A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were talking about what line of work we would be in if we were not both in ministry. She would be good at a lot of things (she is awesome!). But as I looked at myself, I said: Suzy, I don’t know that I would be good at anything else, and I would probably be miserable doing anything other than ministry.
She looked back at me with a smile on her face and said: no, I think you would make a good lawyer. You’re stubborn and like to argue!
I wanted to debate her statement, but I knew that if I did, I would just be proving her point. So I kept my mouth shut. But I have been thinking about that comment ever since. Why am I stubborn? What happened in my life that made me so stubborn? I know that my immediate family would completely agree with my wife.
We have a word in Spanish that my mom would always use at the end of every argument: necio. This word means stubborn, but when you use it, the person that hears it is finally acknowledging that they were wrong and they stop arguing. Using this word means someone has won the argument and the other has lost.
I think this is one of the reasons I am so stubborn. I don’t like admitting that I was wrong or that I lost. Just this past Memorial Day, I was playing corn hole with some friends and we were getting beat 15-0. My friend, who knows me all too well and knows how much I don’t like admitting defeat, asked me what the score was. I looked at him and said, “we have less than 1 point”. I could have just said zero, but doing so would admit that they were almost done and we were yet to score.
I think the other reason I am so stubborn, is that I don’t want to give up control. In my stubbornness, I have a false sense of control over my life. By being stubborn, I at least have a false sense that I control the way the story is being told, I control the things happening, and I control the outcome.
In that game of corn hole, as long as I was not willing to admit our eminent defeat, there was a part of me that thought we still had a chance of coming back. There was a part of me that felt that by not admitting the score, I could make it sound like the game was a lot closer than it actually was and I could potentially motivate myself to try harder. I felt that by simply stating the score, I would be raising a white flag and admitting that there was no hope of coming back.
So what is it? Why am I so stubborn? Where does my stubbornness come from?
Perhaps the best way to talk about my stubbornness is that I am afraid. I am afraid to admit that I was wrong, I am afraid to admit that I have lost. I am afraid to admit that I am not good enough to beat everyone. I am afraid to admit that stuff catches me off guard. I am afraid to admit that I have limitations. I am afraid to admit that I am not perfect. I am afraid to admit these things because I fear that if I do, people will think less of me. And as long as I am stubbornly standing up against reality, I can at least hide my fears.
You see, in my mind, if I admit that I made a mistake, people will begin to define me by my mistakes rather than by my success. In my mind, if I admit my inability to do something, maybe people will stop turning to me for help. In my mind, if I admit that I can’t beat someone at corn hole, maybe I will never again beat someone at corn hole. In my mind, if I admit to something negative in my life, I am afraid it will rob me of the good that can come.
It is a horrible place to live in. But there is hope.
This morning, I am reminded of Sarah in the book of Genesis. God had promised Abraham that he would have as many descendants as the stars in the sky. Abraham and his wife Sarah were so excited for this opportunity, but as they got older, Sarah could not get pregnant. Eventually, in Genesis 18, we are told that Sarah was “old, advanced in age, and it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” In other words, Sarah was too old to have kids and now she was giving up hope that she ever would.
This is where her stubborn side comes out. Abraham and Sarah had some unexpected visitors show up at their tent and as they were hosting them, the strangers told Abraham that Sarah would have a child soon. Sarah, eavesdropping from afar, laughs at this comment. She knows better. She is too old. She has lost her ability to have children. She laughs because she knows how ridiculous this sounds.
And then a very funny conversation ensues:
“God says, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At a set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah, denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. God said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’”
As funny as it is to read of God and Sarah going back and forth in this argument, and as funny as it is to see Sarah be as stubborn as I am, there is something that stood out to me this morning, that I had never caught before.
She was afraid…
I wonder if she was afraid that if she admitted that she laughed, God would take back his promise of having a child. I wonder if she was afraid that if she admitted that she laughed, God would get angry and upset at her. I wonder if she was afraid that if she admitted that she laughed, that she would disappoint Abraham.
