Do you ever have that feeling that you’re missing out on something big? Like you’re missing out on the thing you want most – the thing you need most – in life?
I’ve spent many years chasing down a destination like a cheetah chases its prey. Chasing down the idea of the end of this road I’m on: the end of this road of pain and sorrow, slavery and suffering, brokenness and fear. I’ve pursued that promised dreamland so fast that I’ve raced past most days without having stopped to pluck each glorious one, each with only so many moments: like a bunch of grapes, ripe for the picking right now only. Just one chance to taste them – to taste today. One chance to experience the sweetness.
Even in laying bare, I was running past them all – past all the people, all the moments, all the gifts that mattered. Running past all the opportunities. Turns out, in a sense, I was running nowhere. You can pack your bags full of all the right intentions and then take off in the wrong direction. Instead of risking it all, I retreated within. Instead of fearlessly reaching out, I fearfully kept my hands in my pockets. Instead of giving myself to the broken, I ended up burning them with my own broken-hearted venom.
But as I sought, I discovered. When you choose to be bare, that is how you end up. And wow, it is painful. Being bare was not me risking rejection to be a good person, to be a difference maker, a world-changer. No, being bare was more an exposing of all my imperfections and flaws. The real ones, you know, not those silly insecurities we all have. The flaws like pride that’s grown to be larger than you ever imagined, like selfishness that has made you the kind of person fattened with greed, like hatred that has left you gnarled and maimed in ten-thousand toxic ways. Laying yourself bare means letting God strip you of, well, you. It means beginning the process of literally ridding you of yourself.
It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke the famous words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This is a powerful statement, especially to my western ears. But I want to delve deep into the meaning of self-sacrifice through love and love alone. The kind of love that is described and demonstrated and embodied by God Himself. Love risks all and bares all and braves all to save all, heal all, be close to all.
Laying bare is only something you can do when you’ve abandoned yourself, and abandoning yourself is only something you can do when you stretch out your vulnerable being, expose your humanness, and welcome suffering. Abandon means to give up completely. Abandon self. Give *self* up completely. Those are just words until you live them and then they become a cross to bear, a key in your hand, a highway to freedom and heart-breaking love. When you say yes to getting hurt, you can say yes to connection, to intimacy, to love.
One last thing to share. The woman who I never stop learning from, Ann Voskamp, writes: “It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved…Why hadn’t I come to it long before I had to blow out this many [birthday] candles? When I abandon self into givenness, the feelings of abandonment give way to abandoning myself to God and finding full communion.”
You see, when we lose our life for Christ’s sake, that’s right where we find it, and it’s right where we find Him. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
So, part two was not what I’d expected it might be, but then again, nothing is ever what I expect it might be. When you decide to lay yourself bare, you find that it’s going to be a much longer, much slower, much more painful process than you could have imagined. But it’s going to be so much more glorious, so much more powerful, and so much more life-giving too.
Because maybe that thing you’ve been missing out on is actually life itself – and this – this laying bare, this laying down: this is the first step to losing your life in the givenness of Christ, and consequently, to finding what life really is.
That’s sure what has been happening to me.