A few weeks ago I turned 50.
Since it was a milestone birthday, my wife and I decided to go out for a really nice dinner in the city at a local steakhouse. It was awesome!
The food was great. 🙌
The bill was a little ridiculous. 😳
But I believe life isn’t worth living if you don’t take out moments to celebrate all the good things.
Anyway, after dinner both our stomachs were a little full and it was a beautiful night so we decided to walk through the city of Philadelphia for 15 or 20 minutes to burn off some of the calories we just consumed.
As we were walking, we approached the corner of this one street where a large crowd had gathered. I started scanning the surroundings trying to figure out what all the fuss was about and then I saw it.
There were two men on the opposite corner holding up signs with just horrific comments about porno freaks, God hates “fags”, abominations, etc.
You guessed it…
“Christian” men proclaiming “the truth of God” in the most detestable fashion you can imagine. These were the types of signs you would expect from an organization like Westboro Baptist church.
The reactions from the crowd that had gathered ranged greatly from shaking heads, to anger, to outright laughter. (No one repenting on their knees for what it’s worth)
The sight of this entire spectacle stopped me in my tracks. That’s when I felt my wife’s hand grab my arm and heard her say “just keep walking.”
I didn’t move.
I kept looking at those men thinking to myself. “What are you doing?”
At that moment I wanted to run across the street, grab their signs, and smash them on the sidewalk.
But my wife was insistent.
“Honey, just keep walking please. You’re not going to change their minds.”
We walked away from that corner but as we continued our little stroll I’m not going to lie, the thought of those men kept racing through my mind. And as it did, something stirred up in me that you might call anger, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad anger. It was more of an outrage.
How could those guys think that what they’re doing represents Jesus?
How could those two men be so delusional to think that the gospel looks anything like what they’re trying to make it represent?
How many people on that corner are going to be turned off from the message of Jesus because of this embarrassing representation of what the “kingdom” is all about.
Of course, with those feelings of outrage also came some feelings of guilt.
“What’s wrong with you, Carl? Why are you so angry? This is not how a Christian should act. What happened to turn the other cheek? Why are you feeling this way? Clearly, there’s something wrong with you.”
This is not the first time I’ve been faced with these feelings.
There have been many times in my life when I felt like my confrontational, call it rebellious, approach to living out my faith was potentially a stumbling block and something that I should seek repentance for and not embrace.
But what if God created me this way for a reason? What is this part of my identity is exactly what I need to do the work I do. What if I am wrestling against shame and not conviction?
And if so, why does it matter?
Understand that many of us struggle with things like porn and sex because we use them as a way to escape the reality that we can’t possibly live up to the expectations of others. We can’t possibly fill the roles that others have created for us because those roles don’t mesh with whom we really are.
And what happens is that we end up trying to suppress or deny things that God actually birth in us for a reason because they don’t fit into the little boxes people have created for us to live in.
We get fooled into thinking that these passions, these little personality quirks, need to be squashed and eliminated rather than encouraged and stoked.
And don’t get me wrong…
When people proclaim, “I just gotta be me” or “I just got to be real,” often these are just lame excuses to pardon unacceptable, atrocious, or rude behavior.
But yet there is truth to the fact that God has designed us a certain way to fulfill a certain purpose and mission.
If I didn’t have that little bit of “rebel” inside me, I probably wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing now because it would be too uncomfortable and invite too much criticism. But the funny thing is because of the way I’m wired, I don’t mind this stuff. It actually fuels me and feeds me. And I think that’s by design.
It’s on purpose.
My point in writing this post is to encourage you to seek out that unique identity that got implanted in you. Ask yourself…
What fires me up?
What stirs up my belly?
And then ask…
Am I pursuing these things or suppressing them?
Because if you’re trying to deny or extinguish them there’s a good chance you’re probably hindering something God has given you for a reason.
Don’t run from who you are.
Don’t discourage these unique aspects of your identity because they happen not to meet the expectations or demands of others. By doing so, you’re only going to create increased anxiety and tension in your life that you will then either seek to medicate or channel in other unhealthy ways.
But if you go after this stuff because it helps you love and serve people in a unique way, you will open up new possibilities for your life and a more peaceful existence with less anxiety, tension, and strife.
And ultimately, you’ll find yourself with less reason to go back to things like porn to fill the need that you are not satisfying.
* BY THE WAY, a close friend of mine shared about her struggle on a podcast recently in this area of identity and suppression, and also how finally embracing her true self led her back to God with a special mission and purpose. Check it out here!