Taking A Wrong Turn
Have you ever looked back at an experience in your life and wished you would have done more? Or said something differently? Maybe you chickened-out at the last minute and played it safe with a decision because you were afraid of failure. I know I have done all of the above before. Maybe it was something that felt smaller or seemed smaller at the time- like being kind to your siblings and you chose not to. Maybe it’s the kid at school you never reach out to, even though you know you should. Sometimes it could even be your homework, or how you speak to your mom and dad. You give these things very little effort or energy because, at least for me, there never seemed to be enough glory in those small moments. Not enough applause, or “way to go’s” or “that was awesome”.
I remember when I was in high school I was only interested in the “big” moments. The mission trip- get out of your box- moment; the go-on-a-retreat and have a break-through with God moment; the perfect track record at church with the leaders moment. I wanted to feel that rush you get when you “take a leap of faith” and risk it all. All of a sudden that was a lot of my fuel for my relationship with Jesus from ages 15 -19 years old. And it was a really hard pattern to break. Because I had built this reputation of being “the good kid” at church. People had expectations of me and I was very aware of what it took to meet those expectations.
I was doing all kinds of good works. Some of them were from my heart and had eternal value attached to them. The other half, was just all for show. Just for the praise. Just to keep up the reputation. Pretty crushing way to live, huh? I felt trapped and alone most of the time.
Because let’s face it- who wants to be close to a person who never wants to show any weakness ever? Who wants to be the best friend to someone who acts like they have it all together? Clearly what I cared about the most was how people thought of me. We can call this fear of man.
I think there is a temptation for church kids to try to figure out how to keep their records squeaky clean and keep people from asking “how are you?” I know that was my goal.
NEVER LET ANYONE SEE ME SINKING. NEVER LET ANYONE CLOSE ENOUGH TO SEE ME PANICKING ABOUT HOW I MIGHT BE FAILING.
I had a pretty good system going too. Until I was at the ultimate “big moment” – college. I had been accepted into my dream school. Now I could show everyone who loved me that I could do it. I was gonna nail this big moment.
Except I didn’t.
I totally bombed.
All that people-pleasing fuel I had lived on, was gone. No one was around to watch any more; to see me succeed. And I was a lone and left with a lot of fear and doubts because I had only really known how to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be.
Can I tell you that fear of man (i.e. making your whole life about status and what others think of you) will suffocate you. It will make you feel like you only know who you are when everything is going well and when you are on top. It’s this nasty, twisted lie that Satan likes to whisper in your ear that you’re nothing and no one will want you if you don’t adjust constantly to every situation you’re in. Or it can feel like you just play it safe because you couldn’t stand it if someone in your life saw you as a mess.
So you hide in your own way. You say all the right things. You volunteer for everything. And you’re always working on keeping all the plates in the air so that everyone likes you and needs you.
Have you caught onto a theme here?
Life is all about you when fear of man is in charge. My life was all about me. Even though I was talking about Jesus and serving at church, there was definitely no room left for real love for others or real worship unto the Lord.
I think it all started out with good intentions, but it all ended up in a snare. I was definitely a student who wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be on the front lines of lots of big moments. But at home, my dad and I always fought. I was mean to my sister. In my room I was panicking and worried about how to conquer the next big moment so I could keep my reputation looking just right.
The summer I came home from my first year in college was really hard. I felt like I was a character in a play. And when I went away to college, the play was over and it got bad reviews. When I went home for the summer everyone still thought I was that character they knew when I was in high school.
I was really wrestling with who to tell about my failures; how I failed a class, stopped reading my bible, made stupid choices with friends, dated an unbeliever. My soul was weary and worn out. My fuel had run out. You could say my fuel had failed me. The play was over, and I was exhausted playing this character.
And then there was this God-ordained moment with my dad in the family room late one night during summer vacation. I spilled my guts. There were tears and apologies and questions. There were doubts about who I was in Jesus. Was I saved? Did He still love me after all that? How did it get so messed up and all about me?
And then there was praying and confession and relief.
The only thing that will get you out of a mess is surrender and honesty my friends.
My dad reminded me that Jesu is all that we need to have any value; Jesus is all there is to any moment, big or small. Jesus was enough and grace was sufficient. Jesus was the King of the broken and the weary, the losers and misfits, the kids who just couldn’t get it right all the time. And because of my dad’s kindness that night and sharing the gospel with me again, my heart felt free for the first time in a very long time.
I felt free to stop pleasing people; stop pretending and trying to keep everything perfect.
I know it sounds like maybe I wasn’t saved. But I look back and think about it all, and I know I was. I just took a wrong turn….down a road of selfishness, insecurity and fear. A road that seemed to promise everything, but ended up taking everything instead. It took all my joy and confidence, and all the truth I knew about what Jesus had done for me.
If you want to make a difference, make sure you’re on the right path first. The path of surrender and honesty; the past of humility and truth.
It’s a choice to stay on that path. You will get many offers to take a different road that seems more promising at times but I tell you I have been there and done that. Don’t waste your time. Keep choosing surrender and humility. Keep choosing honesty. Keep choosing Jesus.