Trying It On

So, anyway, here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. How do these truths of grace and identity and humility and trust, and received love, and safety and permission and protection and vulnerability and so on and so forth…how do they really get transferred?

We’ve got a DVD and CD entitled something like “The 2 Roads Talk.” It’s a fairly revolutionary message for folk who’ve grown up in environments of performance or young people who are discovering their own faith. And just about anybody else.

We’ve heard from dozens and dozens of friends who say something similar to this: “I’ve listened to that CD 30 times. I’ve read TrueFaced over and over, underlining it in highlighter. You can read my copy at night, it’s so fluorescent with yellow.”

There is something so different in these truths than the message we’re used to hearing that it’s like we’re having to retrain our thinking and way of seeing. So we just keep absorbing any shred we can get that seems to bring us the hope of living out of our new identity and grace. It’s not a new message, but a largely hidden message.

But I wonder if the very staying power of this message is found not just in the information or inspiration, but in actually just trying on these truths. Experiencing the risky promises of grace and identity. Seeing if they hold, or if we must return to something less.

For 23 years I’ve been consistently preaching these messages in the same church, to many of the same people. For 30 years they’ve also been getting Bill Thrall. Bill freaking Thrall! He’s like the czar of these truths for this generation. He’s the man. He’s like Shaft! You’d think our church would have this stuff perfected. But some still, after all this time, understand these truths only in their head. After awhile it almost becomes untenable to keep hearing these truths, watch it impact others and not have it change you.//

The only distinguishing factor of who begins to “get” these truths appears to be a willingness to risk trying out this outrageous way of life in community.

These are not add-on truths, they are not another Bible study to pile on top of the last 10 new 7-step-programs-to-whatever. They are a way of life, the grid, the paradigm, the unifying voice of God’s intention for His children.

Many come away from TrueFaced saying, “I liked the thing about masks,” or “that forgiveness chapter was helpful.” For many of them, these truths are simply part of the smorgasbord of random “God stuff.” Then onto the next study, perhaps from an author stuck in the “Room of Good Intentions.” It all blurs together.

Something vitally different happened to those who are now being used to shepherd and revitalize cultures with these truths, in families, churches, business, countries and friendships. Their world got rocked. They came undone. They saw God’s heart differently. They saw how we could live together differently. They saw how they could see themselves differently. And now they can’t go back. They are desperate to experience these truths and waste not one day longer in something less. They are the ones who call to say they’re going to move in with us, until they figure this stuff out. They are the ones who are begging us for the next tool, materials, book or codified principles. They are the ones bribing us to come speak to their home group, imagining there must be 500 of us, in a warehouse somewhere, all highly trained professionals, just waiting to be asked to go to Muncie, Indiana, or Weber Falls, Idaho.

Eventually, frustrated with our limited ability to accommodate their needs, they give up on us…and, out of desperation, begin to bumble through trying to figure out such a fledgling environment of grace. They take as many tools with them as they can find and then they just wing it. No professionals, no authors nearby. Just fragile, hungry men and women, who God is well pleased to teach, enable and release. They will say it differently, stress different points, botch it up, hurt each other, stumble and goof it up. And slowly, imperfectly, erratically, imprecisely, but beautifully, they get to witness an environment of grace being birthed and matured.//

No notes that we get are more rewarding than to hear of those groups who finally tried it on, who are now in so deep they can’t, won’t turn around. They are the ones God is using to turn the Church upside down. They are the ones who are recovering God’s message of grace. They are the ones whose marriages are being restored, whose lives are becoming free, whose children are living winsomely in Christ dependence, without religion’s double lives.

We’re gonna keep pumping out new ways to say these eternal truths. We’re gonna keep convening conferences, banging out books, coming to a town near you. It’s who we are. It’s what God’s given us to do. But at the end of the day, each of us learned this not only by a tidy well-divided notebook, but by daring to try it out. People like you and I. And not a “professional” in sight.