Yesterday, as I was getting ready, I was suddenly blinded by a flash and I realized that my legs had once again turned white. This happens to me about every three days. You see, I have a confession to make. I use Jergens self-tanning lotion. You know, the stuff that gives you such a nice
orange natural tan? Having cancer prone skin, I have decided I’d rather be white or orange than have cancer. To me, that seems like a really wise choice, but having made this white wise choice, I now have to apply my tan carefully every few days. You really do have to be careful with this I’ve found. One terrible time, I put it on and decided I was too tired to wait for it to dry. I mean, how bad could it be to get in bed when you have wet, orange lotion dye all over your legs? Well let me tell you, it can be pretty bad. When I woke up, my legs looked like I had been in a battle. Instead of a tan, I had what looked like bruises all over my legs. Let me just say, I would never do that unless you are the lying type and have a really good story to go along with it. Whenever someone asks, “Oh, what happened?” Immediately you are faced with a dilemma. Do I lie and make up some amazing story or simply say, “I went to bed with self-tanning lotion that hadn’t dried?” Well, back to yesterday. When I got out of the shower, I couldn’t find my tanning lotion anywhere. I looked everywhere and it was just – gone. Usually when I can’t find something, I assume one of the kids took it, but this time I just can’t imagine any of the kids or John wanting to borrow my lotion. I guess if any of them did, I will know. All of that to say, my legs are now a nice shade of white.
My tan dilemma makes me think of our lives so many times. When things in our lives are easy, it’s very easy to act ‘right.’ Our inhibitions are up and we are able to keep our actions in check. It’s really not that we’re trying to trick anyone. In fact, we even often talk about our situations with a sigh of resignation. We go between really struggling, struggling a bit and living in almost victory. What we don’t realize is that we can be completely free and that the reason our issues come and go is because they haven’t been dealt with at heart level. It’s kind of like sin management as opposed to sin eradication or heart soothing instead of heart healing. We’re walking around with bad, fading tans when God has offered us the real thing.
While growing up, I had an anger problem. Being the oldest of eight children gave me the opportunity to display it more often than I like to remember. When John and I got married, I remember thinking, “Wow! My anger – it’s just gone!” I had the self-tanning lotion of easy circumstances. Well, when we had kids and I had no sleep and my big plans like taking a shower, making the bed, eating or picking up toys got interrupted, I found that my anger problem was not fixed – it had just been dormant because there was little stress. Hormones are another thing that would seem to bring my anger to the forefront. Most of the month I could keep things at bay, but once certain times hit, it seemed that it moved to the forefront. It’s like my reminder yesterday that my tan is not real. My anger was still there, it just wasn’t always at the forefront.
Anger is just one example, but there are so many other things like fear, bitterness, habits and many other sins as well as broken places that we think we have gotten past, but they seem to keep making appearances in our lives. Those things can come out in so many ways like fear, gossip, unhealthy relationships, people pleasing, relational distance, compulsive behaviors, sin habits that can’t be broken and on and on and on it goes. We keep applying tanning lotion and may look tan for a while, but the tan fades when stress comes. I think the problem so oftentimes is that we are applying self tanning lotion or willpower where what we really need for lasting change is a change of heart. Only God can do this and thankfully, He knows how to get to the root of anything we can’t get around in our life. I’m finding there is always a root for the brokeness and sin our life displays. God wants to heal the brokeness and get rid of the resulting sin.
Luke 6:45 says “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what’s in your heart.” Whatever is in abundance in our heart will eventually make it’s way out. It really will whether we like it or not.
God is fighting for our healing and freedom. What if when our actions are hurtful, sinful or broken, we asked God to get to the root. Sometimes the root is bigger and a lot deeper than we could have imagined, but thankfully we serve a big God! What if instead of berating ourselves that our tan is fading and running for the tanning lotion because we are once again exposed, we went to God? And what if instead of asking Him to help us with our symptom, we ask Him and allow Him to go deep and and reveal the brokeness behind the sin. Actually, a lot of times we think we look tan, but our lotion is badly applied and we look bruised to others. The only person that we have tricked into thinking we’re tan is ourselves. I would so often stop at the anger when I was praying. My prayer would go something like this, “God, please forgive me for lashing out in anger, and help me not to do that anymore.” I would spend time with Him and feel calmed down, but then a few days later or hours later, something stressful would happen and it would all reappear. Of course, the enemy was right there berating me and I would muster all of the willpower I could and try a little harder. The cycle would continue on and on and on, but what I hadn’t realized was that the anger was the result of hurt that was much deeper as well as some misunderstanding about who God really is. I needed forgiveness to be sure, but also I needed healing and God to bring wholeness to a broken area. I repented of the anger because that was the resulting sin from the root of some hurts I had and then I asked God to show me the brokeness. Wow! There was a lot and it’s no wonder that the minute my inhibitions came down, I would find myself angry. It wasn’t instantaneous, but it was a progression. He began dismantling many things in my heart that needed reconstructing. God has so amazingly healed my heart and I can truly say that anger is not an issue for me anymore. It is most definitely not because I tried harder or mustered up more strength. I tried that for a long time! Rather, it is that God healed that area of my life so completely there is not much there to be unleashed. That is not at all to say I am perfect in that area or that I never get angry. I still do, but it’s pretty infrequent and doesn’t feel like it’s sitting right there simmering under the surface. Right now, He is revealing a whole other area of my life that needs wholeness and healing. I am learning that not only is this a good thing, but it is the first step on the road to freedom in this area. I’m actually excited that those places are now exposed because I know there will be freedom at the end!
Our journey WITH God is a journey TOWARD freedom. Did you get that? We are not journeying toward God. If we have given our life to Him, He is with us. He is working alongside us fighting for our freedom and we just follow His lead and respond to Him. A lot of time the first step towards our healing and freedom is just the realization that our problem is that we need healing as well as forgiveness. You see holiness (freedom from sin) and wholeness go hand in hand. I Peter 2:24 says, “He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.” Jesus did not just die for our physical healing, but also for our spiritual healing. Luke 4:18 says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has appointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” This is WHY Jesus came!! On the cross, Jesus took care of the two things that keep us stuck in our old life – sin and brokeness! A lot of times we ignore one or the other and we wonder why we’re defeated. He really is a God who is fighting for our freedom and healing! He staged a war against bondage and brokeness on the Cross! We can trust Him with our heart. We don’t have to settle for self tanning lotion that fades but can have the real thing. He doesn’t offer just a behaviour change but a complete heart transformation! Salvation is only the first step into this amazing life He has brought us into! As we journey with Him, He will bring us into more and more freedom and wholeness if we allow Him to. This is the transformation process He invites us into! John 8:36 says, “So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”