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Unexpected. Uncomfortable. Exposed. Embarrassed. 

I hate it! Dread it. Loathe it. 

Sometimes, people peg you, put you in a box, and won’t let you out of it. Or, maybe the truth is we put ourselves in a box and then project that image construct back on ourselves, thinking that others have this unseen force field around us. It messes with your mind, your choices, and your faith. 

Growing up, there was both an ere of disengagement and rigidity in our home. Between dad’s anger over his shortcomings and our financial woes, fear ruled my heart. What was labeled as shyness was insecurity. Who was I and what did it mean to be a boy and later on a teenager?

My heart longed for delight. Someone to show an interest in me. Someone who could bestow masculinity on me. Of course, at seven and eight, and eleven years old, I didn’t know enough to articulate such emotional pain. By the time I turned thirteen, I was more messed up than I realized. My soaring testosterone levels, which I had no control over were pushing me out of my sheltered life.

Junior High brought scads of new experiences, pressures, and temptations. Some of those stretched me in awkward ways. The first time I had a wet dream shocked me. The desire to fit into a more rebellious crowd created such internal tensions. Some of them were stupid, and others were what I have since come to understand as amoral (matters of preference), but I treated them as rigid lines I dare not cross; but sure wanted to, at least in secret.

Social graces were not my forte growing up. Beyond the awkwardness of a growing body where my voice squeaked one minute and the next sounded like a bear, I felt weird around girls. They were so attractive and yet I felt awkward to be around them. What do I say? How do I look at them without imagining impure thoughts and getting hard while standing there?

Awkward.  Jesus, take away this embarrassing moment. These strange feelings. This tension to be less rigid.

Fast-forward quite a few decades. A lot has changed in me. Still an introvert, my social graces have vastly improved!  I can carry a conversation and in safe relationships be courageously vulnerable. That is one thing walking with Jesus has helped me mature in. 

There have been some bold steps I’ve taken in what I consider opinions and preferences; things that God gives us the freedom to choose. Romans 14 is a great passage on how to handle such amoral choices. My two tattoos, for example. Totally done out of faith. In fact, they both tell a story of my faith journey and ways that God has clarified my manhood identity. No regrets.

But, then there are other choices I want to make, of which I have the okay by God, but feel the restraint of man. What will people think?

It all comes down to image. The box I think people put me in and the box I sense I can be in by faith.

I can overthink an issue or choice until I get sick of thinking about it. I check off all the boxes and have a solid answer that in Christ I am free to do, but then, I hit the same wall.

Awkward. Unexpected. Uncomfortable. Exposed. Embarrassed. 

Maybe my issue is I desperately want you to like me. I don’t want you angry or displeased with me. Perhaps that stems from growing up fearful of anger projected on me. My lack of confidence in who I was as a boy and a teenager caused me to hesitate on trying new things. 

“Gotta be safe.” I kept telling my soul.  Jesus was never safe. Good, yes. Safe, never. Jesus had such a clear picture of his identity as the beloved son of God such that he could stand up to those who didn’t like him, who were angry and downright evil towards him. Jesus had only one kind of fear. Fear of his heavenly Father. A righteous, holy fear, which was his anchor for confidence.

Let’s face it, I’d like to get my ears pierced. I’m worried about the awkward moments that will definitely come when I run into certain people. They might do a double-take, comment about them, or say something about it being odd that I would wear them. Question my motives. Be displeased with me. Reject me. 

Our culture by and large could care less if I got them. Some of my social circles would have a hard time with me getting them. But then would I have gotten them out of rebellion?  No. Would they be done out of faith? Yes. Around seven years ago I had open heart surgery. My cardiologist and my surgeon both told me my right coronary artery is unusually small; only 2 millimeters in diameter. (The average size is over 3mm.) Getting a 2mm stud would remind me of God’s grace in keeping me alive! Would my wife like them? Yes. In fact, she wants to know why I haven’t gotten them already.

What about work or professional settings? Yes, those would be awkward. Unexpected. Uncomfortable. Exposed. Embarrassed. But for how long?

Maybe that is what my issue has been all along. I am fearful of your anger and rejection of me for the choices I make. Why do I fear you? Why is my fear of you competing with my identity in Jesus? Why is it so important to me that you like me? 

Could it be I lacked such growing up? Could it be the lack of masculinity bestowed on me put me in a scared, precarious place?

Jesus gives me a new heart. He removes the old and places me in His complete sonship. I am loved and in Christ, I am no longer condemned or held hostage by the fear of man.

So, Jesus, you do not box me in. You give me complete freedom. Not to sin, but to live this life to its fullest.  Who knows how much time I have left? Would I regret not getting real earrings versus the magnetic ones I dabble with? Yes. But not a devastating regret. As Romans 14 so aptly says, life is not about eating or drinking or any such thing. It’s about righteousness and joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, do a MASSIVE supernatural work in my heart. This is a totally NON-salvation decision. I surrender myself to you. 

Help me overcome awkwardness by being secure in you, my true identity.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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