When Our Ugliness Meets Christ
Is there such a thing as a perfect Christ follower? And if there is, who qualifies and what does it take to get there? I mean, what does perfect look like?
As delightful as it is to dream up a perfect version of ourselves as Christ followers, the reality is perfection is nowhere to be found. For most of us, our faith-journey is filled with hurts, hang-ups, and mistakes. And it sure ain’t pretty!
The daily contradiction we live through is that the world tells us to put on a mask, present only the highlight reel version of ourselves, and judge the public persona of everyone else.
But what happens when God calls us to expose the darkest parts: The parts we’d never post on Instagram? The parts we’d cringe to share on Facebook? The parts we’d rather take to our grave than display them for everyone’s opinion? How do we respond to God’s call and willingly expose our imperfections with the pressure of being a 'perfect' Christian?
For many people at Skyline, Life Group is a safe place to respond to God’s call. Because there is a commitment of confidentiality, Life Group members create bonds and build relationships that make it “ok” to be authentic and raw about our sin.
Like the story of Jack Applebax – a real man, with a fake name – who shared the ugliness inside him with the men in his group. Jack tells us that he was going through a lot when he started going to the men’s group. For instance, there is a denial of reality. He struggled with porn, frequented strip clubs, ignored the needs of his wife and children, and occasionally smoked weed when he found reality too hard to face.
He knew God and had a relationship with Him. But he didn’t have what it took to battle his brokenness and sin. One day, at the lowest point in the valley, he accepted God’s call to attend Life Group. He very slowly started opening up with his group and confessed to watching porn, figuring it was the easiest admission and a safe starting place. Much to his surprise, the group’s response was encouraging. They said things like: that was brave; I see you; I feel for you; I’ll be there for you.
Bit by bit, he was able to expose and work on his weaknesses. “I owe so much growth to Life Group because my own personal life is hard and intimidating. There’s constant pressure. Life Group was the only place I could go and say "I’m failing.” He continued to reveal darkness and his Life Group continued to pour into him. He was able to confess, make a plan to replace the behavior, and follow the desire to change. For Jack, it was great to start with the easy stuff and graduate to the tough stuff.
For Jack, Life Group is like therapy. He says, “You can go and pay someone $200 an hour. They sit and listen which is great because that person is not going to tell you to stop. You don’t want to stop. You just want to feel better.” But Jack has learned that once you open yourself up to God, He will use all of it and will pour truth into you. But as Jack so eloquently puts it, “It starts with an environment where you can be free to do that.”
“Church service is where you come to hear, consume, celebrate and say hi to people. It’s not where you talk about the real stuff,” Jack says. “I feel like I was very selfish with my Life Group because when I needed to get over something I’d bring it to LifeGroup and they were always there for me. Thank God for WhatsApp!”
Fast forward 2 years of unbelievable growth and Jack is on fire for God! He’s loving his wife like crazy, being present for his kids, serving in ministry, and pouring into other men that God is leading. “Before, I looked outside of my home for the world to fill my cup. It didn’t. Then, I’d come home and unleash all the ugliness. Now, my home is where I fill my cup loving my kids and my wife. And now I can step out into the world with my cup full so that the desires of my flesh don’t reign. I can’t even remember what the valley felt like.”
At the end of the day, it is NOT about being a perfect Christ follower. It’s about letting our perfect Jesus Christ lead us into His light, in His timing, for His glory. God was faithful to use all the ugliness that Jack feared yet faced. Not one bit of it was wasted!
So, as you consider God’s call on your heart to join a Life Group, don’t let the ugliness stop you. Pack it up and bring it along. Show up and be authentic. Watch the God of miracles at work!