I can honestly say without a doubt I thought I was going to die. My heart was pounding and racing and my head was all over the place. For the next 7 weeks I experienced a rare form of anxiety known as “Derealization.” Nothing around me felt quite right; it was like living every day behind a hazy glass wall. I was having trouble discerning what was real and what was just in my mind. It was the scariest time of my life but also the most contemplative, reflective and honest season I’ve ever gone through.

My main takeaway from those 7 weeks was that I was living a dishonest life. I had oversimplified  honesty to not telling a lie and finally realized it’s much more about not living a lie. With the help of a 70 year old retired priest who I met with weekly, I came to realize since childhood I had been hiding in the shadows, afraid that if I opened up about struggles, fears, and pain I would be shamed, rejected, and potentially lose everything and everyone I held dear. Instead of being honest with myself, with God, and with others, I hid; believing this was the safest move with the fewest consequences. I was completely wrong and looking back, those 7 weeks were the greatest sign of grace I’ve ever experienced. God gave my life back, my real life, flawed and scared but honest and free.

WE ALL WANT TO BE KNOWN

One of the greatest fears we experience in life is the idea of going it alone. At our core, we were made to be and want to be known. And up until the Fall in Genesis, this was the relationship between Adam, Eve, and God. Perfect, unblemished, known-ness. No secrets, just a pure, completely honest relationship. But as soon as the fruit is eaten what happens? Adam and Eve run, hide, and cover themselves.

One of the greatest fears we experience in life is the idea of going it alone.

What I’ve found to be true time and time again is that known-ness doesn’t just happen but only comes when we are willing to first be honest, and second vulnerable.

BELIEVING THE LIE

If we want so badly to be known, honesty and vulnerability should be a given right? Wrong, there’s almost nothing scarier in life. This is because we’ve purchased and have bitten into the bitter lie that if we’re really honest and come out of the shadows, we’ll be exposed to shame and rejection. So like a junkyard dog we cower and tremble at the idea of coming into the light for fear of the unknown. Our soul cries out to be known while our rational holds us hostage and threatens a life sentence of shame.

BREAKING THE CYCLE

In the midst of a panic attack and while sitting on my front porch gasping for air something clicked. For the first time I realized that in only letting people see the airbrushed version of myself, I was forfeiting the life God had for me. I couldn’t go another minute without opening up, so I did. I opened up to my wife, to my closest friends, and most importantly to God; about fears, struggles, and pain going all that way back to childhood. It was simultaneously the hardest and most freeing experience I’ve ever encountered. But through it all, in the silence and in the tears, when the lies grew loud, God’s voice grew even louder and I could almost audibly hear Him say, “you’re not those things, you’re my son and I love you.” It took a while for this to really sink in but when it did, it changed everything. The reality that Jesus was rejected on my behalf and that He took all of my past, present, and future failings, doubts, and fears to the cross forever and put them to death completely shifted the way I see myself, others and God. This new found honesty has made me a better husband, pastor, and friend. No longer covered in the weight of shame but completely saturated with grace that reminds me day after day that I’m accepted, loved, never rejected and free to live in the light of truth instead of the shadows of shame, completely and forever clean.

Honesty, to vulnerability, to being known. It’s not an easy road; there are times when I’m still tempted to go back to the shadows and sometimes do, but it’s exactly what your father who loves you offers and wants for you. It’s time to be honest with yourself, with God, and with others. It’s time to come out of hiding. It’s time to truly live.