Behind The Image is about freedom. Letting our guard down, taking off our masks, removing the filters from our profile pictures - risking failure and rejection to be come vulnerable and experience real freedom. My home church, Lifechurch Livonia, wrapped up a six week series called Freeway yesterday. So naturally, I wanted to share some of that experience with you.
The Freeway series uses the Bible story of the prodigal son to show us how we can begin on a jouney home and experience freedom. For the last week of the series, I was asked by my pastor, Brian Nanninga, to share my prodigal story of freedom. Of course the first thing I wanted to do was paint my face blue and ride in on a horse. We came to the conclusion that it might distract from the purpose of the message. Plus, we don't have "horse rental" as a line item on our annual budget. Bummer.
The purpose of this blog isn't just about sharing this video though. I wanted to talk about the fear that goes into preparing to stand on a stage and be vulnerable. We never get to see that side of the story. The preperation. The insecurity. The restless nights without sleep. The stage fright. And even the vomiting, although that's one I am very fortunate not to have witnessed. We don't need a Stand By Me blueberry pie incident...
I feel comfortable standing up in front of a group of people and speaking. But the idea of opening up my heart and sharing about some of the most painful and challenging moments of my life feels much different then giving a presentation or lecture. There is much more risk involved.
I've been thinking lately how vulnerability has multiple levels. Vulnerability can be a simple as a calculated risk, like strategically lowering your shield for a moment in battle to make a counter move or take a higher position. There is risk, but it is momentary and leads towards strengthening a position. The vulnerability I felt on Sunday felt more like a stroll on the beach wearing only a speedo, and there was no sunblock to prevent my hairy back from turning disturbingly unique shades of pink and purple.
So now with that visual in your minds, lets go back to Saturday night. I began writing down some notes, but I kept getting stuck. How do you share an entire lifetime of experiences in just 10 minutes? I finally called Brian to talk through everything. Looking back, I think it's because I would rather tell the "glamourous" parts instead of spending time sharing about things that I needed to take ownership for. It's much easier to share about things that happened to us than it is to share things that we've done and need to work through. That requires more risk, and I was afraid to go to that level of vulnerability.
This battle continued through Sunday morning when I realized I was allowing this fear to trap me. In those moments, the best thing we can do is slow down and analyze our thoughts and feelings. What am I actually afraid of? My fears were based on appearance. I wanted to look good and have people like me. AREN'T THESE THE SAME FREAKING FEARS THAT KEPT ME TRAPPED FOR YEARS?!?
In that moment, I gained clarity. These weren't just thoughts or feelings that needed to be processed. I 100% believe the battle that morning was a spiritual one. There were factors greater than my mind at play and without slowing down to recognize it, I would have remained trapped. I'm not often a pray out loud kind of person, but I wasn't about to jump into battle with a little butter knife. So I spent quite a few minutes just praying out loud and rejecting the lies that were in my brain. I kept quoting scriptures and thanking God for freedom. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that I felt a very tangible weight come off my shoulders. I felt free.
So why do it? Why risk the pain of rejection and failure? Because in our vulnerability, beautiful things can happen. We can experience love and forgiveness. We discover our purpose in life. And we become free.
*To watch the entire message, click here. If you'd like to watch more messages or learn more about Lifechurch Livonia, visit www.lifechurchlivonia.org. You can also download the latest message as a podcast on iTunes here.
Join The Conversation
What do you think of when you hear the word "freedom"? Have you had moments in life where you felt free to be yourself? Free of the pressure to perform? Free of the need to gain the approval of your coworkers, family, or friends? Or do you feel trapped right now and unsure of how to take that first step towards freedom?
Share your comments below or contact me on Twitter @RickGuttersohn.