Scared to Death

When I was a professional athlete, I didn’t trust people well at all. I struggled with trust. I was a very insecure person. I was scared. What do you think I was scared of? I was scared of failing. Failing! I was scared to death. 

Two things drove me: fear of failure and fear of success. I battled with it all the time. I’m not going to lie to you, man, fear of failure is what drove me to success on the mound. You can see clips of me pitching in the World Series. You can look up my stats. You can see that I was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, and you can probably find video of me crying after we won. But I’m telling you right now, I didn’t make better pitches in the postseason than I made during the regular season. In fact, I made some terrible pitches in the postseason and got away with it. 

So why did I put up those numbers? What drove me on that mound to have such intense focus?  It was fear, man. Fear of failure. I didn’t want to be the loser of the 2014 World Series. I didn’t want to be the scapegoat. That would follow me around my whole life. “Jeremy blew it in Game 7, boo, we hate you.” I am not going to lie. I was driven to compete because I was scared to death. 

Everybody’s like that. It’s not just me. Everybody’s afraid of some kind of failure. I’m tired of us not being able to talk about it. I’m tired of us not being able to say how we really feel. We’re all afraid of something, but we hide it because we don’t trust. 

Instead, we make things up. Somebody asks, “How are you doing?” and you say, “I’m doing great!” Only you’re not. All someone has to do is look at your wife. I can look at anyone’s bride, and I can see if they’re doing great or not. I’ll ask somebody at church, “How are you doing, man?” And he says, “I’m doing great!” Then I look at his bride. She’s just sitting there looking at him,  shaking her head. She’s like, “You’re a jerk.” Sound familiar?

We say we’re doing great even when we’re not. I did it all the time. I faked it to make it. I didn’t trust people very well. But that’s been changing. I’ve found a few people that I can trust with me.

Everybody needs a few people they can trust. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot of people. You only need a few. They just have to be the people that you can trust to love you, not judge you or shame you.

They have to be the people that you can trust with your whole self — all of you — the worst of you as well as the best of you. You have to know that no matter what, they will love you. They might hold you accountable when you mess up! In fact they should, because sometimes you need their help in order to grow. You only need to know that they do it out of love.

Hot, Sweaty, Uncomfortable

Why do we shame each other? You hear it in church all the time. “Shame on him! Shame on her! That is so wrong!” You might even say it to yourself.

This is a terrible way for us to hurt each other. Can you honestly say that you have never lived in your flesh? You’ve never acted out? Never cut someone off in traffic? Never flipped someone off? Never yelled at someone? Never gossiped? Never had a bad thought about anybody? Never lied? I know you can’t say that, because none of us can.

But we shame one another anyway. Why?

We do it because we don’t understand trust. We don’t understand that we have a companion and savior we can trust, named Jesus. We don’t understand that we can seek and find a few people who will love us no matter what. We don’t even dare to imagine what that could be like. So we wear masks in the hope of hiding our shame. We try to show, “Nope! I’m perfect! This is who I am!”

It’s not true. Masks are fakes, and they are uncomfortable fakes. Kids take their Halloween masks off all the time, right? Masks are uncomfortable and they don’t want to wear them anymore. You will get hot and sweaty behind your mask, too. You won’t breathe well at all. Masks may start out comfortable, but they won’t stay that way for long.

It’s not fun to wear a mask, but that’s what happens when you try to hide your shame. You think, “I’m not a good person, so who will love me? I have to look like I’m good. I’m going to have to fake it. I’m going to have to put on this mask. It’s going to make me look like I’m always doing well, and I’m going to always try to act as if it’s true.”

It’s very exhausting.

It’s so freeing to get into relationships where you don’t have to hide your flaws. It’s so freeing just to be liked, flaws and all. It’s even more freeing to be liked and loved, just as you are. When that happens, it’s easier to accept that you will make mistakes and have problems. The flesh will always be the flesh, but there is grace for us in Jesus and in the people He brings into our lives. Mistakes, problems and flaws all come with the territory, but in trust, you are freed from the shame of it. You’re free! Just because a few people love you, and even like you.

