Jennifer and I want Holy Entanglement to be a place where we can be transparent.
We want this to be a transparent community of people who don’t have-it-all-together, who are willing to be honest about our mess-ups and about our struggles—but who are willing to be transparent too about what we believe and whom we believe in.
To build such a community, Jenn and I need to be transparent first. To build this kind of community, Jenn and I need to be willing to confess . . . here . . . to you.
Last year I wrote the following words to the men of WiRE:
A lot of men—not every man—but a lot of us struggle to hold back a harsh and judgmental attitude toward the world around us, sometimes even toward those we love the most. In the rush and charge of life, with the volatility of family, the pressure of work, the friction of the world, we too often give in to snap impulses to anger and criticism. They feel right in the moment, but they never are (Proverbs 14:17). More considered, gentler approaches are always better—less destructive, more effective, more powerful (Proverbs 19:11, 29:11; James 3:13-18).
While I may have been describing a lot of men (and a lot of women), I was certainly describing myself. With three kids, two in middle school and one in elementary school, and working two demanding jobs, I feel like I’m too often in a hot battle with the urge to give into “snap impulses to anger and criticism.” I feel like I’m too often in a hot battle with the urge to put on the old self, rather than the new one—and make the people around me feel lousy about themselves. To put it bluntly, I feel like I’m too often in a hot battle with the urge to be a big jerk.
Yesterday I was practicing archery with my oldest son, Jackson. He got a compound bow for his 13th birthday and we went to shoot at targets in his grandfather’s backyard. That kind of time with Jackson is sacred time, father-and-son time, which seems so scarce these days—with his homework and football and social demands . . . and his teenager’s attitude. It is sacred time, but I messed it up.
I’d forgotten the key to my father’s house, and he wasn’t home. So Jackson and I decided to jump the fence. I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t break anything, so I told Jackson to be very careful as he hopped over. He said “okay,” or maybe just grunted something—and then proceeded to scale the fence with the finesse of a nose tackle. Frustration rose inside me. Then my voice rose. I lectured Jackson on “respecting other people’s property” and “listening to his father” and a bunch of other things.
The words were sharp and my reaction was an overreaction. Finally, when the words stopped coming, I just looked at him. He’s . . . a . . . kid. He’s a good kid. He works hard in school. He works hard on the athletic field. He never gets in trouble (like I did, when I was his age). I took a deep breath. We didn’t talk for a while. We just set up and began shooting.
After a time, we began to talk, then tell stories, then to laugh. We shot that bow until light turned into twilight and twilight turned into dark. It was good. But I sure wish I could take back those words and my angry tone of voice.
The Apostle Paul wrote about these “new selves” and “old selves.” I want to draw the power of his words and bring them right in this struggle:
But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV).
That is what I want to do—part of me wants to, at least. Part of me wants to live, more and more, as Jesus has taught me to live. Part of me wants to be, more and more, able to resist the urge to roar words and criticism at whomever is close by and at whomever I can manufacture some sort of justification. Part of me wants all of this—and, to do it, I also know what I must do. James, the brother of Jesus, provided clear instructions:
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed (James 5:16-18 MSG).
Now, to be truthful, another part of me doesn’t want to confess to you. This other part of me never wants to confess anything. This other part would rather keep things hidden from you. This other part of me would much rather build an image—a false one—of a more mature man; a more holy man; a man who does have-it-all-together.
So, I must choose . . . to follow my King or to follow my deceitful desires; to take the narrow road, the hard road, or to take the wide road, the easy road. I must choose whether to live like I trust Jesus or just say I trust him. I must choose . . . and so I wrote this post . . . to confess to you that I struggle with a harsh and judgmental attitude toward the world around me, sometimes even toward those I love most. I also want to repent, right now. I want to declare to you, right here, that I don’t want to be that man anymore.
And lastly, I also want to ask for your prayers—both for me and for anyone else reading this who also struggles sometimes with a harsh and judgmental attitude. You see, we also want Holy Entanglement to be a place where we can prayer together, where we can pray for one another.
The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again (James 5:16-18 MSG).