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Falling From Freedom: Worship and Failure

_ reflection _
 

Let me paint a picture of a place in time. Maybe you’ve been there.

On a Saturday night, you retreat to your room. It’s been a long week. You’re exhausted, and alone. You want to ‘unwind’ so you shut your door, grab your laptop, plug in your headphones, and start surfing.

What you want to do is unplug, but before you know it, you’re typing in the URL for your ‘favorite’ porn (erotica, sex games, etc) site. As you type in the address you tell yourself to stop. You tell yourself it isn’t worth it. You just need to turn off the computer and go to sleep. You hit the “enter” key as your flesh wins, yet again.

Hours later, drunk with pleasures and spiritually numb to the impending guilt, you shut your computer, and fall asleep.

The ‘hangover’ will hit you in the morning.  Your alarm will go off, and you’ll wish your activities the night before were just a bad dream.  The guilt and shame will sit like a rock in your stomach.  That was no dream; you did it… again.

Disgusted, you hit the shower and let it run long, trying to wash away the film of filth you can almost feel enveloping your body.  You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, and hear the shame whisper,  Worthless.  Screwed up.  Gross.  Hopeless.  Stuck.

Of all times to fall, it just had to be Saturday, didn’t it?  You put on your Sunday best, pull your Bible off the shelf, and head to church.  The voice of the Savior is calling gently, and the voice of your failure is screaming loudly.  You crank up the music to drown both out.  You’re not interested right now- too busy beating yourself up for your failures.  God, I just don’t have time to talk about it.

You walk into church, painted smile, and if anyone asks, you’re doing great.  Worship starts and you raise your hands, close your eyes, and belt out perfect harmonies.  You nod in agreement, and eagerly scribble down notes as the sermon is preached.  When it’s over, you smile, laugh, and hang out with friends.

You offer prayers for those who are struggling, feeling some sort of twisted self-righteous pity for them.  Then, you get back to your car, shut the door, and the mask falls.  The guilt and shame pummel you, and you hear the word we Christian women fear the most:

Hypocrite

Perhaps the most difficult part of this journey, and one I’ve written about many times, is this idea of worshiping God while we’re still falling.  We have this idea that we need to be perfect, either for God, for each other, or both.  We have this fear of being found out, so many of us are really good at the Christian mask.  We carry one on our person at all times, and have a spare in the car just in case.  We get what Christianity is supposed to “look” like, and we’re completely missing the point.

[Tweet “There is no worship more hollow than the worship of the unrepentant.”]

If you aren’t praising Jesus for saving you from your sorry self, then what exactly is there to praise Him for?  Think about that.  You can’t really praise Him for His justice. Since you’re ignoring Him, you should be afraid of His justice.  You can’t really praise Him for His mercy.  If you believed it, you wouldn’t be running from Him.  His holiness should terrify you.  You’re numb to His grace and love.

You can’t really praise Him at all if you’re too busy running from Him.  

Yes Jesus I love You, and trust You, but not enough to turn to You.  In fact, I am pretty convinced I love You more than You love me, and that’s why I don’t really want to talk right now.

Looks a lot different when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?

I think we have all had those Sundays when ‘worship’ was more so we could feel normal than it was actually worship.

We want to go on feeling as if our sin isn’t that big of a deal.  We can still be “Christian” without having to admit our failures.  Yet, the crux of our faith, and the reason we have hope is because we are failures.  The whole reason we need grace, the whole reason He deserves worship, is because we are failures.  Encouraging, I know, but true.

I’ve quoted this many times before, but it needs to be repeated:

The final obstacle to Christian community is the inability to be sinners together.  -Daniel Weiss

Worship.  Church.  The Christian Life.

They aren’t about being perfect.  They are about being broken.

So, what happens when you romp around with lust Saturday night and get up Sunday morning?  You break.  Yes, it hurts- a lot.  Yes, it’s embarrassing- humiliating, even.  No, you cannot live the Christian life while harboring the enemy.  No, you cannot worship God while protecting your sin.  No, you cannot have it both ways, and you know that.  That’s why you feel like a hypocrite, because you know it doesn’t work, and the worst part is trying to make it work just makes it worse.

On Sunday morning (or whatever day or time it is), you do what it takes to right yourself with God before you go out and worship Him publicly.

That might mean doing some non-traditional things.  I’ve stayed home from church before when I knew I was going for the wrong reasons (yes, you can go to church for the wrong reasons).  I’ve passed on the Lord’s Supper when I knew my heart was hardened to grace.  I’ve stood silently through the songs when I knew I didn’t mean them.

I can be stubborn.  My heart can be stubborn.  My flesh can be stubborn, and so can yours, and when that happens, I think we need to be honest with ourselves and drop the front.  No, life can’t go on as normal, not even our “Christian” lives.  Not until we get right with God.

[Tweet “Our public worship should be an extension of our private worship, not a cover for it.”]

Photo:  *Louise** / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

5 comments

  1. I too have struggled with this, in fact at this point the most temptation for me happens Sat evening and Sun morning. So many times I have fallen and struggled to show my face at church, feeling that everyone would somehow know. Going to church and being told that I need to “get over it”, “just forgive yourself”, “it just isn’t that big a deal”. Crushing statements from people who meant well but just didn’t understand the level of humiliation and pain and grief and shame I was dealing with over what I had done. I have refused communion and been told I shouldn’t do that as though they know the condition of my heart better than I do. I eventually learned to start putting on the mask so that the well meaning will not further wound me. So tired of not being able to be real at church.

    1. Robin, Saturday night was always a struggle for me too. Sometimes Sunday afternoon too! It’s crazy how strong our flesh can be sometimes!

      I would really encourage you to at least be real privately, if that makes sense. When we go to church, we aren’t to be worshiping each other or even judging each other’s worship. We are still worshiping God, just as a collective. It still boils down to you and God, not all those other people. They do mean well. They just don’t know what else to say, and it’s hard to see someone broken in church because it reminds us of our own brokenness. If you’ve ever passed a homeless person on the street, it’s hard to look them in the eye because why? They remind us of how cruel our world can be and that we could be on the street corner next week.

      It’s hard to see people as people. We like to see systems, and too often church is a ‘system’ to people. If you come into church broken, it leaves them unsure and vulnerable. Their system isn’t working. Everyone is supposed to be happy in church and you aren’t, and it makes them have to stop and square with their own ‘demons.’

      You aren’t going to church for them. You are going to church for God, and if being real with Him means you don’t sing, don’t take communion, go to the front on your knees and bawl your eyes out, that is between you and God- no one else. You being real will prompt others to be real too.

  2. Thank you for sharing….it helps to know Im not alone

    1. Deb,

      Thanks for reading it! I assure you (along with the hundreds of e-mails I receive) that you have never been alone 🙂

      Praying for you!

  3. I’ve struggled with sexual sin for a few years now, I’ve finally decided to come out.
    I grew up as a missionary kid and just recently started going to a church that supports my parents. I’m part of the choir and since I’ve read this post I felt that nagging feeling that I shouldn’t be singing up there when I knew I had this in my heart.
    I’m praying that I’ll gather enough courage to open up to someone about this. And thank you so much for honesty and love in your writing. It’s been such an inspiration for me.