Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boldly

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4.16; KJV)

Trying to Hide

As Sunday night’s Oscar hoopla fades, one film clip inexplicably sticks with me. It came during the tribute to John Hughes, whose films I never found very memorable. From what I could gather, Molly Ringwald’s date can’t figure out why she won’t let him drive her home. Evidently a lot of questions precede the clip: Are you worried I’ll embarrass you? Do you think your parents won’t like me? Etc. She bursts into tears and confesses, “I don’t want you to see where I live!” Unlike most of the teen angst that became Hughes’s calling card, this felt like the sort of kick to the gut we associate with great dramatists like Tennessee Williams—the moment when stereotypes and quirks get shaved away and an archetypal realization emerges.

Thankfully, I’ve never been ashamed of where I live. But many, many times in my life I’ve prevented people from seeing parts of me I’m unsure of. I’ve invented all kinds of ruses and excuses to keep them away, fearing what they found would drive them away. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about; no doubt you’ve done it, too. Any time people get too close to discovering our weaknesses and self-doubts, our reflexes take over and shields go up. But trying to hide what we’re uncertain of in ourselves isn’t something we only do with people. We do it with God as well. And, especially during Lent’s season of consecration, it’s time we rethink this.

Uncovered and Laid Bare

It’s futile to conceal anything from God. Hebrews 4.13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” God knows everything about us: our progress, our thoughts, our actions, our whereabouts—even our physiology and lifespan. Jesus tells us “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10.30), and Job submits, “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” (Job 14.5)

These statements baffle me. How can God possibly keep up with so much information about me, let alone 300 billion other humans and innumerable creatures, plants, stars, and planets? I imagine celestial accounting and surveillance facilities lined with endless rows of whirring mainframes, and they’re still not enough to process what’s happening across the universe this very second. Then it occurs to me: it’s less a matter of tracking and watching than knowing. God’s awareness of us is part of Who He is. It’s as instinctive to Him as breathing is to us. We need to know this as surely and thoroughly as God knows us. Once we let this sink into the very marrow of our beings, we can toss off heinous burdens of shame, guilt, and self-doubt we’ve been told we must carry. We can stop hiding things we don’t like about ourselves, as well as things others aren’t happy with.

While our burdens come in every shape and size, a good number of them are inextricably linked with the three basics of our God-given identity: gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. It’s no accident the Evil One has chosen these traits as his tools for planting self-destruction and hatred, because they’re immutable and inescapable. He’s constructed an alternative morality and society in which we’re encouraged to view sex, color, and orientation as insurmountable hurdles. This is a myth. If we’re unsure of this, we should consider the source. Here’s Jesus’s description of the Enemy: “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8.44) It’s a lie that we have any cause for shame, guilt, or self-doubt about who we are, because God made us as we are and He knows us as we are. He sees where we live.

“It’s Just Me”

Three verses after telling us there’s nothing we can hide from Him, the Hebrews writer states: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Knowing there’s nothing He should not see enables us to approach Him without pause or trepidation, saying, “Here I am—all of me.” Leaving parts of us behind when we come to God constitutes an unfortunate mistake. Actually, it’s two mistakes in one. First, we stand incomplete before Him. We’re not the beings He created, the people He knows. But, second, when we hold back pieces of us that have been corrupted by evil lies, we deprive them of the light of God’s presence and purity. That’s where their beauty unfolds and their fragrance bursts forth. Only when we bring ourselves wholly to God can we find wholeness in life.

Current translations soften Hebrews 4.16 a bit. For example, the NIV renders it, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence…” As a gay believer, though, I find the King James Version’s “boldly” more inspiring—not in the sense of arrogance or presumption, but in its urgency to meet God without reticence or apology. “It’s just me,” I say as I enter, “the white, gay son You know all about.” And in my mind, I see countless multitudes comprising the entire spectrum of human gender, race, and sexuality—all of them free of the Liar’s burdens, all walking boldly toward God and announcing themselves the same way. “It’s just me, the child You know all about.” As we continue our Lenten journey, I pray we will leave all of the Liar’s burdens behind and bring all of who we are to God.

When we walk boldly toward God, we leave the lies of shame, guilt, and self-doubt behind. We enter His light, where we see who we truly are.

Postscript: All I Ever Have to Be

I mentioned this song in a comment on another blog a few weeks ago, and it feels particularly apt for today’s post. Listen closely to its lyrics. I believe you’ll find robust boldness beneath its gentle affect. Amy Grant’s “All I Ever Have to Be.”

5 comments:

genevieve said...

When I shared with God that I was transgender, He embraced as His child. It settled the gender identity part of me. Since then I've never been happier.

claire said...

This is odd, Tim. I believe that you and I talk about the same thing today -- transparency toward Godde. You treat this in a beautiful way. My post is very simple. But I have a hunch we are on the same wavelength -- two very different people...
And that's nice.

claire said...

PS: I just notice Genevieve's comment. Undoubtedly, Godde can only embrace her child. It is a darn good feeling though!

Tim said...

He embraced you, Genevieve, because He already knew you and accepted you. I had the exact same experience when I stopped trying to hide my homosexuality and said, "This is who I am and I can't change it."

Because I had been steeped in lies that my making was a "sin," I asked Him to forgive my inability to change. But while He forgave my lack of understanding, I suddenly realized He accepted me. There was a very clear distinction between the two. And in that moment the burden of lies lifted.

Like you, I'd never been happier and haven't looked back since.

Thank you for your testimony, Genevieve. I trust it helps those of us struggling to bring all of ourselves to God. We can approach Him with boldness!

Blessings,
Tim

Tim said...

Claire, I have been repeatedly chagrined (is that the right word?) this Lent by how I'll put my post up, go to sleep, rise and go by your place to find similar thoughts. Your post on sexuality triggered this one, but as you can see, it led me to 'hiding." And then, voilà, I open your post this morning and there it is--"hiding."

Mysterious ways, indeed. As for my approach contrasted to yours, I lovingly confess envy of your simplicity and gentleness. Those are not gifts I've been able to cultivate yet. Perhaps over time...

And you are right--God(de) can only embrace His/Her child. Turning away anyone who comes boldly to the throne of grace will never happen. As Hebrews says, we find grace in our time of need.

Peace,
Tim