an apology (for being naked)
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
-Jesus of Nazareth
These past few weeks, I haven’t been who I should.
God’s been right here beside me, but I’ve just let my own fears consume me lately.
Hesitations about the future, doubts about friends and family, fears of whether I really can make a difference in this world.
Maybe you’ve noticed.
I’ve often been arrogant, frustrating, impatient, and impossibly rude. I haven’t been living up as well as I should to the message of Christ – I haven’t been feeding the poor and clothing the naked but nor have I been doing a great job of keeping my own heart pure from anger and jealousy and lust and pride.
Ironically, in my quest to avoid judging others, I’ve begun to beget and judge the judgment of those who judge others (yup). A spirit of deep-seated bitterness has crept into my heart.
I’m very disappointed in myself and I’m so sorry to all the people I have hurt.
My good friend Shannon often tells me that I’ve been a huge inspiration in her life.
Then why is it that most of the time I feel like such a great moral failure?
I’m not sure. But maybe that’s not such a bad place to be, maybe having nothing to offer God is a good place to start.
I think my biggest mistake has been that recently I’ve forgotten that what I am worth is not contingent upon my accomplishments; I don’t earn true life, but accept it as a result of the living, reconciliatory relationship I have with God, a relationship that inevitably spills out to work healing in every facet of life. This is important to remember.
I thought going back to basics was a good place to start.
And it was.
The Scriptures give testament (yup) to the fact that once a person is in Christ, something changes inside of her.
The early Christians understood this well. We get a glimpse into the lives of these first believers from the New Testament, which records the story of the nascent Church after Christ’s own death and resurrection.
These men and women, we read, kept insisting that something fundamentally changed about a person once the power of God entered into their life.
They believed that a person actually died once Christ breathed new life into his or her heart and that, in this moment (or succession of moments), something new was actually born.
The early Christians believed in a resurrection.
True Life, rising up out of the ashes.
One writer, a rabbi named Paul, even goes so far as to say that if a man is in Christ, he is a new creation, that “the old has gone – the new has come!”
This is great news.
It applies to me, today.
Yes I’ve screwed up. A lot.
But I’m not who I was before.
Jesus Christ is my righteousness.
And I don’t have to be that person anymore.
I’ve let the old me come back to life for too long now.
And I haven’t been putting on new creation clothes lately.
Usually, old Ryan resurrects for a few moments, or maybe days at a time.
But I feel like Dead Me has just been walking around in my skin for far too long now.
He’s just a bag of bones at this point, I really think it’s time I put him back in the earth.
Every day he continues to stumble around zombie-like, unchallenged, people are hurt.
I need to cleanse myself from the foul darkness that’s sunk into my heart.
So how do I kill this impostor for good? It’s a choice to be made daily.
Maybe confession is a good way to do it. It’s at least a start.
Because I don’t have to be that person anymore.
Though it’s healthy to recognize the severity and deadliness of our sin, I don’t see one point in the Scriptures where we are instructed to identify ourselves first and foremost as absolutely wretched beings.
On the contrary! If we are in Christ, we are new creations!
That’s a photo from a campaign I was a part of on campus last year called “before and after.” Everyone picked a word that described their life “before” Christ and then another from “after.”
It wasn’t a perfect idea, but it was kind of a cool way to begin to sift through the implications of “becoming a Christian,” and this whole old person-> new person shift.
All that crap that’s been going in my life lately, that’s Old Ryan stuff.
New Ryan, he’s filled with the Spirit.
He’s living life the way he was meant to and loving like only Jesus can and learning more each day how to best serve his God.
He’s connector and he’s healer and he’s a faithful servant of Christ, through Christ.
So, chin up.
The writer of the letter to the Colossians instructs us to “put on the new self.”
He’s giving us the illustration of clothing, of shedding an old coat for a beautiful, new jacket.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Putting on love is a choice we have to make daily, and it’s something that is supremely hard to do. But we have no choice but to clothe ourselves in love if we want to keep on the path to attaining true life and the Kingdom of God.
Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said “narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
So clothe yourself in love and righteousness. I’ve been naked lately. But it’s not going to stay that way. I will not be naked anymore.
Nothing is going to get in the way of my God clothing me in his love and righteousness. Nothing will interfere with the great plan He has for our lives.