One of the themes that we weave throughout our Gateway to Freedom workshop is that the men there are men of courage. In fact, it’s the first thing I tell them in the first session. You should see the looks I get. Shock. Disbelief. Some even turn away and won’t make eye contact. You see, the idea of courage doesn’t line up with what their shame has told them. But that’s okay. Shame never tells the truth.
One of my favorite things to see happen at our 3-day intensives is the metamorphosis that occurs in less than 72 hours. Guys enter with their heads hung low, barely talking, avoiding eye contact, and just generally looking uncomfortable. After all, they’re there because they’re a “sex addict.” One of “those guys.” The least of the least, who deserve to be quarantined and cast out of society. Or so they think. But we treat them like Jesus would, looking past their exterior of shame or super spirituality or false humility, and instead address their heart. And we tell them the truth about who they are in Christ; more than conquerors! Men of courage.
By Sunday, these guys are talking, laughing, sharing, crying, hugging, connecting. The truth of the life of Christ in them bursts through the hard casing of the lies of shame that have held them prisoner to their sin. They discover that we weren’t lying to them – they are men of courage. And the hope of Christ breathes new life into their suffocating soul.
One man at a recent workshop shared in his closing comments how he felt about the road of recovery ahead, and I believe he described beautifully what the journey from secret shame to open courage feels like: hopeful anxiety. Doesn’t that just paint the picture of what our journey of faith often feels like? There is such hope in the gospel of Jesus, who sets us free from the shackles of sin and darkness. Yet there is often such anxiety in the process of working out that salvation in our daily lives. We battle temptation, both external and internal. We face obstacles and challenges that we didn’t anticipate. We regularly hear the truth of God’s Word, but sometimes it gets drowned out by the sound of our knees knocking together in fear.
I appreciate the honesty of this man’s description of recovery. It means he isn’t hiding from his brokenness any longer. Too often we paint our journey of faith with only flowers and lovely sunrises. But those who follow Jesus know that in this life there are many clouds and storms, moments and seasons that are fearful and discouraging. But if we can be honest – that we feel hopeful anxiety – then I believe our faith, and recovery, begins to flourish. For it is the truth that sets us free.
Jesus doesn’t condemn us for being afraid on the journey. Nor does He shame us for all the substitute ways we have tried to meet needs that only come by way of confession and repentance. Instead, He faithfully reminds us of the truth about who we are in Him; saints, a new creation, a child of the King, conquerors. He looks at us in our brokenness and declares, “You are a man of courage.” And you know what? He’s right. But will you believe Him?