Abraham Maslow established that at our core we need safety. Just above the foundational needs for physical sustenance, there is that need for safety and security.
We build around ourselves networks of safety. We gravitate toward friends who are safe. We get an education and work experience in an attempt to ensure our safety economically. We seek out church fellowship in order to find spiritual security. We arrive at compromises to make sure our relationships with the ones we care about are safe and secure.
Sometimes, those efforts and compromises result in construction projects to wall off parts of ourselves that we think are ugly or repulsive to others. We have secret battles with things we know aren’t acceptable – sexual brokenness, hatred, anger, substance abuse, lying. These things can’t be known because the exposure could undermine the work we’ve put into our safe and secure bubble.
Yet in many ways the masquerade itself gets in the way of true safety and security.
Because even while we worry about what others would think if they knew, we are secretly wondering if they know anyway. Is there something I have said or done that blew my cover? Is there a chink in the armor I’ve so carefully woven? Are people seeing the very thing I’m terrified they’ll find out about – keeping it to themselves out of kindness or fear of confrontation, yet secretly wagging their head at me over it?
Freedom comes when we stop clinging to that fear of what might happen, and take the risk of stepping out on the ledge and being open with someone.
It comes because we find that when we turn on the lights, the looming shadow on the wall before us is only a harmless object sitting on the windowsill. The lurking demons and threatening monsters disperse. The consequences aren’t so overwhelming or unbearable. The result is not disaster, but liberty!
Oh, it’s not comfortable. Trust me on that one. Being out on that ledge is a very vulnerable place. We wince a lot there, anticipating the fiery darts of accusers. And we can experience hurt. But when we know it’s what we need to do, and remember that Christ is with us out there, there comes a point where we realize it’s all going to be okay.
Sometimes we’re pushed out onto the ledge. That was me. Looking back, I know stepping out there on my own would have been the right thing. But the prospect was too frightening. So God found it necessary to give me a nudge. Because I hesitated on being open with someone, the walled off parts of me became exposed to a wider audience. He did that so I would deal with them. He did that so He could use me. I know that now. But it could have been different. I could have stepped out there myself.
One final word: nobody should step out on a ledge wearing a bullseye before the mob. Stepping out on the ledge doesn’t mean that it has to be an act of public confession. Because unfortunately, human beings are….well, human, complete with opinions and speculations and assumptions. And therefore public confession can easily turn into public suicide. So don’t go bounding out there with reckless abandon.
But do look for an opportunity to let someone – just one person – in on what you’re dealing with. Don’t let those walls, built so sturdy with the bricks of guilt and shame, held fast by the mortar of fear and dread, hinder you. Determine to be open. Step out there, and discover freedom!