Test Driving Jesus

As I sat on the floral print couch across from my counselor, Dan, I knew that I was there to get answers. I desperately wanted help. But I wasn’t ready for the revelation that would begin to unfold over the next 2 hours.

Flashing back to just two weeks prior, at the tail end of a trip back to our home in Southern Illinois for my brother Justin’s wedding, I found my self-kneeling next to my friend Joey’s wheelchair asking for prayer.

Prayer for this overwhelming sense of anxiety that was covering me like a cloud. For this toxic feeling of disparity that felt like it was bubbling inside of me and about to spill out onto everyone within close proximity of me.

This has never been an easy thing for me to do — asking for prayer.

As I knelt, our hands clasped together and my head on his shoulder he began to tell me what he saw just before I came over to him.

He said that when He looked at me, he saw a steroid like needle sticking in my arm. Knowing that my health is very important to me he said he knew this was not about me actually using PEDs, but about trying to function under my own strength. Then he saw a second needle that was God saying that I need to double down my focus and time with Him. To let Him be my strength because no matter how strong I was, I can’t do what He has called me to on my own.

As a husband.

As a father.

As a friend.

As a leader.

The same way that I tell my children when I hold them that they are safe, I needed to rest like a child in the arms of my Father. I needed to know that I was safe and He has me.

Even though the words my friend spoke came gently out of his mouth, they felt like razor blades to my soul. I felt like Superman when he gets around kryptonite. My body felt weak and my knees felt like they were anchored to the floor. I was unable to move. The truth in Joey’s prophetic words had become my kryptonite. It is what I needed to hear. I knew that the Holy Spirit was speaking through him.

“You’re right”, Were the only words that I could utter though the tears in my eyes.

As I finished replaying the scene, the same tears that had dried two weeks prior, began to resurface. I had been doing my best to press into God’s word, be a good husband and daddy, do my part in taking care of our home and the dreams God had placed in Michelle’s and my hearts. I had been in the “doing” mode. I had been trying to be humble. I explained that I just didn’t feel like I ever got any validation for the things that I was “doing”. I didn’t feel appreciated. Then the veil got lifted (more like torn) from my eyes.

It hurt…..a lot.

“Joe”, Dan said, “the way you’re feeling is your pride”.

“Crap”, I thought to myself. “He’s right”.

I was trying to carry all of the weight of life under my own strength. I was’s even allowing God any space to help. I had gotten so distracted by my emotions, that I had let my focus drift from why I do all of those things in the first place. I had let my ambition and the need to be seen as great take the place of my desire to serve my family. It was such a thin line that I didn’t even realize that I had crossed it. Subconsciously, I had started to view my belief that I wasn’t getting the validation that I thought I should blossom into thoughts of being rejected. I knew from the past, that this was a dangerous place to drift. So an abrupt redirect was needed.

I sat down that night and began to re-read the passage of scripture (Ephesians 5:25–33) that I had read to Michelle the night I proposed. Even though I had read these words countless times and believed them deep in the core of my being, that night they seemed to roll off of my tongue differently.

The call on a husbands life in marriage is stated plainly in 3 words — LOVE YOUR WIFE. The rest of the chapter instructs us on how to do that. There isn’t an escape clause that says if she doesn’t react the way I expect her to or fails to sing my praise for all I do, then I should stop loving her. It simply says love her as Christ loved the church. This means that we are to lay our lives down for our wives. As a husband, I am called to be a servant leader in my home, my marriage, my career. I am commanded to love my wife and build her up. I am supposed to honor and cherish her. I am called to love her apart from my mood swings (yep I’m a guy and I have them too). I am called to love and care for her the same way that I love and care for myself. I am called to fulfill my covenant with her and to God (these are not mutually exclusive).

This, at times can feel like an insurmountable task. It can be like looking up from the base of the mountain, wondering how in the world will I ever reach the summit. Many days I feel more like Sisyphus than Superman. Many times it’s because I’m having a hard time seeing the value in myself. Most times, it’s because I’ve taken my eyes off of Jesus and I have let the other voices and constant noise in my life put the promises that He has declared over my life and my marriage on mute. Sometimes its because I get more focused on getting a pat on the back than being a servant leader.

How many times in our lives do we cross into uncharted territory?

How many times do we let the lines between serving and seeking recognition get blurred?

For me, I realized that I had been standing on this precipice for too long. I had been standing so close in fact, that it literally would’ve taken a gentle breeze to send me over the edge to a place that I would not be able to recover from under my own power. Thankfully, I don’t have to do anything in this life alone. If I could make all of the right decisions and say all of the right things without guidance, I wouldn’t need God’s wisdom. But I do need it.

Desperately.

If I could heal all of the wounds that I’ve so recklessly inflicted on my own. I wouldn’t need God’s forgiveness and grace. But I do need them.

Every single day.

I knew what I needed to do and it wasn’t going to be easy. I had to go home and repent and ask Michelle to forgive me. I wasn’t in control of her response. I only had to be obedient to what I knew I needed to do. I was going to have to lay my male bravado on the ground and allow it to be broken. This layer of the mask may have been the most painstaking to allow to be shattered. I think that enemy constantly is trying to superglue the cracked pieces back together and coax me into just slipping it back on, even for a few seconds. It’s a daily battle to not put it back on. But it’s one that I will continue to fight with the One who has already conquered the enemy on my side.

Repentance in itself is not the stopping point. It’s not the magic pill that makes the change. It’s only the first step not just towards forgiveness and healing in our earthly relationships, but also toward a true relationship with Jesus. It took me a long time to realize this in both cases. Like I said before, I can be a bit hardheaded.

Jesus, began his ministry be calling people to repent, but he didn’t stop there. He followed that with a second call to action. He told people that they needed to turn to God. Both repent and turn are verbs. They are words that symbolize action — they show movement. Without that movement we will stay stuck where we are. Our mask will stay securely in place.

Have you ever went to buy a car? There are dozens of options to choose from! Do I want leather seats? How about heated seats? Sunroof? WiFi? Nicer wheels? Would you like the extended warranty? What color do you choose? The list could go on for days. There are always options so that we can make things the way we want them. This isn’t the case with Jesus. Repentance has to come standard or Jesus says that we don’t belong to God. Repentance is not an option. We are also called to turn to God (Acts 3:19). That means we have to destroy the idols we have set in our lives and walk in a covenant relationship with Jesus. Repentance and turning to God will lead to a change in our behavior. If we continue to look and act like the world, again, Jesus says that we don’t belong to God.

That got my attention, because like I’ve said, for years my mask was my way of saying that I knew God, but my actions didn’t allow Him to say that I was truly His. It was like I was only test driving Jesus.

I had to do the same with Michelle. I had to repent of more than a few things.

I had to repent of my pride.

I had to repent of my anger.

I had to repent of my lustful thoughts and actions.

This was hard! But if I didn’t repent and then change my behavior, I couldn’t truly have the covenant relationship with her that I committed to before her and God.

TAKE ACTION:

Sit with the Holy Spirit and ask him to show you the areas of your life that you need to repent of. Write them down and pray over them. Verbally repent of these areas to God and to the people in your life you have sinned against. this will be hard, but it is a crucial step towards true freedom.

Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to change your thoughts, action, and behaviors around this situation. If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried the self-help route and found out it doesn’t work for long. Make sure you have someone you trust to hold you accountable. You don’t have to do life alone.

This is a sample chapter from my next book…SHATTERMASK: embracing vulnerability to find true freedom