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A different kind of blog post.
Most of the time I treat this space as a platform for profound theological thought (at least that’s what I hope and think is happening) I’ve not been a “blogger” in the traditional sense, as in capturing and reiterating random thoughts and posting them, as if my thoughts were somehow superior to someone else’s or significant enough that they needed to be read. But I’ve been burdened, of late, to be more vulnerable, honest, and open with my writing — to be more real, as it were. I’m not sure where this inspiration’s coming from. Though I have two likely culprits.
The first is recently spending a weekend in Key West, Florida. It was my first time in the Keys, something I had wanted to check off my “Floridian Bucket List” for a while. I’m not sure if it’s a rite of passage for Floridians to go to the Keys, but after visiting there I’d definitely say it should be. Key West was awesome. The weather was beautiful, the food was amazing, and the views were outstanding. I could’ve spent another 7 days there and been perfectly content. We did the typical touristy things. Saw the southernmost point, went to the butterfly place, went to the aquarium, and did the trolley tour. But even though we crammed a lot of sites into the short time we were there, I felt as though we only scratched the surface of what’s there to explore and see. I want to go back and just walk the streets more. There was so much we didn’t see.
But another instigator for this different kind of blog post today was none other than Sammy Rhodes’ This Is Awkward. I recently bought this via Amazon, and I’d been trying to finish other books before I cracked this one open. I am, perhaps, the most inefficient reader out there. I vow to myself often that I’m only going to read 2–3 books at once. And then I come across new titles that I just can’t wait to read and the temptation to start them is too much for me to resist! That’s when I find myself in the midst of 8 different books at once. (I was down to 3 last week, but now I’m back up to 5.) Regardless, I brought This Is Awkward with me, with the intention of just starting it to see how it was. I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with Sammy, his story, or his writing. My only interaction with him is “hearting” his humorously profound tweets from time to time. But upon reading the introduction and first chapter, I was hooked.
And maybe this is just an emotional overreaction because this book has hit me at the right time, in the right season of life. Books can do that. Some read a book and it changes them in a profound way, while others read the same work and it barely resonates. Timing has as much to do with response to a published work as anything else. For me, the timing was right.
As someone who’s battled with lustful addiction for the majority of his adult life, I have found solace in Sammy’s unadulterated writing. He touches on many subjects that many evangelical Christians never would. And I applaud him for that. There’s no beating around the bush or vaguely addressing the hard subjects of life. This Is Awkward isn’t a nonchalant opus that talks about pornography and depression and vulnerability and awkwardness for the sake of getting purchased, getting read, and getting notoriety. It speaks to these real issues in a real way for the sake of the reality of the gospel — a reality that says, “I’ve come for you. I’ll meet you where you are, and take you where you need to be.”
We often don’t fully believe that sentiment, focusing much more on the outward expressions of faith than the heart of faith. In so doing, we routinely add significant amounts of weight to these expressions and evidences, as if they’re the true barometer of Christianity at all. But really, these weights don’t free people to “live out their faith,” they enslave them into making sure they’re “being” a Christian, and doing what Jesus would do.
We often have a shiny, polished view of Christianity. As if “getting saved” instantly changes every aspect of one’s life. And to some degree, that’s true. Salvation does, indeed, radically change our spiritual life — in fact, that’s the inauguration of spiritual life. But, as is often the case, our physical life has a lot of catching up to do with our spiritual one. And while we stand before the Heavenly Father in white robes of righteousness that aren’t ours, we live and breathe in clothes that have a lot of grime and a lot of holes in them — both of which takes years and years to patch up and wash away.
Actually, I think the singular emphasis on tangible expressions of faith lends itself more to fakers than faithful believers. I’ve always been a guy that’s good at faking it. I’ve always been a “good” Christian — or at least good at making others think I was a “good” Christian. But what I’ve found critical, of late, is the necessity for gritty Christianity — the kind that’s there, ready to talk and embrace you after you’ve snuck another view at porn; the kind that’s there after you’ve had yet another relapse; the kind that’s ready to be with you as you promise to not drink that much again; the kind that tells you that you’re still intensely loved even as you fight the arms of mercy embracing you. Grace says, “I love you, dirt, shame, scars and all.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re struggling, if you’ve fallen (again), if you don’t know what to do or where to go, first, cry out to God and have faith in his forgiving grace; and then reach out to someone you trust who won’t berate you for failing again, but will love you and talk to you honestly about God’s good news. That’s what’s needed in the Church today — more openness, vulnerability, and honesty. And that can only happen as we’re made to see that we’re much more sinful than we ever thought and that God is much more patient than we could ever imagine.
I have since completely finished This Is Awkward, completing it in only a week’s time. The words and stories that Sammy captures are important. Likewise, the consolation he gives for life’s troubles isn’t some pithy, oft-repeated phrase — he gives grace and understanding, as one who’s been to the valley before. This Is Awkward is easily my favorite read of 2016, so far. You would do well to read it and digest it.
Are you wrestling with unremitting sin? Are you grappling with yourself after failing yet again? Don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to encourage you in the gospel of God’s timeless and tenacious grace.