Playing it safe comes naturally to me. It comes naturally to most men i know. Taking risks is, well, risky — and there’s that pesky possibility of failure.
In my failure i will be exposed. In that nakedness i will be seen as not being enough; i will be seen as not having what it takes. That cuts me to the quick. It makes me break out in a sweat. i work hard at protecting myself from that kind of exposure.
i am not alone in this. Men are good at finding ways to look competent and confident, even when they are neither.
It’s a shell game. We need to convince the world that we have it together, so we find some way to give that impression.
Humility, vulnerability, and — God forbid — brokenness are to be avoided at all costs.
John Eldredge is fond of saying that when you meet a man what you actually encounter is a well crafted fig leaf, referring to Adam and Eve’s use of fig leaves to hide their nakedness and shame after they had sinned in the Garden of Eden.
He is stating the brutal truth: all around us men are hiding in plain sight. It’s a clever coping mechanism, and it’s a tactic that can get you somewhat far in this broken world, until it crashes in on you.
Sometimes it implodes spectacularly like the Enron collapse, but most often it is dismantled in relative obscurity, seen only by a handful of people. To the soul of a man, however, both types of collapse are equally powerful.
And that is a good thing. We need to be exposed because it’s our posing and pretending that is getting in the way of real love, real life, and authentic freedom.
My implosion happened with great subtlety, but it had the same effect as if a bomb had gone off. It was my personal 9/11.
There are many ways to hide, and mine had been through a double life of porn and fantasy indulgence that i concealed from everyone who knew me, and which was the antithesis of what i purported to be.
Increased porn use in my life led to more and more pretending. Looking back, i see how i lived my life striking one pose after another depending on what situation i was in. My chameleon-like existence was the only way i knew to live.
Just as i had fashioned for myself a fig leaf to fool the world about my inadequacies in general, my lifestyle of porn required yet another fig leaf that could hide the shame and embarrassment of using porn. This was particularly true in my case because i held leadership positions in my church.
During the years of my addiction, i always envied people who seemed to have authentic freedom. i looked at others who didn’t need to hide who they were and wished i could live unshackled from the pressure i felt to keep it all together. Even if others were only putting up a front or an appearance of freedom, it still got be thinking.
There were a few people i knew who were genuine, and their presence was always disruptive to my soul. i really felt exposed around them.
When i couldn’t figure out how to experience the liberation i sought, and which i saw in those people, i resented their freedom. When i tried to muster the courage to cast off my fears and live with freedom, only to fail, my envy took over and i wished them ill.
Normally that also resulted in a deeper dive into porn.
But even through the cycle of pain that my life with porn had become, i was still desperate for authentic freedom. There were lingering questions that kept haunting me.
Why are others comfortable in their own skin but i am not? Why am i so concerned about pleasing other people to the point that i live as a poser for the world? What if i could live as someone who had nothing to prove and had nothing to lose?
Those questions often never got the attention they deserved during the years i was deep in my compulsive behavior with porn because when the pain of those issues arose in me, i medicated it with porn or fantasy. All the while i told myself numerous lies about who i was and why watching porn was more than OK, it was actually good.
When i imploded and all my secrets came out, i was forced to wrestle with those haunting questions and take a journey deep into authentic life and freedom with God. While on that journey, i got a taste — in ever increasing measure — of what it would mean to live without fear.
In short, what it would mean to live as a free man who had nothing to lose.
The work of Christ accomplishes for us many things. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are new creations. Moreover, because the grace of God is real, and it has been lavished on us (Eph. 1:6), not only are we made fully alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5), but we do not need our fig leaves any longer because our lives are hidden with Christ and that means we are secure in Him.
The grace of God is abundant for us, and because it is not of ourselves, no performance — no matter how stunning — can get us more grace or favor from God.
In short, the acceptance, validation, and cleansing of God through Jesus Christ means i have nothing to lose and i can live free.
So how do i live in that? What does it look like to make decisions and take actions based on the new reality that i have nothing to lose?
Simply, it means that i can be authentic with people. And it means i can share my heart, as well as live from it, without fear.
Jesus paid it all and that means i have nothing to lose.