This blog records my transition from the Churches of Christ to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ugly Truth

i am a sinner.  a filthy sinner.  i am lustful.  i am lazy.  i am wasteful.  i indulgently look at things that are evil--images which objectify women and belittle the wickedness of violence.  i say things that are evil--gossip, judgment, dirty jokes, emphasis on base desires.  i ignore my fellow human beings who are in need--at work i actually try to avoid being solicited by the homeless and routinely deny them anything and deliberately try not to make eye contact with people standing at intersection corners begging.  i sin and sometimes just don't care--evil.  Sometimes i sin and don't even ask forgiveness because i know i'll just do it again.  soon even.  Sometimes before i'm about to sin my conscience is screaming inside my head--all my alarms are working perfectly inside my head, and i just tell them to shut up.  i willfully ignore all the conscientious red flags in my head because i decide i want to sin more than i want to be faithful to Christ.  Sometimes i wish i would stop, but know that i'll decide to do it anyway, so i don't do anything to try to stop because i know i'll just fail.

So shouldn't i say these things to people in church?  Shouldn't i be real and honest and truthful about who and what i am and what i'm really going through?  Shouldn't i just admit all this? 

Yet i feel tremendous pressure both cultural and emotional to hide it.  To pretend.  To wear something nice on Sunday morning and just act like things are the same as always and that of course i don't do anything terrible.  People who are terrible sinners aren't welcome on Sunday mornings.  Certainly no such person should ever be fellowshipped with by the prominent members of the congregation or asked to teach Bible classes or lead prayers.  Such people wouldn't be warmly greeted by regular members.  At best, such people would be scolded or tacitly judged and avoided. 

So it's best to hide, right?  It's best to pretend.  It's best to shake everyone's hand and smile and talk about school or the weather and never share what's really going on for me in my personal discipleship and struggle with sin.  That way they'll keep talking to me and they'll keep inviting me to lunch.  i'll stay the same--i won't improve spiritually, but at least then i'll maintain the same relationship with them.  Besides, if i broke and told someone at church they'd feel super awkward that i was so open.  They'd likely just tell me to go talk to one of the ministers.  Which i could do, yes.  But of course, the minister and i both know he's only talking to me because he's the hired guy--the one paid to do just that sort of thing.  He's paid to care so that person in the pew who i just made feel awkward doesn't have to. 

Funny thing is though, i can't help but think that lots of people in the pews next to me are just like me.  Sinners.  Filthy sinners.  The kind who do somethings and don't even care.  They know they should care.  But they don't.  They care enough to wish they were better.  But they don't care enough to really get better.  They're ashamed to tell anyone just like me and for similar reasons.  Hmmm.  Lots of us might just be going through the same thing.  More people than me might just be big, fat failures at following Christ.  Yet there's not enough trust or authenticity in the room for any of us to talk to each other about it.  Interesting. 

Listen, i know that no amount of mistrust on Sunday morning alleviates my responsibility before God.  i am blameworthy.  i deserve the wrath of God.  i am willfully ignoring my commitment to my Savior and i have no excuse. 

But is my general experience and rationale all that uncommon?  Have i not accurately represented an average church-goer's experience or the social dynamic of the average congregation?  (And meanwhile, what do i do about me?  Sometimes i have very little hope of coming back and doing the right thing.)


RealMason said...

Guy, I love your honesty and feel your pain. I'd love to share with you my Journey towards and with Jesus. But I'm not sure how to contact you and don't really want to post my info here... hmm. -andy

SrAbels said...

Are you also a criminal, maybe even with a warrant for your arrest? Or, are you the model citizen that has kept every single law, speed limit and municipal regulation every day of your life? Or, having broken some laws, are you in the gray land in between these two extremes? In that gray land, having run a few stop signs and occasionally exceeded the speed limit, you could still see yourself as a criminal, but that would be about as lame as some of what I just read. You can be a good citizen, who occasionally breaks a law. You can admit it when you do, pay the fine, and go on. There is nothing hypocritical in that. There is something sick in seeing yourself as a criminal when you aren't, then living up to that standard.

I found a couple of books by Neil T. Anderson to be of great value in changing the way I see myself. I also have seem them work on many others in my ministry. The books are "Victory over the Darkness" and"The Bondage Breaker." The first book deals with our identity in Christ, and the second one builds on that towards overcoming old habits, hang-ups and attitudes.

A lot of how we think and act is based on our self identity. If I see myself as a criminal, it will be easier for me to break the law. To the extent that I can see myself as a "saint" it will be easier to live a more saintly life.

Acting saintly in public, will not make me a saint, but if I am a saint, even if I make a mistake, I am still a saint. My secure identity as a saint will also allow me to more easily admit my errors as I make them. My identity in Christ is secure; my sins do not define me.

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