My youngest son, Miles, and I have a unique mother/son relationship. We most definitely relate on a familial level, but also he appreciates my counsel. As a minister, much of what I do for women is counsel, but rarely does a parent experience that sort of relationship with her child. Miles, on the other hand, seeks my counsel. And understand, I do not mean simply my advice. At twenty-six, he still comes to me for solid counsel on every topic imaginable.
Needless to say, I love that he does so. However, it has also presented some very touchy situations between the two of us, situations where I have found it necessary to be a little more honest than I would ordinarily be comfortable with when speaking to my son. I know the value of transparency as a teacher and as a counselor, especially in terms of my walk with God, but that transparency recently took on an entirely new level in a recent conversation I had with Miles.
It was Easter and he was going through some tough times in his life. He very candidly asked me how God could ever want anything to do with him considering some of the things he had done. My husband was out of the country and my oldest son was working that day, so Miles and I were headed to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant we both wanted to try. I had him all to myself, and on the flip side, he also realized he had me all to himself.
As I looked into his sweet and troubled eyes, I saw myself so very clearly.
I saw the doubts I’d had so many years ago, doubts about how a God who literally knew not only every vile deed I had committed but also every disgusting thought I’d ever had could love me, much less use me to His glory.
I remember thinking that my deeds disqualified me for service; they disqualified me from anything except condemnation.
And here’s the kicker: to most people, they did. After the life I lived became more of a public exhibition rather than a private prison, most people felt that my deeds disqualified me from everything. It took me many years to understand the love of a Savior who not only died for those sins, but actually knew about those sins before I committed them. His response in that knowledge was not to condemn me but to go to the cross to pay the penalty I deserved. That love is astounding, and finally understanding it freed me from the condemnation brought on by others and myself.
Now I was looking into the sweet green eyes of my son, eyes that were wet with tears I understood, and I wanted him to know what I knew. I wanted Miles to know that Jesus went to the cross knowing him, choosing him, loving him, and then willingly dying for him in spite of all of that because Miles is His.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Miles has always been His and therefore is qualified for service to Him.
I was immediately aware of a truth I learned long ago as I’ve looked into so many eyes like my son’s over the years:
I have to be transparent about my own sin so that others might know the unconditional, ever-present love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of His people.
I needed to share with my son a concrete truth about my own past so that he could know and believe that sin doesn’t disqualify us for service. If it did, there would be no one to serve.
Transparency is difficult. Once we pull back the curtain that we all safely hide behind in our day to day lives, we run the risk of rejection. There will be some who simply don’t like what they see behind that curtain, even if it is in the past, and they will either run from us or try to get others to do the same. That will happen, but it only happens rarely. What usually happens when I am transparent about my own sin is freedom from the bondage of isolation that sin and the knowledge of sin places on the woman with whom I am sharing. Often we think that our sin is too great or too horrible to be forgiven or to be passed over, even by the blood of Jesus, so we hide it or we cower under it.
What I loved as I looked into Miles’ tear-filled eyes is that he decided he didn’t want to hide anymore. Miles wanted to know how to get out from under the blanket of condemnation that was paralyzing him, so he asked me a very pivotal question. How was I going to respond?
When I’m asked that fateful question, “How can a person like me ever be used in God’s kingdom,” I know the door has cracked open a bit to freedom.
The decision is always mine at that point whether or not to allow them to see behind my curtain and risk the pain of condemnation. I could do that or I could placate them with words of encouragement that inevitably heal nothing. Will I let them see? Was I going to let my son see who I am so that he can see the love of a Savior and King who forgives?
The answer, of course, is yes! I told him of a time many Sundays ago when I sinned so grievously that I had never spoken of it since. I told him that I carried that sin with me for many, many years, certain that not only the gravity of the sin, but the hypocrisy of committing it on Sunday and then going to church and leading worship as if nothing were wrong was definitely enough to disqualify me for service.
As my tears ran freely to join his, I then reminded him of what God allows me to do today. I reminded Miles of how God graciously has not only forgiven my sin, but that He knew even then that one day I would be able to be transparent about my sin with thousands of women all over the world so that the freedom available only in Jesus’ sacrificial atonement would be made known to them as well. I reminded him of Paul and David and Peter and Abraham and of how God uses the least of us to show His magnificent glory. As we cried together, driving to a little Chinese restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, I let my son see me, just as I’ve let many other women see me, knowing that I might be slain for it. That’s a risk I’ve come to be more than willing to take. How can I be willing to do less in the face of what Jesus did for me? I am willing to be slain verbally by the few so that I might be an instrument in saving the many.
Jesus was willing to be by the few so that He would save the many.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
There have been plenty of times that I have stood on stage and shared portions of my past with a group of women and that those facts have fallen on ears that no longer want to listen because of them. I understand that. But my reputation has become nothing in comparison to the freedom my transparency has provided for exponentially more women who have isolated themselves in a prison of guilt and despair because of their own sin. If my past does not serve my Savior, then it is of no value. But if it serves to release the chains of bondage that condemnation invokes, then I rejoice in sharing, even if I am slain by the few.
Miles and I had a wonderful Sunday lunch of dumplings and Chow Mein, but more importantly, we had a blessed afternoon of bonding in our freedom in Christ. I have no regrets about sharing with him that afternoon, nor will I have any compunction about doing so again if necessary. My reputation and what others think of me no longer rate in comparison to the beauty of letting even my past sin work to the glory of my Savior.