In Christ, the truth will set you free. There’s no condemnation now. Grace abounds over sin, and you are invited to live in grace. You can live a righteous life.

That’s what happens when you take off the mask and let people see the Spirit of God.

Your First Step

And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Matthew 14:29-32

A couple of years ago, I broke the rules. You know how everybody acts in church, going around greeting each other and asking, “How are you doing?” And everybody is saying, “Blessed, blessed, all blessed, I’m so blessed, oh man, God is so good.” 

Well, one day somebody asked me, “How are you doing, Jeremy?” And I said,  “Shitty.”

“What!?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m having a rough one. I flipped a guy off on the way to church today. I got mad at my wife because she wasn’t dressed in time. We were running late, the kids wouldn’t get in the car, they wouldn’t listen, I mean, I am having a really rough day.” And I gave him the look. You know. The one that says, “What are you going to say to that?” 

Obviously I shocked him. What was he supposed to say? He gave me the stock answer. “Ah, well, man,” he said. “I’ll pray for you.”  

But I pressed in.“Will you?” I asked. “Will you pray for me? When? You could have prayed for me right now, but you didn’t. You’re walking away! You say you’re going to pray for me, but what are you actually going to do? You’re just going to go to the next person and ask them how they’re doing. Then you’re going to go on with your week. You’re not going to pray for me.”

I think I kind of got into the guy a little bit. I’m pretty sure he never asked me how I was doing again. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so blunt, but I was tired of acting like it was all good when it wasn’t.

We’re not very honest in church. The problem is that we don’t trust very well. We don’t trust the men that we golf with. We don’t trust the friends that we go out to eat with. We don’t trust our wives. We don’t even trust the men in our men’s groups. We don’t trust because no one really wants to reveal their shame. No one wants to be “the guy with the issues.” We want to fit in with our little groups. So we don’t speak up. We don’t tell anyone when something is wrong. 

We’ll never experience true freedom as long as we go on this way. Every single one human being needs to be truly known by a few. Every single one of us needs high trust relationships. In a high trust relationship, you are known for who you really are. You can trust someone to love you no matter what.

In a high trust relationship, you can a few people, the ones who knows the worst of you and the best of you, to always love you.

To get to high trust, you have to be able to take that first step. You have get out of that boat and walk on the water. It’s a leap of faith. The wind is blowing, and you have to take that step. When you do, you’ll find out what Peter did. Someone will catch you.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Hypocrisy or Healing?

After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did—walked away from everything and went with him.

Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” Luke 5:27-32

The Church is the whole body of Christians, believers who confess that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. Believers in the teachings of Jesus. The Church is here to bring good news to the afflicted, heal the brokenhearted, and bind up their wounds. Jesus said, “I didn’t come here to heal people who are healthy! Healthy people don’t need doctors.”

It’s very healing to expose sin and bring it into the light. It’s transforming! The problem is that in the church, it’s really hard to come clean about your sin. Too often, when someone exposes their sin they feel judged. You can talk to a lot of people that have been wounded by the church, right? They looked for healing and they got hurt. Now they look at Christians and say, “Those Christians are judgmental. They are hypocrites!”

I had one person respond to my blog recently who said, “You know what’s wrong with the church? You’re a bunch of hypocrites!” And I said, “Actually, human beings are hypocrites. People aren’t hypocrites because they belong to churches. People are hypocrites because they’re human. Being hypocritical is just being human.”

Nobody lives up to what they hope to be all the time. We go to work and come home and go to church, and we try to portray ourselves as cheerful and blessed, but we don’t always add up that way. In times of trouble, hurt, and shame, we’re supposed to be able to trust the church. The church was built to be trustworthy. It was built to be a place to get healed. But the church doesn’t always add up either.