Fear is a horrible thing that causes us to build up walls. And when we hide behind these walls, we get a false sense of security. As long as our walls stand tall, there is no need for us to admit the all things that my wall hides and I can go on in life pretending that these things don’t exist.
But our walls are not perfect. And unlike regular walls, our walls are not held up by cement. Our walls are held up by stubborn strength. We hold these walls up at whatever cost necessary so that we don’t have to admit defeat, mistakes, shortcomings, or even limitations. We hold these walls up with stubborn strength because we are afraid of what will happen if people see what sits on the other side of our walls. The bad thing is that eventually our walls get so big, that it is nearly impossible to keep holding them up. Eventually, our walls do come crashing down.
I love this story, because I relate to Sarah so much. As I look at my own stubbornness, what I really see is fear. I am afraid of what people may see if I let my walls tumble down.
But I want you to hear something. You will not experience true life and purpose as long as you allow your stubborn strength to hold these walls up. If you are tired of pretending to be happy, pretending to have it all together, pretending that everything is okay, pretending that you are not stressed, pretending that you are financially stable, pretending that your relationship is okay, pretending that anxiety and depression is not getting the best of you, pretending that there are no struggles in your life, if you are tired of pretending, then let those walls crash down. Let those walls fall hard and loudly and let the whole world know that your walls are down, because in doing so, you will find that what you have been afraid of has no power over you at all.
So how do we do this?
I want to turn to 1 John 4:15-16, 18-19. The author writes this: God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us…there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.
I think there are three things in this text that we need to know, and do today, in order to let our walls fall down and discover true life and purpose in Jesus.
First, God knows the things behind your walls. We come to know this when we confess that Jesus is the son of God. We ask this of every person that is baptized or becomes a member of our church: do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
Confessing that Jesus is who Jesus says he is, reminds us that we don’t need to hide our limitations and shortcomings. Because Jesus is who he says he is, he already knows what stands behind our walls and is calling us towards something more beautiful and life giving than just holding up a wall that hides our mess.
Second, God loves us despite the things behind our walls. When we confess that Jesus is the son of God, we also come to believe the love that God has for us. Limitations and all, God loves us. Shortcomings and all, God loves us. Anxiety and depression, fear, worry, shame, and guilt and anything else we may carry, God loves us despite our thoughts that God may not.
God is not waiting for you to get your life together before He will have a relationship with you. You will never be able to do that. Instead, what God is saying to you is that if you let your walls down, and let Him into the real, raw, mess of your life, then He can help you overcome those that mess you have made. It is possible for you to have power over all of your struggles. But first, you must let God close enough to help you. And this only happens by letting your walls crash down.
Third, God wants to help you never be afraid of these things behind your walls ever again. Scripture tells us that God’s love cast out all fear. I shared earlier that I am afraid to admit things because it might change people’s perspective of me. I also shared how Sarah may have been afraid that God would take away his promise for her if she admitted that she laughed. But we don’t have to be slaves to fear. God wants to help us break the bondage that fear has over our lives.
You see, every time we hold on to fear, we loosen our grip on God’s love. And every time we let that fear speak louder than God’s love, we go back to building our walls. I hope you know that there is nothing you have ever done, or ever will do, that will change God’s mind about how much He loves you. And when we come to accept this truth we realize that on our own, we will never be able to live up to the expectations of this world. The truth is that we will never be the perfect person who has it all together and struggles with nothing. But when we truly make room for God’s love, we are no longer afraid of coming face to face with that reality because we know that God is by our side every step of the way, through whatever journey we may experience.
If you are tired of holding up your walls, let me say this again:
(1) God knows the things behind your walls.
(2) God loves you despite the things behind your walls.
(3) God wants to help you never be afraid of these things behind your walls ever again.
So let your walls down and let Jesus in.
I pray that you may find the will to let your walls fall down and discover the true life and purpose that Jesus is calling you towards. Life is beautiful and you will come to enjoy it more when you spend it surrounded by God’s love rather than holding up walls. I know I long for that and am moving towards that truth more and more every day. And I hope you will join me on that journey.
As always, if you want to talk, reach out to me. I would love to get coffee.
Together on the journey,