By Dan Crain; REMERGE Pastor and Connector
This is a blog in a series of what it means to come to a place of Loving Freely in Christ.
We all wear masks to some extent.
We all have things in our lives that we’re not willing to confront.
Our American culture has so impacted our way of living and the way we follow Jesus that we really don’t want to confront what’s really going on inside of us. Social media has so influenced our way of thinking that we don’t want to be real with each other. We always want to present our best side. When asked how we’re doing, many of us put on a mask and say we’re fine, not realizing that fine means; frustrated, insecure, neurotic and emotional.
If that’s the case, I am fine a majority of the time.
Ten years ago while visiting Bumpville I was fine. We had a small gathering of family and friends to meet our newest son at my parent’s house. I knew that I would see our friend Amy at this gathering. Amy has been a friend, mentor and a counselor in my life. I knew Amy would ask me how I was doing and so I tried to avoid Amy, but I ended up sitting next to her on a couch and started to chit-chat about life as she sat in a chair next to me.
She then looked at me and asked, “How are you doing?” Like a deer in the headlights I was caught. I started to tear up because I was anything but fine. I had a lot going on in my life. I was working almost full time, I was in Seminary part time, a new dad, trying to be a good husband, and a good follower of Jesus.
The problem was that I was pretending. I was living a lie. I felt like a failure. I carried a deep sense of shame and guilt from my family of origin that I had never dealt with.
The next morning I found myself in a counseling session with Amy and it was amazing, because for me it was the first time that I really came to face that I had a really hard time trusting God, which was rooted in my family of origin. My friend and counselor really started to dig into what was happening beneath the surface of my life. It was really the first time that I sat on a couch to really face my issues.
Pastor Felicia Smith said to me last year that, “Everyone needs to be sitting on a couch.” Pastor Felicia is simply amazing and has been very helpful in developing out this Loving Freely idea. She’s a trained Emotionally Healthy Discipleship facilitator and implements the concepts at her church, Community Church, where she’s the co-pastor with her husband. Every Tuesday night, Pastor Felicia hosts an online discussion about Emotionally Healthy Discipleship on Facebook.
Pastor Felecia’s suggestion that everyone needs to be sitting on a couch is referring to the fact that everyone has issues that they need to be working through and should sit down with someone and face them. Sitting on a couch may happen with a trained Christian counselor or therapist, a close trusted loved one or a small group of people you walk with.
We don’t like to confess that we need help because it ultimately reveals that we are weak, small, messy and vulnerable, and that we actually don’t have our act together. I mean, come on: Who actually likes to be known as “needy”?
Years ago I encouraged a person that I greatly respect to go and see a counselor because of some strong codependent tendencies I picked up on. It’s easy to spot this in others as I have struggled so much with it myself. This person’s response was that they were afraid to face what was down there because of what may come out.
This is why I love what Paul says in Romans 2:4, “not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” God’s kindness actually leads us to face what is broken inside of us. It’s his love, grace and mercy that gives us the courage to sit on a couch and face our divided lives.
In order for us to love freely in Christ, we must face the darkness that lingers below.
God designed us in original glory to know that we can receive help by taking breaks and ask for help from others. God did not wire us to always be fatigued by compassion. Our original glory in Christ was designed to not be the hero and to take ourselves so serious!
But, because of the fall, my false self never wants to take breaks and is always seeking to stay in control of relationships and situations. It hates asking for help and appearing vulnerable, particularly to those I am called to serve. This keeps me from loving freely.
Yet, because of Christ’s work in us and in the world we can slow down to be with him and receive from others. We are not the saviors of the world, he is. We don’t need to pretend we have it all together and thus are able to sit on a couch and receive from God and others.