The Truth Will Set You Free
TWhile rummaging around in our attic, I came upon a picture of my family from August 1999. Me, my parents, and four siblings were standing in our empty living room, a last picture before we left what had been our home for fourteen years. In the picture, we’re all smiles, though the summer had been incredibly brutal. Stumbling across this picture out of place, my first instinct was to think: we were faking it. After everything we’d been through, why in the world were we smiling?
We had reason not to smile. My dad was the pastor of our church, but other church leaders had discovered he was unfaithful to my mom. My parents’ marriage was hanging on by a thread. My dad had lost his job. Our family was moving out of the church parsonage. My mom had nearly died the previous fall, had had heart surgery in the spring, and had to do a cardioversion that summer, requiring her to be hospitalized again. While my dad was looking for work across the country and my mom was trying to recover, I shouldered a lot of the load of packing up the house and looking out for my siblings. So you can understand why my first instinct in seeing that picture was to believe that we must be faking it.
But then I remembered something else: the freedom—and even joy—that came from not having to hide the truth. When this burden was lifted, it made me realize how much pressure my family (as ‘the pastor’s family’) had been under. We were trying to be perfect, to be good enough. But the truth was painful. The truth wasn’t something that we wanted everyone to know. But all of a sudden, the pressure and pain of trying to keep up appearances was gone. No more pretending. Exposing the truth and laying it painfully bare may have been a curse, but it was also a blessing.
This experience made this truth sink deep into my life: only when we face the truth of our sin and brokenness can we really understand the grace and love of Jesus. If I keep my brokenness and sin at bay, what I’m really saying is: “I don’t really need Jesus.” But this is hard. We want to be good enough on our own. We want to stand on our own two feet. We want people to look at us and think, “That person has it together.” In other words, we like to live a lie.
So what are you trying to hide? What truth are you afraid of others knowing? What do you think: “if this was known, people would think I’m not good enough?” Jesus says that there is hope for those who are slaves to sin. What is that hope? We are set free from the penalty and power of sin by Jesus! (John 8:33) And part of that freedom is that we can freely admit and confess that we are sinners (1 John 1:8). In acknowledging that we are sinners who need Jesus, we become more and more freed from sin’s power.
During this time, we are more isolated than usual. Sin thrives through secrecy and isolation. But when we tell the truth about our own sin, its power wanes in the light of the cross. So, if there is sin that you are struggling with, I want to encourage you to be bold enough to confess sin to a close brother or sister. And if there’s a struggle that you are having that is leading you to a place of temptation, ask for help! On the other hand, also look for the opportunity to connect with a sister or brother and ask them: how are you doing? How are you really doing? How can I walk with you in this difficult time? If someone shares their sin or struggle with you, don’t be shocked or prideful; take it to Jesus together and recognize the grace and mercy that is there when we are honest about our sin.
So don’t hesitate. If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.