Image Management

Live Where You Fear to Live

Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.
-Rumi

Image management. If you’re in full-time Christian ministry like me, you learn it pretty quickly. “Don’t let them see you sweat” and all that jazz. And it works for a while, until you realize that everyone else is pretending, just like you. No one has it all together, but some of us can keep the illusion going a little bit longer than the others.

Have you ever read those “Christian Heroes” books designed for elementary-aged children? Usually the books focus on the life of a missionary in some far away land. They paint a rosy picture about the Christian hero’s service to God, but the thing about those books is they gloss over all the fears, doubts and frustrations of those very real, very human and very sinful people. It’s no wonder we grow up thinking that the normative Christian life is one where we flit from mountain top to mountain top and never spend any time at all in the valley. So we work as hard as we can to measure up to be what we in fact can never be: a Christian hero.

I think all of that effort to be the perfect Christian is just a way for us to hide. It’s so much easier for us to follow a script than to follow Jesus. It’s so much easier to believe that we are accepted when we do acceptable things. I am again and again drawn to the story of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden in Genesis 3.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” – Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV)

“…I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Can’t you just hear the note of tearful desperation in Adam’s voice? I can, because I’ve been there. Naked and unacceptable, and so desperately wanting to be “okay”. So we start putting on those fig leaves. Bible studies, nursery duty, a good attitude when we don’t feel it at all—it’s a way for us to hide the unacceptable parts of ourselves. But if by grace through faith you’ve been drawn into the loving embrace of Jesus, you don’t have to hide.

Let me repeat that: You no longer have to cover up your insecurities with service; you no longer have to hide. Why? Because Jesus has clothed you with His righteousness as God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:21). And He doesn’t just promise them temporary relief from their nakedness. He promises them a Savior who will crush the head of their enemy and finally and fully defeat sin. If God has accepted us for Jesus’ sake, we don’t have to hide those unacceptable parts of ourselves anymore, because they are covered with a righteousness that doesn’t depend on us, a righteousness we receive by faith (Philippians 3:9).

But can I confess something: even though I know I have that righteousness, I still get scared of my own nakedness and my hands itch to reach out for those fig leaves. It’s scary to believe that I am loved and accepted and cannot mess this Christian life up. Because I feel like I mess it up all the time. But Jesus, He’s committed to me. He’s committed to bringing me safely home. So I’m free. Free to bask in the glorious freedom that belongs to God’s children.

Glorious freedom is scary because it doesn’t depend on you at all. Rather, it depends on Someone whose track record is much better than ours, the One who is the true hero of our story, and Someone we can trust to do what He said He’s going to do (because He’s never failed): conform us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). It’s a guarantee. So forget the safety of your fig leaves and come and dance.

This post was written by Jeanne Hulme.

All This Red

I care too much; I have a serious “LIKE ME!” issue when it comes to social media.

The red notifications that pop up when someone has liked or retweeted something I’ve posted have become markers that denote my value, my popularity, the level to which my art is appreciated, and the indicators of how much I am noticed. Ooooo, looook! Someone’s been thinking about me! Some one likes me!

And as fast as the notifications show up, I go see who liked the thing I’ve done; I go see who you are and what you’re thinking so that this warmth can fill up in my chest that someone has noticed or thought or mentioned. Anticipation builds quickly and deflates much faster as that red badge keeps me coming back for more, calling to me to urgently obey its demand, click meeee; come see how loved you are. The red badge entices my self-absorption and begs for my undivided attention until all. The. Red. Is. Gone.

My spine curves inward around these approval alerts from my social network: the altar at which I worship: the bearer of me-news; the alarm of me-needed; the herald of me-noticed. The red seems to promise a satisfied life in a subtly fleeting way. And so I chase it. All the while real life is red, but not as fleeting as the red notifications.

All the while the only notification that gives satisfaction is the red lifeblood of Jesus on my behalf, which is the only red to speak value and worth that lasts eternally into my life; the only rich, deep red that can make peace once-and-for-all in my idol factory of a heart.

When I check to see if there are new notifications, my subconscious screams: “How much has the world missed me?!” And while I’m looking to these signs of life to pop up and validate, chances are I’ll miss out on real life while I’m indulging this –has-the-world- missed-me notion. Turned in on myself and my red notifications, I’ll miss that the world that has truly missed me is living right across the street or in my very house with me. How so like the enemy to sell a cheapened life to keep me from the lifeblood and to keep the lifeblood from the world; to sell a chintzy red dot for the crimson flow from Jesus’ veins.

Lord, have mercy.

Only the beautiful blood of Jesus can straighten our in-curved spine, can lift our navel-gazing eyes, can redeem what has been lost and speak love unending over our wayward souls.

I give thanks for Christ’s flowing lifeblood when my whoring heart is lusting for another follow, like, or retweet; when my eyes long more to see the cheap red than the Word; when my life bows down to the machine in my hand for all it says of me. I give thanks. I close my eyes and with empty hands, I sing:

“Your blood speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims I’ve heard upon this earth
Speaks righteousness for me and stands in my defense
Jesus, it’s your blood”

-“Nothing But The Blood,” Matt Redman

Failure

The fear of failure is a powerful and destructive thing. It keeps us from trying, it keeps us from living, and it shackles us to ourselves. Recently, I have cowered from fear repeatedly. I have listened its voice—my inner slave driver—telling me that my best won’t be good enough, that no matter how hard I try I will not succeed. It has kept me paralyzed in a dungeon of darkness. The world’s solution to this fear is, “Just give it your all!”, “Find power in the trying!”, or, the karma principle, “If you do your best you will find success.” Don’t get me wrong, it is easy to find momentary and fleeting strength in these tag lines. I resolve once again to give it a go and then once again find myself wondering what went wrong. The failure to get out of “failure mode” only pushes me deeper into my fear. I want to be a less angry mom today, and then I fail, I have an outburst, and I am distant from children. I don’t want to gossip and then, inevitably, it’s the first thing out of my mouth when I meet up with someone, so I just decide it is best never to talk to anyone again. I want to love my husband selflessly and then I find myself being more selfish than ever, so I withdraw from him and protect myself from the deepness of my depravity.

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