As I’m asked about how things are going with my vow, I tell people that God and I are closer, but never how I’d expected.  In my mind, I think I expected crystal-clear direction and Christmas feelings from here on out.  I was going to be the most loving, kind, wise person you’ve ever met.

And yet, here I are: a “dirty, rotten sinner,” as my friends joked in college.

Instead of all the pretty decorations and ornaments, I find myself in the street; naked, blind, and hungry.  I haven’t become holier as I thought, I’ve become dirtier, more honest, and it wasn’t until I was free from my most beloved distractions that I could clearly see just how nauseating my humanity really is.

In the last twenty-one months I’ve wandered, hiked, tunneled, swam, and biked from the mindset of the Pharisee to the reality of the tax collector Jesus shares about in Luke 18:10-14.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Two years ago a friend gave me a word from the Lord, saying that He was going to take me high into the sky so I could see things differently, that He was going to “broaden my perspective.”  I was pleased to hear that, because at the time I was really seeking direction (story of my life, actually.)

I later realized that He intended to wash off all my pretty make-up, entirely undress me, and reveal my reality to me, as I had never seen myself before.  I can also see others as I have never seen them before.  It’s apparent to me now that apart from Him I’m no greater than an animal seeking to survive, rummaging for things I think will satisfy my hunger.

I tell others I feel closer to Him because, though I’m not playing a harp in the clouds as I somewhat imagined, I no longer have to exhaust myself trying to obtain holiness.  I can now be me, with no apology needed.  He and I can work on who I’m becoming piece by tiny piece.  Holiness accompanies humility and is not something to be gained by deeds.  I am only righteous, because He is righteous.

That kind of honesty and clarity is liberating and relieving.  I don’t have to dance around on strings pretending like I don’t have impure thoughts, selfish motives, or judgmental attitudes.  I don’t have to keep a condemning checklist of what I have and haven’t done for Him, straining to be enough.  Like butter spread over too much bread, as Bilbo put it.

Mostly, I love that I don’t have to impress Him.


He knows I’m dirty.  It was I who was deceived into thinking I could be good enough.

And now, He is far more real to me than I’ve ever known.  And it’s cool, because there’s this loose balance between the intense reverence I’ve gained for Him, and the frank irreverence we can enjoy together.

He and I can enjoy humorous things together, regardless of their nature.  But He can also handle it if I get angry or frustrated about something.  We hash it out and never once have I offended Him, and never once have I bested Him.

It’s important not to forget that His identity does not change because of this.  He is still the I AM.  And, lest I forget, every time I take holy communion He grips my heart and brings me into a reality that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  It’s just He and I, sewing shut old wounds, healing pains, and reassuring uncertainties with every munch of His packing peanut.  His love made so real, and so tangible.

It’s much like what I imagine being best friends with a king would be like.  You can enjoy a game of laser-tag, talk about hard times, and share deep secrets.  But He’s still the King and when the time comes you give Him your love and honor, just like everybody else.

So, why are we pretending?  Who are we fooling?  Who’s opinion are we really worried about?

He’s not worried about our dirt, so… why are we?

Because of Him,
Brent Hemphill


Also, if you’re just now joining my journey then please know that I will not be on Facebook during my time of consecration so any messages or requests you may have sent will not be responded to for quite some time. It’s not personal, it’s Jesus.

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