Several years ago, Christian singer Dan Haseltine (of Jars of Clay) challenged readers of Relevant Magazine to bring our whole selves into our relationships. I must admit that when I first read his article, entitled Your Whole Self, certain aspects turned me off. However, on closer inspection the truths found within overpowered the negatives.
There is a weight to the Gospel. There is a mass connected to the story of redemption. It is in the dark places – the addictions to pornography, alcohol, drugs, power and control. It is in our propensity to blame and abuse each other, our greed and our depravity. It is the substance of these things that gives us a place to speak about the slow road to recovery… In our church culture, there are behavioral codes set in place to give the appearance of victory. There are things that church people cannot talk about. There are activities that church people do not engage in…. There is not a darkness or a shadow to speak of… Because we have chosen to speak only about the victory from these things, we are left to promote a gospel that is feeble and moveable at best… Our Gospel is unbelievable because it is only half a Gospel. It is the resurrection without any signs of the crucifixion. I believe there are profound reasons why Jesus still carried the scars from the nails on His hands when He appeared to His friends. He was bringing the entire Gospel to His disciples…
Last winter, a series of events reminded me of his article. I was reminded of the importance of being authentic. It is only in our total authenticity that we are able to testify to what the Lord has done for us. Too often we Christians give an air of perfection. Several years ago, I heard a testimony that the giver was saved from a life of “terrible sin” at the age of five and had lived for Christ ever since. Twenty years of the person’s life was missing. Twenty years of struggle, twenty years of growth. As someone who was at that point very much teetering on the edge, suffering from addictive behaviors and very nearly ready to give in at any moment, the testimony left me with a sour taste in my mouth. “Terrible sin at the age of five,” I thought, “you don’t know terrible sin – I’ll show you terrible sin!” At the same time, I knew better than to believe that someone so close to my own age hadn’t struggled over the previous 10-15 years with certain sins that were very much a reality to me. It seemed insincere. And yet, that testimony reflects the norm for our sterilized church culture. In fact, if you had asked me yesterday you probably would have heard a similar response: saved somewhere around the age of five, forgiven for my sins, now I’m a new man and look forward to eternal communion with my Savior. Is it untrue? No, not at all. I believe that I was forgiven for my sins once and forever when I accepted Christ at around the age of five, but there is so much more to my story. The fact that I don’t have much of a pre-conversion story (due to my young age at the time) doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been working in my life.
Funny thing about sterility: it tremendously inhibits the ability to reproduce/multiply/spread the Word. Seeds that aren’t planted will never grow, stories that aren’t told will never inspire, and pain that is never shared will never give hope to another hurting soul.
So, what now? I’m going to work harder to bring my whole self into my relationships. It might hurt – probably will – but anything else is a lie and will inhibit my ability to serve Christ.
PS Despite my initial reaction, I don’t question for a moment that a five-year-old can be saved from a life of “terrible sin.” All sin is terrible. Life in sin is terrible. I am confident that the person giving that testimony was referring to this fact. I don’t mean to suggest that my own sins have been worse than anyone else’s, but rather that our struggles as redeemed children of God are very much realities that we should embrace in the name of authenticity. Failing to do so shortchanges those around us and fails to give God the glory for the progress He has made in our lives.