ugly with their low self-esteem…

The other day, during a bout of self-indulgent psychoanalysis, I realised that I wasn’t always the good guy. That perhaps shouldn’t have surprised me. I’m Christian, right, so I should be constantly preoccupied with my sin and how I do a disservice to God’s mercy multiple, multiple times a day. Well, I try. But even then, I see sin as something external; nothing to do with the real me. Sin is something I wander into and would have fled it like the plague had I been wearing my glasses. The real me is a good egg. It’s never really my fault.

So I really was shaken that I had overestimated the sweetness of my heart. And my knee-jerk reaction was to run away from the recognition. Step one, go to bed early and wake up feeling a lot more upbeat. Step two, just stick to uplifting Bible passages about unconditional mercy and love for a few weeks: none of this sin business, that’ll just get you gloomy and isn’t it all a bit legalistic anyway?

1 John 1:7-9: ‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’

Call it the modern consumerist culture, call it plain-ol’ impatience, the quick-fix has serious appeal. If you’ve seen There’s Something About Mary (Cameron Diaz classic- very cringe-worthy humour, DO NOT watch it with your parents. I, of course, have, repeatedly. Error.), then this scene might ring a bell:

Hitchhiker: You heard of this thing, the 8-Minute Abs?

Ted: Yeah, sure, 8-Minute Abs. Yeah, the exercise video.

Hitchhiker: Yeah, this is going to blow that right out of the water. Listen to this: 7… Minute… Abs.

Ted: Right. Yes. OK, all right. I see where you’re going.

Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a video store, you see 8-Minute Abs sittin’ there, there’s 7-Minute Abs right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?

Ted: I would go for the 7.

Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo. 7-Minute Abs. And we guarantee just as good a workout as the 8-minute folk.

Ted: You guarantee it? That’s – how do you do that?

Hitchhiker: If you’re not happy with the first 7 minutes, we’re gonna send you the extra minute free…

Ted: That’s right. That’s – that’s good. That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?

 

The problem with quick-fixes is they’re not any solution at all. They’re short-sighted, not quick. If I run away now, I’ll be running- and being haunted- forever. And John hardly minces his words about the consequences. The daft thing is taking it to God isn’t a prolonged process. God doesn’t ask us to plea and re-plea for forgiveness, or for decades of self-flagellation. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. There’s no hesitation here; it’s a sure and sufficient thing. But I have to recognise that some of my grubbiness isn’t because a car sprayed me with a muddy puddle, or because I misapplied fake tan that one time that I thought I had a shot at fulfilling a feminine stereotype. I have to be painfully honest with God and myself, ask that He show me what I am too frightened to admit. I have to ask that He renew me from the inside out. I have to not be scared of how painful that re-sculpting might be.

But I get to praise God that He hasn’t been, never will be, scared away. I might look at those who express their insecurities differently from me and write them off. But God is patient, doesn’t give up on us, and never retracts His promises of forgiveness.

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