For most of my life I have had a life-dominating fear of being exposed as a fraud. At this point most people usually like to assure me that, no, I’m a good person and they’re sure that it’s not that bad. But I would like to assure you that, yes, it is, and I am. As a young boy I learned it was safer to be what others wanted me to be (or what I thought they wanted me to be), and that was the pathway to life. My flesh clung to this promise, that pleasure and security would come if the whole world loved me, so I shape-shifted my self into whatever setting I was in. I was a chameleon, living one reality on the outside, while experiencing a very different one internally.
Since I was so committed to living a dishonest life of people-pleasing, I made choices like the people of Israel, saying, “Since I want to be with you and you make me feel safe, I will worship what you worship.” I quickly became addicted to entertainment, to affection and attention from women, to pornography and unhealthy and unholy relationships, to alcohol and marijuana. For me, whatever made me more acceptable to you was my vice.
In 2010 I entered the doors of community at Summit. My head was filled with self-condemning thoughts like, “You are unlovable, and if anyone really knew you they would hate you.” It was the inner monologue that played from every morning when I woke up, until I fell asleep that night. It was here that God, gently yet strongly, called me out of hiding. I was sitting in a circle with a community of men who were sharing the truth about the lives they had lived, when I felt the prompting of what I now know to be the Holy Spirit to confess my sins. It was not only to confess my actions, but to confess the entire false life I had been living, to be turned inside out and be exposed in front of these men who owed me nothing and could have torn me to shreds if they wanted.
To my surprise, when I shared with them, instead of running for the hills or calling me names, they thanked me for what I said and told me, “We love you more now because we know you more.” It was in that moment that my heart was opened to what Christ calls the “abundant life” in John 10:10. I realized that I had been living under the dominion of an enemy that was selling me half-measures, and my flesh was buying it all. It was here that the Gospel became clear to me, that my life was not my own and that my past needed to be atoned for, and that had already happened in Christ. It was here that for the first time I stopped thinking about all that I had done, and started embracing all that Christ had done for me, and my life has never looked the same.
Though I still struggle today, my life is characterized by becoming more and more like Jesus. It’s imperfect, but I’ve learned that my Savior expects that. He doesn’t demand perfection, but He invites intimacy. And through intimacy, He transforms my life into a life of holiness that is not a burden, but a grand adventure. Today I embrace the freedom that Christ has given me, forsaking the yoke of slavery, living exposed under His gaze and in the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ—all for the sake of His glory and renown. And it is all worth it.