Sharing Our Real Stories

By Keith Miller | August 2, 2010

Keith: About a year ago I started going to church again.  I was raised to believe that after a real commitment and surrender to God, we can live a moral life and have good relationships.  I’m still having strong temptations that are a real struggle to resist, and I get into arguments with my wife and children a lot, too.  I guess I didn’t really make a total commitment, and I want to know how to do that so these struggles and painful encounters in my relationships will go away.  Any ideas?

Well, for me there has been good news and bad news about inner conflict (struggle with temptation) and problems like pride, envy, lust, and controlling of people with whom I am in relationships.  First the bad news: these things don’t automatically go away because we have surrendered to God.  But here’s the good news.  They can be diminished because we have given God permission to transform us—to change our attitudes and thoughts—the culprits behind our inner conflicts and painful relationships.

When I first decided to surrender my life to God as I saw God in Jesus, I found that I still had inner conflicts and difficulties.  Wanting to learn, I looked for books that dealt with having problems after becoming a Christian, but I couldn’t find any.  The writers of the books at that time (1956) seemed to assume (as you were taught) that once a person makes a serious commitment to God, his or her only problems are learning how to read the Bible and pray.  The unspoken (or spoken) assumption was that the problems and temptation I had would melt somehow because I read the scriptures and prayed. It seemed to me that the point of most of the books I read was that “real” Christians don’t have problems with moral issues and relationships.  The common thread was, “I used to have horrible problems.  But since I accepted Jesus (bless the Lord and give him all the credit), I don’t have such struggles anymore.”

But when I shared my experience, I just couldn’t bring myself to tell my newly converted friends (or even imply) that the truly committed Christian is relieved of all his or her problems simply because of making a sincere verbal commitment.  If they heard and believed that, they might feel their commitment must not have been valid because they still had to struggle with the ethical and moral issues of control and self-centered behavior in their personal and business/professional worlds.

As I read the story of the apostle Paul in the Bible, it seemed to me that he never ever got over his pride and some of his other problems.  And I remember feeling very relieved when I noticed that.  So I said, in effect, “Since I became a Christian, I love God very much.  My deep intention is to love the Lord Jesus Christ with my whole heart, and my life is consciously committed to God.  But I still have problems. I’m still selfish, I’m still greedy.  I still want to be inordinately successful.  I’m still resentful.  I have lustful thoughts.  Yet, I love God with all my heart and I’m finding hope and meaning—and my wife says I’m a lot more fun to live with.”

Almost ten years after I began my search for a book about living a Christian life that included dealing with problems I wrote a book about my own experience, called “The Taste of New Wine”.  I described becoming a Christian and still having to struggle with difficulties.  To my amazement, the book sold more copies that any of us could have imagined.  That led me to realize that many people identify with our struggles in the midst of our hope and joy as we live out our stories.  We are brothers and sisters, not at the level of our piety and religious achievements, but in our insecurity, pride, and fear.

Yet we Christians tend to tell about our conversion experience but leave out many of the agonizing problems we still have inside.  But when we leave them out, we lose the point of identification with people: their felt need for hope in the midst of problems.

So if this is true, why don’t we acknowledge and talk about our real lives, including the struggles and failures?   Before I became a Christian, my fear was that if I commit my future to Christ and become vulnerable by letting other Christians walk into my real life, they’ll see my imperfections and pride and judge me or avoid me.  Or, if I tell the people closest to me that God is really changing me, they’ll still be as they were and will reject me for changing.

I think that almost all of us have this fear that if we reveal the broken fragments of our lives to one another, we won’t be loved.

But I’ve come to believe that God can use those broken pieces as part of a beautiful mosaic as he fits the pieces of our lives closer to himself and each other.  In fact Jesus told the disciples that they were supposed to be light.  He told them that “by opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (The Message)

Dear Lord, I give you permission to infuse my heart and mind with your love, so that I can begin to see my awful, ingrained habits of pride, selfishness, control, and all the rest, and finally trust you with everything in my life… so you can furnish the power for me to change.  Show me how to live and love people enough to open my life more to other people and live like you would have me live.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”  Luke 5:31 The Message

“God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” Romans 2:3 The Message

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you can live together whole and healed.” James 5:17

One comment | Add One

  1. Caren Upshaw - 08/3/2010 at 8:00 am

    wonderful post Keith. You are a shining light, and I love the part about being brothers and sisters on the level of our insecurities and imperfections. I’m thanking God for our teachers; Jesus, Paul and YOU!

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