“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one may boast.”
I don’t really want to write this post. In fact, I would far rather be in bed ignoring the Holy Spirit… but I have learnt that fighting with Him only results in delayed obedience anyway. And obedience is better than sacrifice. Always.
Last week I attended my church’s international conference; it was hectic, it was awesome. One of the guys preaching spoke about the prodigal son and related it to the Father-heart of God, which is pretty standard when dealing with this parable. Then he touched on “backrooms” that we have in our lives – using the analogy of the heart having many “rooms”, he spoke about us only showing people the good rooms; the areas in our life which we think reinforces the great image we try to present as ourselves. Its the areas in our life where we know Jesus has done a Fix-It job and it looks Christian enough to show the world. But the truth is, everyone knows a house doesn’t only consist of the kitchen, living room, dining room and study – there’s the sleeping quarters and bathrooms… and that one room-cupboard-garage filled with junk-stuff-things you don’t want to deal with or that clutter the perfect, neat image of You. Our hearts have that backroom too. When we meet people, we show them the good stuff, careful to avoid the backroom door. Nobody wants to see that stuff, right? But its there.
Before writing this, I was brushing my teeth getting ready for bed and the Holy Spirit asked me what was in my backroom. I pretended I didn’t know what He meant; for a moment I tried to believe I don’t have a backroom. How sweetly delusional. After identifying it, I knew He wanted me to confess it… awesome. No, not really. The last thing I really want to do is lay out the contents of my backroom in such a public forum… its way easier to hide it and keep pretending its not there. Holy Spirit revealed such an incredible truth: by hiding these areas of our hearts, we are basically handing over authority to Shame and deny the Power of God’s Grace in our lives. By confessing (and revealing) our backrooms, we are declaring God’s Grace is not only Necessary in our lives, but made Perfect in our imperfections.
So, hopefully my confession may break something in the spiritual for you too; that you may also find the courage to identify and expose your backroom – declaring God’s Grace in those areas of your life…
I often trap myself in seriously, almost unattainable high standards; for as long as I remember, I have battled with maintaining an image of the “perfect little Christian girl”. I strove to be everything I thought others expected me to be – I was a good daughter, I didn’t drink, do drugs or sleep around, I got great grades (anything less than a distinction was a fail in my thinking)… I worked terrifyingly hard to keep up this facade. I performed. I strove. I felt I was only okay if I was being what I thought others wanted me to be. I thought I was only loved because I was this image or illusion created through works. I am very good at pretending everything is okay and that I’ve got it all under control – and most times I do – but the wheels have had a very specific way of wobbling too.
When I was 12, I was sent to an all girls’ boarding school. My life changed dramatically. I used food as a comfort-replacement when missing home and obviously gained weight. My image of “perfect” was quite obviously showing its flaws on a very physical level, which led to my developing an eating disorder. For the most part it manifested through a terrible self-image and emotional over-eating. By God’s grace alone I was never able to make myself vomit on cue (if I had been successful, I can only imagine the dangerous path I would have spiralled down). At its most effective, I lost 10 kilograms in 4 weeks. At its most overpowering, I was counting my calorie intake per mouthful of food I ate allowing myself 800 calories per day (the average healthy women should consume 2000), on top of this I was pushing myself in the gym for 2 hours a day and taking 2 speed pills, morning and night. Again, by God’s grace alone, I only suffered horrific headaches and heart palpitations, with no other side-effects. My ability to Control finally led to my terrified surrender to God, begging Jesus to help me – if He didn’t set me free, I would one day manage to really hurt myself. Graciously, He did. Praise Jesus.
I wouldn’t consider my eating disorder to be the real backroom contents; its more like the visible fruit of a greater issue. And although I do believe I have been set free from it, I know that when I start focussing on what I am eating, become fanatic about exercise or simply obsessive about my weight, I know that its actually the first telltale sign that something else in my life is wobbling. My actual problem has always been two things – Trust and Control. The one fuels the other. It takes me a long time to really trust people, and most times God has had to intervene in His usual dramatic way to show me how much I can trust specific people in my life – they’re the ones He has had a Divine Purpose in our friendships and has needed me to get beyond myself in order to allow Him to do His thing. Others, have developed gradually and others… well, I still choose how much I open up with some people. I use the excuse that even Jesus had His Inner Circle.
I have “Another Mother”; an incredible woman of God who is simply my mom in every sense of the word, except for not having given birth to me… there are days when I will run to her with anything, and others when I avoid her like the plague because she has a terrifying gift of looking straight through my facade and seeing the state of my heart. I have learnt to trust her – and continue to stand still as she pushes my boundaries and helps break down my facades. I am learning (ongoing process) to relinquish Control and to live in Freedom from the still ridiculously high standards I set for myself. This is probably the hardest lesson to learn, but I am trying… the hardest part being to first admit that my need for Control has meant I have a facade up in the first place – having majored in Drama, I am actually a pretty good Pretender. Learning to be Vulnerable and Exposed is definitely not my favourite thing, but ultimately, that’s what God calls us to do: to be Vulnerable and Exposed before eachother, learning to Trust eachother and to share our hearts with one another in Grace-filled Communion. By breaking down the facades, we deny satan the opportunity of keeping us in bondage – we stand Exposed, and yet also Covered in Jesus’ Redemptive Blood. Wow. That’s the reason for this post right there. If we are to truly live Lives of Victory, we must learn to live Lives of Transparency; we need to open the doors to our backrooms and welcome others in. By bringing Jesus’ Light and Truth into those areas, we reclaim that previously sinful and shameful ground as His; declaring His Victory and Grace. Its a terrifying act of taking back Authority – of not glorifying our sinful pasts, but glorifying in God’s ability to Redeem and Restore those areas. As the preacher said at the conference – God loves us just as we are… but also loves us not to let us stay that way. We are created to become like Jesus, so let us walk in the Light, Truth and Way of the Living Word.
My prayer for you, as always, is that you will encounter our Heavenly Father in ever more intimate and real ways – that your life may be forever changed because you have allowed Him to touch you with His Love, Grace and Healing Power. Before we can open backrooms to others, we must first surrender those areas to Jesus – and I pray you may have the courage to invite Him into that room, no matter its size or state, knowing His Grace is Sufficient.