Peterson: Ditch the Pretense – Be Honest with God

Post a Comment » Written on July 16th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Don Meyer

KNOXVILLE, TN (July 16, 2009) – They were huddled in small groups all over the main Thompson-Boling Arena floor, crying and praying together as a few hundred students attending CHIC2009 accepted Christ or recommitted their lives following a powerful message and an invitation from speaker Judy Peterson.

Peterson, who serves as campus pastor at North Park University, wasted no time in drilling down to a core problem confronting not only teens today, but adults as well – living lives of pretense out of a fear of rejection.

In an intensely personal message punctuated with experiences from her own life, Peterson drew on the biblical story of David and his indiscretion with Bathsheba, pointing out not only David’s failures, but sharing David’s wisdom in Psalm 32 as he points the way to God’s redemptive love and grace.

JudyIn a style familiar to those who have heard Peterson preach before, she quickly drew her audience in through sharing her own foibles – especially the many insecurities she proceeded to describe. She explained how each day she cleans the house, changes the bedding, scrubs the bathroom – and even makes her workout clothes look like they are regularly used. She shared her fear of dying before returning home and wanting anyone entering her house to think she is neat, orderly and disciplined – something she quickly made clear is not the case.

“People often pretend – they are living a lie,” Peterson said. “They try to make it look like they have it all together, when in truth their lives are messy.” Recalling incidents from her childhood through teenage and college years, Peterson confessed, “Now I’m 39 years of age and still afraid that people will find out I don’t have it all together.”

We’re all the same – we don’t want to be teased or judged, she explained. “So, we’re never honest – we just allow glimpses of what we’re really like. We live a lie a lot of the time – or a half-truth.

“We have one, big, basic fear: if we are found out, we will be rejected,” she suggested. “No Facebook friends, no Twitter friends. We’ll be alone, rejected. And we can’t handle that. Pretending protects us. It’s risky to put it all out there.”

Judy describes herself as super insecure – she even paints her own toenails before going for a pedicure because she doesn’t want people to see her feet as ugly. She says she doesn’t want to feel exposed or feel vulnerable.

“We are all like this,” Peterson told the crowd. “We’re afraid for someone to care for us. We hide because we think we will get more love. So, we have pretend relationships. The only way to take a risk is being convinced that we are loved and they won’t leave us.”

She contrasted how we treat others suffering from messy lives with the way we think of ourselves in relationship to God. “For people (others) whose messiness is obvious, it is easier to reach out and say that God loves you just as you are. But, for those whose messiness is not so obvious (our own), it’s different. We have a hard time receiving God’s love. We think if we can be perfect, God will love us. We think we have to earn it.”

Peterson suggests that those who have learned to pretend are more at risk of missing the love of Jesus. “Pretending is not just a problem found in the world – it is a big problem among Christians too,” she explained. “Pretending is much quicker and easier than being honest.”

CrossShe recounted the story of King David where he becomes involved with the wife of another man. “David is powerful – he is the king. He sees Bathsheba and invites her over to his rooftop. He thinks it is no big deal – until she tells him she is pregnant. David figures he can fix this problem by having her husband, Uriah, come back from battle to be with her – and that the husband would think the baby is really his. But, the husband refuses. So David decides another sin will cover up the first one. He arranges for the husband to be killed in battle. Then after an appropriate time of mourning, he marries Bathsheba so that people will think the baby came as a result of that marriage.”

But as David shares in Psalm 32, it didn’t matter that no one else may have known what he did, she observed. He knew – and the guilt was overwhelming. “There are consequences to sin – pretending is painful.”

Peterson suggested the reason many Christians do not spend much time doing kingdom work is because “they’re too busy managing all of their own junk. We waste half our energy keeping our stuff hidden all the time. That is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions – people so afraid of being found out that they only live into half of their potential.”

But, David’s account offers hope, sharing what can happen when one comes clean before God and acknowledges sin. “How blessed in the one whose sin is forgiven…” she says in reciting scripture.

David uses three words – transgression, sin, and iniquity – in the Psalm passage, she points out:

Transgression – she defines this as crossing boundaries that God has set. “Blatant disobedience – like going further sexually than you should have, or cheating and lying. You knew what you were doing – but you didn’t care.”

Sin – when one doesn’t live up to the standards God has set – “like when we walk past the person who was hurting and we did nothing to help, or being silent when we should have spoken up.”

Iniquity – those things that influence our lives so that we do not develop in healthy ways, growing up twisted instead – “like child abuse, or feeling betrayed, or being pressured to be a perfectionist.” Things may not have been our fault, but they shaped us in ways that are not always healthy.

Praise“We need to own this stuff,” she said in challenging the students to be open and confess it to God. “The Psalm invites us to be honest about these things. We have to stop pretending we have no garbage. We have to acknowledge our trangressions, our sins, our iniquities. David owns his own stuff – he doesn’t try to blame someone else.”

A healthy response, she suggests, begins with not hiding our own sin and confessing it openly. “The guilt of our transgressions is removed, the sin is covered and is remembered no more,” she says in quoting the passage. “Like David, we still live with the consequences, but forgiveness is there. God’s graciousness can get rid of it all. No sin is so big that it is outside of God’s ability to forgive it.”

Peterson then proceeded to do something she says she has never done before – something she felt convicted to do as a way of dramatically illustrating the problem of pretense and hiding behind false fronts.

She first shared her insecurity when she was first married – she didn’t want her husband to see her without her makeup for fear he might not love her as much. She likened that to lives that seek to mask what is underneath. She then poured water onto a towel and proceeded to scrub off the makeup she had worn to the service, much to the delight of the students.

But, the arena quickly grew quiet again as she held up the soiled cloth for all to see – cameras zoomed in and portrayed it on the giant arena screens. “This is what we hide behind,” she said in drawing an analogy to our everyday lives. “It isn’t beautiful at all. The only hope we have is to stop pretending – to strip away the stuff.”

She spent a few moments describing the character and nature of God who as our loving father – our “abba,” or as she defines it, “daddy” – noting that God is loving, not angry, and one who considers his children as beloved.

“Nothing will ever separate you from the one who calls you beloved,” she said in offering an opportunity for those touched by the message to come forward to accept Christ or recommit their lives to Christ. Students and counselors streamed down the arena’s many aisles to join Peterson in the center of the main floor beneath a large wooden cross where Peterson shared a closing prayer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog