I’ve been wanting to write this for weeks, but, in many ways, it’s a really good thing that I haven’t gotten around to it till now. A while back (it was a Thursday, if you were curious) a group of students organized an event at Grove City called “less.” There were vague posters up all over campus about finding freedom, and how a chapel credit was offered, so Crawford was quite full. Familiar faces, even a few whose names I knew, went up on stage and shared what even I consider to be hugely personal–struggles with sin that most of us cannot imagine speaking into a dark room full of a thousand faceless classmates. These were things which you just don’t talk about at Grove City. Just like we don’t make eye contact, we don’t use a microphone and an auditorium to discuss masturbation, suicidal depression, and addiction to pornography. As awful as it is, we want those things kept miserably behind closed doors, where they will fester and grow. I know there was plenty of uncomfortable squirming, and muffled gasping in the audience that night. All we really wanted was a chapel credit. But we needed to hear this. Sometimes here I think everyone feels like you ought to say that we are all sinners, but not actually be one yourself. It is good to crush that lie. The thing which struck me the most though, was the boldness of these people. I cannot imagine confessing such secrets, not only to the people you already know, and those you will never meet, but to that kid you’ll sit next to in class next semester who may not remember your name, but will remember your greatest weakness.
I think I know where this bravery comes from, though. When I went to this event I was in the middle of reading Lewis’s The Great Divorce, in which those damned to hell are bussed to the outskirts of heaven, met by the spirits of people they knew on earth, and given the chance to stay. None of them do. They are too proud, too insistent on their own way, unwilling to let go of themselves and become Christ’s, adamant that they will not take the “bleeding charity.” Except for one man. He comes to the outskirts of heaven with a lizard on his shoulder which whispers in his ear. The lizard is lust, and the man is afraid to be without him. He knows that if he lets the shining spirit incinerate the lizard it will hurt. It will hurt, in many ways, worse than hell. Finally he agrees, and is knocked to the ground by divine force. But then…that’s it. He is free. He is in Christ, and he is at last himself. The dead body of the lizard has turned into a magnificent stallion, on which he rides up the mountain of heaven. I think that is what each of my fellow students meant when they said, “In Christ, I have found freedom.” Their sin, to which they were once enslaved, has become what it was originally intended to be. All evil is perversion of good. In fact, I think the precise thing you most struggle with is a warped version of what God originally intended, and still does intend, to be your greatest strength, if only you will give yourself up to him. Lust becomes passion, depression compassion, self-love love for one’s neighbor, and pride worship.
But why is it that the people up on that stage, and the man with the lizard all seem to have the shocking, icky, socially unspeakable sins? And they are the ones who get it? They are the prostitutes and the tax collectors–they are the blessed who are constantly confronted with their depravity and crave freedom. Then there’s the rest of us–me in particular. If I had gotten up on that stage, I wouldn’t have needed such bravery. No one would have gasped at my sins. They would have yawned. My sins are creeping, almost invisible at times. I could say them out loud all day long (and I have), and people will just say, “Oh aren’t we all?” or “You’ll grow out of it honey.” But that is dangerous. Confession is important–even when it’s so easy that it almost seems worthless. So here I go.
I am vain–self-obsessed. I am proud. I think I am smarter, prettier, more wonderful and huggable than everyone else. I don’t want them to know I think like that. But I do. Constantly. It’s an epidemic. It’s a sin. It’s a master. I am lazy. I am selfish. I am without question the most ridiculously stubborn person I know. Pay attention to the modifier there: I’m stubborn about the most ridiculous things. I hold onto bitterness like crazy. If you ask me to do something that’s out of my comfort zone, no amount of begging or peer pressure will change my mind. And I take pride in that! I take pride in cowardice! I have this mindset that I only do the things I’ve always done. I’ve put myself in a box, and tried to keep God in it with me. Well, let me tell you: He won’t stay! But neither will he take me out if I’m unwilling. I have manic attachment to who I think I’ve created myself to be. I’m so proud of her. It’s sick. Revolting in a way that nothing said on that stage few weeks ago could ever be.
So this is my beginning. It is not the first and it will not be the last. I want freedom, but I need someone to pry open my fists which still cling to the silly girl who loves her name, her clothes, her family, her life, but so rarely her God. Only Christ is strong enough. He died, He rose, He will set me free. He will.
I’ve read almost all of your posts, but this one is the best. It’s so, so good to be real.
Alice, dear–you’re describing a girl I know: brilliant, beautiful, witty, sweet, embraceable–and a bit stuck up, like her Dad on the last point at least. I’d say I was even more proud of you for being humble, as we nowadays tend to praise the courage of those who confess, but that’s silly–do we praise the thirsty for craving water? Have a good long drink of grace, sweetheart.