After my first meeting with Terry, one characteristic stood out. Not a physical characteristic. It was nothing about how he dressed or looked on the outside. He wore ordinary shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes. He ordered a normal breakfast and we engaged in non-spectacular conversation.
But there was something about him that affected me deeply. So much so that ten years later, that meeting is seared into my mind.
Because he had something I desperately wanted. Something that had eluded me all of my life.
It actually is a very simple something. So simple that anyone can possess it. And I suppose that possessing it would be a total life changer.
It would be for me.
While it is hard to put into words, what most impacted me about that encounter was how comfortable Terry was in his own skin.
He just seemed comfortable being himself. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It was all there. No pretense. No posturing. Nothing to hide. Nothing to prove. He wasn’t concerned at all about how I might be perceiving him, evaluating, or judging him. There was an aura of security, assurance, and confidence. But not a hint of arrogance. Just an absence of being self-conscious.
In a word, he was… free.
I think that is what was most compelling about my time with Terry. He was free in a way that I long to be. Free from the fear of other people’s opinions and judgments. Free from the anxiety (and depression) that comes with feeling as if people are constantly disappointed with me or that I am not meeting their expectations.
This is particularly true in my role as a pastor.
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, I have allowed myself to be bound in a prison of expectation, trying to morph into whatever or whomever I perceive people want me to be for them or do or them… as a pastor. In the process, my soul withered and I lost myself. My true self.
I became David in Saul’s armor.
If you remember the story in the Old Testament, the Israelites were facing the Philistines on the battlefield. A massive Philistine warrior named Goliath was taunting the Israelites, calling for a competitor to meet him in one on one combat, each representing his own nation. The result of the war would depend on this one, representative cage match.
A young shepherd boy, David, an unlikely warrior, volunteered to take on the giant Philistine. Before the battle, King Saul, a large man himself, put his armor on David to wear for protection. But the armor didn’t fit, impairing David’s ability to use the one gift he had that could defeat the giant–the ability to throw a stone with a sling.
David takes off the armor, walks out to face Goliath, and the rest is history.
David was only able to be used of God when he was comfortable in his own skin–not someone else’s. He didn’t need the standard issue weaponry. He didn’t need to be Saul. God made him David–the David who, by being himself, would be used by the Lord to defeat the enemy and protect the people.
Somehow, in a moment of courage, David was able to take off Saul’s armor. And that is what made all the difference.
What is the secret to living this way? What armor am I tempted to wear? What does it take to be free? How can I be comfortable in my own skin?
The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In Jesus, I am set free from performance or expectation in order to be accepted by God. Because of the cross, the yoke of expectation has been removed. My identity is not to be found in the opinions or evaluations of other people.
This is not an excuse for my sin. Just the opposite. Now I can freely and fully confess that my sin is far worse than anyone knows, including myself. But the converse is also true. I may be the chief of sinners, but at the same time, I am the disciple whom Jesus loves. He is so very fond of me. So fond, that he gave his very life to restore me to the family.
I’m reminded of the story that is told about Charles Spurgeon, who after one particularly gritty sermon, was approached by a woman of some distinction who commented, “Mr. Spurgeon, you are the most ungodly minister I have ever known.” Turing to one of his elders, he commented, “And she doesn’t even know the half of it!”
Spurgeon was free.
Terry was free.
I want to be free, too.
It is a freedom that is only found by abiding in Jesus through faith as my sin-bearer and righteousness provider. Consciously abiding. Being tied and tethered to that reality. Holding on for dear life to the truth that it is for freedom that Christ has set me free and that I must do whatever it takes to refuse enslavement again to the opinions and expectations of men.
It is time to be comfortable in my own skin. Skin that is covered in the perfect gift-righteousness of Jesus. Skin that no longer has to make excuses, posture, defend, put up walls, or be right. Skin that is empowered to love, encourage, forgive, and help set others free. Skin that lives to the praise of God’s glorious grace.
I invite you to join me into this new freedom in Christ. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to post them below. It will be a privilege to connect with you.