“If you deny the bizarre and the grotesque in yourself, you’ll never accept it in others. To the extent that you shrink from the disorderliness of people, love will scare the daylights out of you.”
In these two sentences from his book Practicing the Presence of People, Mike Mason perfectly captures some thoughts I have been chewing on of late.
The things that I think, feel and do are sometimes nothing short of scary. My ability to be calloused to the thoughts and feelings of even those who live under my roof and my watch can be alarming. My ability to numb myself to the tragedies of the world by drinking a cup of coffee or scrolling through a shiny newsfeed shocks me when it shows itself. My tendency to want to buy comfort in the form of a new shirt or a new toy for my kids makes me nervous.
To be certain, the beauty and grace and forgiveness that sometimes flows out of me shock me equally. It’s just that we are more often more comfortable with sharing our beautiful than our scary. I am more likely to share with you the awards that my children have won, the well-written poem or my recently cleaned home than I am the tendencies toward trouble, the unfinished rough draft or the mid-Saturday disaster that is my house. If this is my tendency in small and surface issues, how much more than is my tendency to hide the scariest places of my soul.
You share this tendency with me; we inherited it from our forebears Adam and Eve who clothed themselves in fig leaves and had a penchant for hiding.
Name, Don’t Shame
The problem with our cover up is that shame seeps into our lives in the hiding. When we don’t clearly name the grotesque that we see in ourselves or others, when we soften sin with euphemisms, we dangerously expose ourselves to the decaying power of shame. We cannot receive real forgiveness for what we haven’t named or accepted.
Often instead of naming our scary and confessing it, first to God and then to a trusted confident, we hide and seek to fix it on our own. While initially this seems the safer mode of operation, this avoidance and hiding merely shellacks another layer of shame on our already complex humanity.
David, who was both brazen in his sinning and bold in his confession of such sin, beautifully depicts his sin nature, his scary side, in Psalm 73:21-22.
When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
What did David do with his scary, dragon-like tendencies in his life and heart? Rather than softening them with sugary phrases or cleaning them up, he names them and brings them to the God whose character he has come to trust.
Share Your Scary
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. Psalm 73:23-24.
The most beautiful and human moments of my life happen when someone shares their scary with me or when I share my scary with a deeply trusted friend. In those moments shaking vulnerability, deeply human and yet incredibly divine exchanges of God’s grace and the gospel happen.
When someone shares their scary with me, I feel deeply honored that they would let me into those sacred and disordered places. Likewise, when I get up the gumption to let someone into the dragon-like parts of me, I only do so with those know and practice the gospel deeply.
I am consistently shocked that my trusted advisors aren’t shocked by the dragons that dwell deep within me. They are unshakable because they have done the brave work of naming their own sin what it is and bringing it to the Cross of Christ, where Christ the valiant became the dragon of sin so we could be freed. They know and commune with a God who knows their scary far more deeply than they ever will yet welcomes them as His children; thus, they are enabled to administer that same gospel to my dragon-like heart.
Sharing your scary with another gospel-saturated soul slays the dragons with the gospel of grace.