Many of us have one: that thing that you would prefer to carry to your grave. It’s that offense that occurred somewhere along life’s journey as a result of neglect, bad judgment, inability to control your emotions, blurred boundaries, or any combination of these. Then at a stop along the journey, you packed it away, checked the bag, and tagged it as ‘Destination: End of Life’. And you hoped it would never turn up again until you were in your grave.
But unfortunately, just like that bag that we checked for Honolulu sometimes turns up on the baggage carousel at LAX, those things we hoped to never face again in this life sometimes turn up unexpectedly along the way. And when that happens it can be embarrassing and painful.
But we can trust that when that baggage shows up uninvited, God’s plan is still being worked. As hurtful as it is, exposure is often a good thing. Because as long as that bag is safely tucked away in some cargo hold it is limiting you. The Enemy uses it to construct labels, instill fear and hesitation, undermine confidence.
Conversely, some of our most profound freedom comes as a result of exposure. Here’s why:
- Fear keeps us from stepping out in faith. We don’t want to make waves, because if we do, the resulting churn of the water may very well rock our boat and cause our carefully hidden offenses to spill out. And that, we think, would completely undermine our ability to serve God. The truth is, that thing is probably already undermining you in subtle ways that run deeper than anything exposure could cause.
- Anticipated negative inter-personal impacts paralyze us. Negative reactions, rumors, hurting those we love – these are very real fears. And honestly they are very real potentialities. People who truly love us will be hurt and experience sadness, anger, depression. People who only said they loved us will react in overtly hateful ways at worse, or simply disappear from our lives at best. Some relationships may need to be rebuilt, and some relationships may never recover. But we discover who our true friends are, we discover how faithful our God is, and we find new strength to walk and a new voice to proclaim His grace.
- Maintaining the facade is exhausting work. Ceaseless laboring to maintain a mask to cover your shame. Constant anguishing over those you have hurt. Unending mental playback of the offenses. Irrational fear that you may bump into someone who knows. All of this combines to leave you emotionally and spiritually striving, and gasping for air.
Compounding it all, darkness is a great magnifier. The fears, worries, anxieties are always much bigger in the dark. Darkness gives our imaginations room to create monsters out of every shadow. When the light is shined on the situation – especially God’s light – we find that these limiters fade away. The result is not as scary as we feared. The collective reaction of others is more grace-filled than expected. The exhaustion of patching and reinforcing the façade vanishes and looks fruitless in hindsight.
Everything we endure is used by God to bring us freedom. That’s a hard thing to remember when we’re in the midst of a shameful situation. But it doesn’t make it any less true.