That can have tragic consequences. It means that there are Christians who have been Christians for 50 years, but they are still living in shame and brokenness. They are afraid to reveal it because everyone expects them to be some kind of key icon of faithfulness. It means that there are wise old men who are afraid to reveal who they really are. Senior pastors fail all the time because of that. They’re afraid to reveal who they really are because they know they’ll be judged – in their own church.

So many people are afraid to seek healing. In church! They’ve seen the judgments, so they don’t want to look for help when something is wrong. They don’t want to reveal their sin and shame. They think, “If I reveal a sin, then someone’s going to get angry and judge me. I can’t be honest because I can’t deal with feeling worse than I already feel.”

This isn’t true in all churches. I’m not generalizing. I’m just saying that in a lot of churches, we get it wrong. We are not here to judge. As believers, we are called by Jesus. We’re called to heal. We’re called to love!

It’s So Good to be Known

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:11-14)

The Bible says to expose sin and bring it into the light. When you do, the darkness transforms. It becomes light!

For this to happen, you need to trust other people with you. 

I need a few people I can trust. We all do. When you find a few people you can trust with you, then you can finally mature. I’m talking about maturing as a human being. When we trust ourselves to somebody, we can feel our souls maturing. We can feel our spirits maturing. We grow out of darkness when we find some people that we can truly trust.

There are 70-year-old men who haven’t matured because they don’t want to reveal weakness. They want to look tough and figure everything out on their own.

There are dads who don’t mature because they don’t want to feel weak to their sons. They always want to look tough and strong.

There are sons who don’t want to show any weakness so they begin to challenge their families. They challenge their dads. They argue with their moms. They refuse to show remorse because they don’t want to feel weak. They rebel because they want to prove they’re tough.

Men of all ages struggle to mature because they think they have to look tough. But if you hide your weaknesses and do not trust, then you will not mature. If you have an area of weakness and you’re too afraid to tell somebody about it, then you will stay in that darkness. It will get worse. It will cause a lot of issues in your life. It will hurt you. It could even ruin you. 

That’s what shame does. That’s what Satan does. He shames you and then he tells you to hide.

It happened at the beginning of time. When Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God. God was walking through the garden and there they were, hiding from God. I am pretty sure you can’t do that! But they tried, and God played along.

“Hey, Adam, Eve, where are you?”

“We’re over here, God.” 

“I know. I’m just trying to appease you.” 

Right? Adam and Eve were covered up and hiding, even though they knew you can’t hide from God. But they were scared! That’s why they hid.

I think everyone knows how this feels. It happened with the first two people, the parents of all human beings, and ever since then, Satan looks for ways to shame us. Any chance he gets.

But Jesus says, “No. No more shame.” When He died on the cross, He said, “It’s over.”  

That’s why it’s so good to be known by a few. The Bible says it’s like waking up from death! It’s so good to be loved in our fear and shame. That’s what it is to be spiritually mature. To trust a few people with you is to release yourself from shame. Your so-called “weakness” dies, and in its place you live in the light.

Grace Before Law

Initially, the law was good. It still is! It says we’re not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal. We’re not supposed to serve any other god but God. We’re not supposed to commit adultery. We’re not supposed to go around murdering each other. These are all good things. There’s nothing wrong with the law.

The problem is not the law, but sin. Sin comes in and the next thing you know, it’s causing chaos. That’s why sin went after the law. It looked at the law, a good and benevolent gift, and said, “Perfect! I’m going to twist this into chaos.”

It began going around and saying to people, “You know what? If you lie, you broke the law. That means you’re evil and you deserve to go to hell. And you know what else? If you cheat, then you’re not a good person. God’s going to frown on you. Do you know how much work you will have to do in order to be worthy of heaven? You’ll never be able to do it! I’ll bet you’re not even saved!”

That’s what sin does. It shames you. And when you live in shame, you live in darkness. You’re frightened. You think you don’t add up. Sin is such a good liar that you start to believe you’re not good enough. Sin has shamed you into thinking that you will never be worthy of God. Now you’re thinking, “I need to act in a righteous way. I need to make sure I’m doing righteous things. So what does a righteous person do? Let’s see, I can’t lie, I can’t cheat, I can’t steal, I can’t…,” and so on. Sin has fooled you into thinking that the law comes before grace.

