There wasn’t any physical bleeding involved like I thought there would be when the time came. It was more like the raw pink pain of having the top layer of your skin or a scab removed. The new skin underneath with extremely exposed nerves assaulted my brain with a relentless message of stinging immobilizing pain. My first instinct was to cover myself with the old skin so the nerves would be fooled into thinking there was no pain but then I realized there is no way to cover every area of my life that has been peeled away.
In my prosperous comfort and consumer Christian culture I am becoming more aware that I have been silently invaded by idols that often pry their way into the Christ culture and the American Dream. it reminds me of Texas chiggers which are insects unseen to the human eye but if they find you in the tall grass they will burrow under your skin and cause you to itch so badly that you are driven to distraction. I keep hearing a quote from Mr. Tolstoy in my head, “everyone wants to change the world but not themselves.” In the end however, only one man who was willing to take it all upon himself on a Cross of unbearable torture changed the world for once and for all. It is the enormity of Jesus’ love that has caused me to shed these layers of comfort. The old manta of “if we are just good people” who keep our disobedience and sin to a tidy minimum then we are good Christians is not true. This has often been a huge comfort zone for me. One that can no longer be.
I grew up in an era that appeared to be both wholesome and bullet proof. Middle class America with a two parent home, two cars, a house in suburbia, a good school, and of course going to church. my Dad was a Pastor so Church was my life, my social arena, the litmus test for everything around me. I am left with many wonderful and terrible memories and glimpses of God and of what the family of God should be. However, the truth, as one author and pastor writes, “the True Gospel shows up best when it is brought into direct opposition with a “subtle distortion” of itself.
I have felt this magnetic pull on my life when I was taught or rather the silent message was given “behavior” is somehow in direct correlation with how good of a Christian I am. I have come to see we are often shamed and distorted in our journey with The Holy because we minimize sin, worship idols, and invoke “cheap Grace” to live however we choose. Perverting the Truth. The reality of the journey with The Holy God does ultimately lead to transformation, which is fact does change and adjust behavior. This is called Sanctification or maturity. “It is promised to us from God himself to every believer. “It is the most powerful experience a human will have and it is a process that is eternal. However, changing behavior simply to exhibit a sense of false righteousness or to be in control puts us right back into our “original sin” which is we want to be god. We crave control.” (Dr. Hud McWilliams).
So, as I continue my journey I am slightly braver now to peel away more dead skin that might prevent or pervert my desire to continue growing in my relationship with Jesus. I hope to walk beside other believers as they peel away their old skin too so that we can hold each other up along the way when the pain is at its most unbearable. It is God alone who Sanctifies just as it is God who reveals to us our need for redemption. Like the Father in the ancient story of the Prodigal Son the message from the Father has always been and will always be this, “all that I have has always been yours so come home my child.”