Can I Just Be Myself?
June 1, 2019
On occasion, I read material or hear messages admonishing me to be careful what I speak, do, listen to, or look at. These are often warnings that I must be aware that I must not ever do anything to displease God. And if I do, immediately repent, with deep sorrow, acknowledging my utter wretchedness and accept that I am an unclean, weak sinner groveling before a stern God. A God who is at that very moment deciding whether to put His arms around me or obliterate me.
For me, that is not the real world and I think places an unrealistic picture of God before us. Further, it begs the question, “How could I be a friend and have a deep intimate relationship with someone I fear?” I understand that we stand before God by His grace and the cleansing blood of Jesus. He is a God whom we stand in awe of and who is a God of both judgment and mercy.
If I am going to have an intimate relationship with someone, then they must also be my friend. By its very definition intimacy denotes relationship with a close friend or confidant. In my world when I am around a close friend I do not have to pretend. I can be myself, totally open and free. Free to say what I think and do. I do not have to be careful that I might shock or offend him. He knows me and has seen me when I have been strong and when I have been weak, when I do well and when I do not do well. He is one with whom I can be myself and know that he understands and accepts me in all my humanness.
This or course begs the question, “What is a friend? I’ve heard it said that a definition of a true friend is, “Just one with whom you dare to be yourself.” The truth of this hit me once again as I sat quietly early one morning listening to my Father God. Earlier that week I was having a conversation with a friend who shared with me how radically her life had changed as she grasped what it meant to be God’s friend. She said that there was a peace and depth of intimacy in relationship that were not there before.
In the late 1960’s when I was living in San Francisco, CA I was walking down the street one evening when a young man handed me a piece of paper that was titled, “What is a Friend?” At the time I did not read it but merely stuck it in my pocket and continued on to wherever I was going. Later, after I arrived home, I took it out of my pocket and sat down to read it. To me it is the clearest description of a friend that I have ever read. It was written by C. Rayond Beran and reads:
“What is a friend? It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can be naked with him. He does not want you to be better or worse. When you are with him, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, so long as it is genuinely you. He understands those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With him you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness’s and absurdities and, in opening them up to him, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of his loyalty. He understands. You do not have to be careful. You can abuse him, neglect him, tolerate him. Best of all, you can keep still with him. It makes no matter. He likes you. He is like fire that purges to the bone. He understands. You can weep with him, laugh with him, sin with him, pray with him. He sees, knows and loves you. A friend, just one with whom you dare to be yourself.”
When I read this I thought about my friends. Some of them I do have this level of relationship with. I truly feel free around them to be myself. They do understand those contradictions in my nature, my vanities, envies and vicious sparks. And I know when they are expressed, they understand. On occasion I do abuse them, neglect them, and sometimes just tolerate them. They still like me. We have wept together, laughed together, sinned together, prayed together, and they still love me.
What if we were truly able to see God as a friend? One with whom we accept not only in our head but in our heart that he completely understands all the good and the bad and He still loves us. If you will give me a little artistic license here I believe it was possible that when Judas was betraying Jesus, that Jesus looked him in the eye and said, “Friend, go do what you came for.” (Mt. 26:50) My friend! How can this be, when He knew that Judas was going off to betray Him unto death! I think it was because Jesus understood what was motivating Judas to do what he did. He saw both the strength and weakness. I believe Jesus’ heart was deeply grieved because one of his friends had betrayed him. And yet, He still loved him. If Jesus could love Judas, surely He could love you. And if He loves you and wants an intimate relationship with you then He must also be your friend. I’ll end with this: “What is a friend? Just one with whom you dare to be yourself.”
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