If I am honest with myself, I spend too much time living in the shadows. One of the greatest fears that many of us have is being exposed. There are parts of our lives that we do not want to be made public for any reason. We do not like to feel vulnerable. For all of the talk today of living a transparent life, few of us actually do. There is a part of our lives that we intentionally leave in the shadows. John Eldridge has said that there is a question that plagues every man. “Am I good enough?” “Do I measure up?” Many of us spend our lives trying to prove ourselves, which usually means we hide our faults and our vulnerabilities.
One of the most well-known chapters in the Bible is John 3. We are quick to embrace verses 16-17. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” We are not so quick to move on to verses 19-21. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." If we do venture into these verses, we usually use them as a spotlight on those people out there, and not as a mirror into our own hearts.
Because we are in the process of being sanctified, our lives are a mix of what is good and what is evil. Our desire is to emulate the good, but we are afraid of exposing that which is not so good. I know from personal experience that it is a frightening and humbling experience to be exposed. We are in a constant battle between the light and the darkness. Therefore, we find ourselves, at times, living in the shadows.
Paul talks openly about this struggle in Romans 7.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:14-24)
There are many scholars (who are much more qualified than me) who explain this passage as Paul’s pre-conversion experience. I believe that this was Paul’s constant struggle throughout his life. I know that it has been mine. The more that I grow in my faith, the more aware I am of all of the ways I fall short. I am keenly aware that I have vulnerabilities. I periodically stumble and fall, then I beat myself up for not measuring up. Praise God that the balance of my life has fallen on the side of the light, but I cannot deny that there are still parts of my life in the shadows.
Paul answers the question he posed with a resounding expression of praise. Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25a) Later on in Romans, Paul makes one of the most amazing and encouraging statements for all who struggle. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2) It is not that the struggle has gone away; it still remains. But in our struggle, we know that we have the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus. Paul’s words give me hope in the midst of my struggles. Instead of giving up the fight, I fight harder to move out of the shadows and into the light.
I have been rereading Larry Osborne’s book “Accidental Pharisees”. Today I was reminded of how we can create a spiritual façade to hide behind. Like the bully who beats up on others because he is insecure, so we can project a kind of spirituality that hides our insecurity and vulnerability. Coming into the light does not mean being perfect, it means being genuine. It means being honest with our struggles and dealing with them instead of trying to hide them.