I’ve officially been on the race for 242 days. That’s nine months. You would think that by this time I would have it together—that I would be a rock. I’ve spent countless nights on the floor. I’ve taken many an ice cold shower, and sometimes gone weeks with no shower at all. I’ve eaten bugs, blood, and baby chickens still in the egg (all these of course local delicacies.) I’ve dug ditches, planted fields, taught English, painted walls, and shared the gospel. I’ve even “preached” a sermon or two.
Nine months in, nine thousand moments later, my relationship with God is strained at best. So what’s the deal? I feel like the person standing at the gate in Matthew 7. I’m shouting out to God: Did I not prophecy in your name? Did I not cast out demons in your name? Did I not leave my life and job for a year as a missionary IN YOUR NAME? Where are you? Where is this epic, adventurous life you promised? Where is the peace? Where is the purpose? In fact, are you even there!?
I am as empty as the day I stepped onto a plane to Johannesburg so long ago. My frustrations have taken root. What was irritation has birthed hate, doubt has begat denial, and what was freedom has produced contempt. So how you ask, amidst so many clear workings and provisions of God could I remained so cold?
The truth is simple, and it almost always is: I have been pretending.
In fact, almost my entire life has been a lie.
I am a pastor’s kid striving not to disappoint my parents.
I am a Christian in the south desperately trying to fit into society.
I am a Children’s pastor trying to please superiors and prove my value.
I am a Missionary trying to bring a change I haven’t experienced.
I have played the role of Christian so long, the true me is buried deep beneath mountains of guilt, shame, and doubt. Each day the lie roots itself deeper in my heart until I can no longer differentiate between the truth and my masterful façade.
I feel hopeless, and I’ve had enough. Either I go back to the United States and stop playing missionary and Christian for good or God needs to do something radical.
It’s day two of debrief in Brasov, Romania and for the first time in months I actually hear God speak. We’re having evening session in the basement of a Scottish Pub (that’s a story for later). I’m listening to my squad leader Alys boldly share her heart. God starts talking through her, “Step out. Confess. Be Real” He says. “Stop pretending.” So without calculating my words, without packaging the truth in a neat little box, I begin to talk: and out of the overflow of my heart my mouth speaks.
It’s ugly, but true – just like God wants it.
And in that moment, amid a mess of tears, snot, and dark truths, I feel my heart rip open and every festering, cancerous, malignant aberration purge itself from my spirit.
I am clean. I am pure. I am a new creation. The old has actually gone and the new has come. My squad surrounds me and covers me in prayer, and then revival breaks out. The Holy Spirit is in this room. Confession after confession, our old selves slough off, and we put on a new spiritual body.
Why did this happen? Obedience. Trust me, it had nothing to do with me. God simply chose to use me (and could be waiting to use you) to start a revolution where you are.
God doesn’t ask us to be perfect. He doesn’t want deeds or fancy words. He couldn’t care less about church events, monetary donations, hours of bible study, or perfect church attendance. He wants our honesty. He wants your heart. And until you stop pretending like you’ve given Him all and actually do, I guarantee you are living a cheap imitation of what He has to offer.
The enemy wants nothing more than for us to try and impress our peers by pretending we are something we aren’t. Because after a while, the lie you keep telling others becomes your truth.
I firmly believe there is a vast majority of Christians who have never experienced God for who He truly is. You can spend your entire life in service to a God you don’t actually know.
There can be no darkness in what has been brought to the light. There can be no shame and no guilt in what has been confessed. In Christ, there is no failure, because He already won the battle.
It might be terrifying. You might have been in the church for a year or a decade. You could be a pastor, a father, a mother, a deacon, or a missionary, but there is only one title of value: blameless, spotless, covered, debt-paid-in-full son or daughter of Christ. This is what Christ actually offers if we could stop pretending long enough to experience the freedom and love He created us to receive.
There’s a reason you feel empty. There’s a reason your works feel hollow.
Your sin? Confess it. Your doubt? Share it.
Bring it all before God and a body of believers. It might be scary, ugly, and unexpected. But God will be there, like the father waiting in the field for his son to come home. And he will wrap you in His loving embrace, kill the fatted calf, and welcome His Son or Daughter home.
If God can meet me in the basement of a pub used for poker games, He can meet you where you are.
I became a Christian over a decade ago. On August 29, 2014 I actually came to understand life in Christ is actually life. So for the first time ever I can sing “Jesus loves me this I know” and I actually mean it. Wouldn’t you like to as well?