This is why Paul says the law stinks. The law is not good when it becomes legalism! Legalism stresses performance. It says you can’t receive God’s love and forgiveness until you stop messing up. Does that make sense? What were the crucifixion and the resurrection for, if they didn’t save us from sin and death?

The Bible says no to sin. It says no to sin’s lies. The Bible says no to chaos, fear, and darkness. Don’t be afraid. You don’t live in darkness. You live in the light! That’s the Bible’s promise.

In the light, you will find trust. In trust, we find joy in each other. Living in joy is scriptural. Hebrews 11:6 is just mind-blowing for me:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Let’s think about this. What is faith? Faith is trust. So you please God when you trust Him. You don’t have to perform for Him first, by adding up, or being perfect, or cleaning up the messes you make. You don’t have to do any of that to please Him. He loves you! Trust Him. That’s it. That’s what God wants. He wants you to trust Him.

I don’t think churches have done a very good job counseling believers in this area. I think that all too often, despite their good intentions, churches do not trust God. That’s why you hear so much legalism in churches. They trust in God, yes. And they trust that there is a God. But they don’t trust that God is who He says He is. And they don’t trust in who God says they are.

Who does God say you are? God says, “Because of your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you are holy and righteous in everything that you do. You might look in the mirror and see a sinner, but I’ve already forgiven you. You are my precious child and I am going to help you.”

Do you trust God in that?

What If You Could Ask For Help?

I want to talk to you about shame because I love you and I want you to be free. When you live in shame you are not free! When you live in shame you live in darkness and fear.

The Bible says no to darkness and fear. It says no to shame. The Bible says yes to grace! It says yes to light and freedom!

There is trust in the light. There has to be. But a lot of men in the church, a lot of Christians, are covered by their shame. They think, “Man, I can’t tell anybody that I am suffering with sin. I can’t tell anybody that I’m a drunk.” Or they think, “I can’t tell anybody that I have a sex addiction.” Or they think, “I can’t tell anybody that I verbally abuse my family.”

They don’t tell anybody about the demon in their closet because they are deeply afraid of their shame. They fear the judgment of other Christians. But if you live in darkness and sit in shame, then sin will continually grab and crush you. This can happen in any area that causes you shame. You get stuck in suffering. There has to be a solution because this is a terrifying downward spiral. This kills people. It kills them.

Jesus says no to shame. Jesus says, “I love you. I know all about your sin and shame and I love you, so trust me. You can trust me. I don’t want you to live in darkness where sin and shame abound, so give your trust to me. I’m inviting you into the light, where grace and trust abound.”

You are not alone! You have Jesus.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Sin can’t live in the light. Shame says, “Man, I’m addicted to pornography. I have to hide this so I won’t get judged.” Let Jesus, the light of the world, shine into your life. Then you will be able to say, “I’m addicted to pornography and I need help, because I don’t want to live in this addiction anymore.”

What if you could ask for help and have twenty people look at you and say, “Let’s go. We’re going to help you out.” What would happen then?

This would free you! Imagine being embraced in your fear by a circle of people, loving on you and helping you. This would free you because you would have trust.

In the company of people who know your shame and then love on you, you wouldn’t have to hide anymore. You wouldn’t live in guilt and darkness any longer. You would be free, because the people you opened up to helped you. You opened up and they said, “We know you are good, a child of God who bears His image, and you trusted us to ask for help. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to love on you. We’re going to help you with this. You are not alone! Do you think you’re the only guy in the whole universe that has an issue? There are so many guys in the same shoes. Sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, whatever, these are billion dollar industries! You don’t have to be ashamed. Let’s shine the light on it. Sin can’t live in the light.”

There is so much we can do to help each other. Be comforted, because Jesus Himself invites you into the light. You can be free.