Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Warts and All and Camera Ready
“But by the grace of God I am what I am.” - I Corinthians 15:10
I’m not a fan of self-labeling, whether it’s positive or negative. It can lead to a limited, even inaccurate view of ourselves if our primary form of identification is our personality type (I’m a sanguine; I’m a Type-A) or our area of weakness (I’m alcoholic; I’m co-dependent) Certainly within a support group environment these markers are important as we identify what we’re dealing with, and admitting both that we have a problem and what the problem is can help us better manage it. Still, we’re so much more than that and shouldn’t, to my thinking, box ourselves into labels defining us too narrowly.
That said, I’m also not a fan of minimizing our weaknesses, nor of presenting ourselves as being above them, though I’ve repeatedly been guilty of both. I’d rather keep my warts covered up, even when the situation calls for showing them, or at least acknowledging they exist. To say God has worked in my life and brought about changes is good and true. To imply the work is complete, or even further along than it really is, misleads and misrepresents. And there’s the rub. Personal testimonies inspire, and I love hearing them, but at times the testifier can sound like he zoomed from Point A to Z, leaving the rest of us Point M folks wondering what he did right and what we’re doing wrong.
In no area do I hear more hedging along those lines than in the area of purity. Often those souls brave enough to admit they’ve had a problem with sexual sin feel compelled to give us the true dirt on their past, then air brush their current state, as in “I once was sleazy but now I’m completely delivered from that and never struggle, even in my thoughts or temptations.” Very understandable. Who, after all, wants to testify to an ongoing struggle with lust, then walk down the aisle knowing the rest of the congregation wonders who he’s mentally violating? Still, there must be a way for honesty and modesty to co-exist.
I stumbled onto it when I was giving my own testimony on a live Christian talk show. The format called for each guest to be interviewed one on one, then sit on a couch while the next guest was interviewed, until all of us were together for the final segment. The subject was purity, and the first guest was a lovely Christian young lady who testified as to how God had kept her pure during turbulent times, followed by a youth pastor who similarly said God had kept him from losing his purity and thus he’d go to his wife as a virgin. Then a middle aged couple came on, recalling how God had kept both of them pure until marriage, encouraging others to follow their example. All the guests had sterling, very authentic testimonies of God’s ability to keep them from falling into the sins so commonly practiced these days.
Then out came Old Slimeball.
The tone certainly changed when I gave my testimony, and try as I could to clean it up for mixed company, you simply cannot turn The Exorcist into The Sound of Music. Then the host, wanting to put the best possible spin on things, listened to my story, leaned forward and enthused:
“Well, Joe, after all that I can see you’re God’s man. You’ve clearly been delivered, and I’ll bet you never so much as even think about these things anymore, or ever have to deal with them at all, right?”
Never have I wanted so badly to publicly lie.
Instead I gave, by God’s grace, an honest response I could live with, explaining that while these others had testimonies I wish I had, mine was that of a prodigal who by no means was beyond struggling with temptation but who, by God’s grace, was kept from giving into it. “My miracle”, I said, “is not that I’m temptation free, but that when it comes I’m now able by the power of God to say ‘no’ to it.”
No unnecessary details; nothing graphic, but nothing misleading, either. I don’t qualify as a Before and After photo, so a Before and Later shot will have to do, with the promise of a stunning After portrait soon – hopefully very soon – to come.
Let the Potter be glorified in His ongoing workmanship while He fashions, corrects, adds to, and guides His vessels from glory to glory. And let those who see the vessels taking on new shape inquire “Who’s your maker?” so the vessel can say, as did a Samaritan lady blown away by her recent encounter with Him, “Come and see.”