How Do You Trust Others and Let Them Love You?
Chapter Two: Two Faces
1. Galatians 3:1-3.
2. This is an example of a distortion of God when truths in Romans 8:31-39 are not believed.
3. 1 Corinthians 3:2-3.
4. Genesis 3:10, NASB, emphasis added. See also verses 6-13.
5. Genesis 3:21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
6. Titus 3:5-6.
7. Ephesians 1:6, KJV.
8. See Revelation 3:17. Some of you may be thinking, “Well, I definitely don’t think we are in the Laodicean period!” Whatever your eschatological views about Revelation 2–3 are, please recall that the seven churches to whom John wrote on behalf of Christ himself were seven actual churches in seven actual cities in Asia Minor. The question to ask yourself is, “Do I sound like the Laodiceans with their smug self-sufficiency?” “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’”
9. Psalm 51:3-14.
10. Psalm 31:12; 41:7-10; 52:2-4; Proverbs 15:4; 25:28; 27:4.
11. There are many biblical illustrations of these truths. Look, for example, at the events in 1 Samuel 25 between Nabal and David. David dispatched his men with a reasonable request for Nabal. Nabal (whose very name means “fool”) responded harshly and ungraciously. David’s (natural) response was to avenge the affront of Nabal. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, however, intervened with grace, charm, and intelligence. In doing so, she not only averted David’s wrath against Nabal, but also gave place for God’s righteous judgment against him. Compare this sequence of events with Romans 12:19-21.
12. James 1:22-24.
13. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
To help explain just how destructive this process of unresolved sin can be, we’ve asked a good friend of ours, Louise, to tell her story. It’s the story of how acts of sin against her, which remained unresolved for years, played themselves out in her life.
Louise grew up in a family well respected as great teachers, worship leaders, and community pillars. As a young girl, she was poised, attractive, intelligent, and charming, She had enormous potential, drive, and passion. But as a young adult, she would, now and then, unexpectedly erupt in rage over something fairly insignificant. For the most part, her friends chalked it up to the eccentricities of an unusually gifted person.
As Louise became an adult, her responsibilities began to match her growing proficiency. But she didn’t smile as much. She found herself lashing out at her new husband. To those close to her, she was an enigma. She could demonstrate tremendous kindness and goodness, and yet more and more often she was given to fits of rage, judgment, criticism, and blame. With a growing air of superiority, she entered her thirties. She became incredibly driven and spent more and more time alone.
How did this happen? What could cause these increasing displays of pain in a seemingly together person? We’ll let Louise tell you herself:
What I heard in church and what I experienced at home were two very different things. My “Christian” parents sinned violently against me. My father and many other men used me sexually, and my mother knew of it. Whenever I resisted, my parents would twist Scripture by saying that children are to obey their parents “in all things.”
My parents did further harm to me by repeatedly telling me I was born with the “wrong personality.” I knew that God had created me to be a leader, but my parents manipulated Scripture to demean the place of women in God’s eyes. Their abuse and legalism wounded me deeply.
As a child I wasn’t able to bring to God the acts of sin done against me. I couldn’t even understand what was happening to me and because I did not know how to resolve my hurt, a torrent of Inevitable Effects was unleashed in my life.
The sexual abuse left me with physical scars. I also had emotional scars from years of neglect and deep spiritual wounds from my confusion between what I read in the Bible and what I had experienced. I grew up believing I was unlovable. I was only worthy to be used and hated, never to be protected. Now I was desperately trying to be the “right” kind of woman. But I didn’t even understand who I was. But the deepest wound was my heart’s lack of hope that anyone could ever love me.
I became very skilled at hiding my shame—or so I hoped. I learned to change my behavior to fit whatever spiritual culture I was in. I became very judgmental of others in an attempt to feel better about myself. I buried my hurt under an intense rage. Anger was my means to being in control. I had become proficient at blaming.
My self-protective behaviors kept me from getting my real needs met. The sin done to me inflamed my own sin—and I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t trust anyone. I felt alone, unsafe, and unlovable, long after I was far from my parents’ home.
Out of God’s abundant grace, I got married and had two children. But I could not continually wear my mask of the perfect, godly woman. I unleashed my anger at home, on my husband and kids. I was hypocritical. I didn’t want to continue pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
I was finally around people who wanted me to be the person I was created to be, but I had absolutely no idea how let myself be it! My masks that once felt protective were now suffocating me! The hurt, buried under my anger, was trying to surface and I didn’t know how to go to God with it. I was bitter at my parents and my siblings. I was resentful of my husband for not meeting my needs. I was a toxic person to those closest to me. I was everything I didn’t want to be, and it caused me to feel even more unlovable. And I couldn’t stop it.
John fashioned an elaborate mask shortly after he graduated from Arizona State University in 1975. He hadn’t given much thought about his future; he had just assumed it would come knocking at his door.
As May neared, his classmates started telling him about their soon-to-be-launched careers in companies such as IBM, Xerox, and Fidelity Mutual. His friends had secured real, actual careers—complete with salaries and benefits! After bragging about their bright futures, his classmates would inevitably ask, “So, how about you, John? What field are you going into?”
“Well . . . I’m . . . uh . . . keeping my options open. I’ve got a lot of brands in the fire. I don’t want to bite at the first thing to come along.”
In truth, John had nothing in the fire, but admitting that felt way too risky. So he made two significant decisions. First, without telling anyone, he moved to Isla Vista, a small beach town near Santa Barbara, California—a town where no one knew him and where those who did couldn’t find him.
Second, he wrote to everyone he knew, and told them, “Hey, I found a gig in Isla Vista. I can’t believe it! I’m the featured weekend comedy act at a nightclub named Borsody’s. I’ve worked up a bunch of new bits, local kinds of stuff. Just a couple of Saturdays ago a talent guy asked the manager if he could use me a couple nights in L.A.! Well, stay in touch. I’ll write more later. I’ve gotta work on tonight’s show.”
Actually, Isla Vista did have a nightclub named Borsody’s. John just made up a few of the surrounding details.
With that letter, John fashioned a mask that he thought would protect him from his friends’ pity. The trouble is, once we put on a mask, we have a hard time taking it off. John kept that particular mask on for four and a half years! It had become his identity.
After a while the mask began to deceive even him. The lie rolled off of his tongue so easily that he began to believe it was part of his history—that he actually had been a comedian at Borsody’s! When he describes that time in his life, John says, “I could see the smoke-filled room and the hurricane lamps at each table. I could see the light spilling onto a stage with a stool and a mike that sent my voice out into a dark sea of smiling faces. I could hear the audience’s laughter and smell the beer. Now that’s a mask!”
Unknown to him, John’s mask was actually as thin as sketch paper. People could see right through it. Years later, he asked a few of his friends, “Did you believe me? Did you wonder if I actually was doing stand-up comedy?”
One of his best friends told him, “We never talked much about it. We just loved you. We figured that if it weren’t true, it probably wouldn’t help for us to blow your cover. No, I guess I never really thought you were doing stand-up.”
Wow! John had told himself that he had on wonderful, hip clothes: “I thought my friends were proud of me. I thought they believed I was somebody significant and famous. What a waste of energy and soul. The papier-mâché mask I thought would protect me by covering up the truth didn’t. In fact, it had the opposite effect—it caused me to be the object of my friends’ pity. If only I had just waited tables.”
Some of us reading this might be thinking, Whew! I’m glad I’m not like John. Imagine, lying to people about who you are! Making up stories and almost believing them yourself! That’s messed up!