Early Acts: The Truth About Lies
“Lies will kill you from the inside. The lies that give you comfort today will slowly bleed you out.” That’s what reGROUP Director Kailey Newkirk said in her sermon on reGROUP Sunday. But is that true, or is it just a clever turn of phrase, a sermonized figure of speech that sounds good from the pulpit but falls flat when it gets in the real world? Hmmm, let’s see….
“I am lonely. I am dying on the inside. I wish you knew me.” That’s what I said for most of my life. And if it sounds cliché—tough. It’s a line from the script of my life, but it never made the director’s cut; it wasn’t for the public. I was afraid. I was afraid to let anyone in. The secrets I kept and the battles I faced had convinced me that no one could be trusted to really know me. And for years, the things I saw and heard in casual conversation confirmed this. You confirmed my fears without even knowing it, because I heard your words through the filter of my lies and secrets. And so I put forward an altered version of myself. I needed acceptance; I craved being known. And since I knew I couldn’t have that, I would settle for what I could get. The problem is that I never gave anyone the chance to know and accept me.
Fear of truth was killing me slowly, and that fear grew because of the trust I had put in the lie. I trusted the lie more than I trusted the gospel. I trusted the lie more than I trusted my closest friends. You see, I knew what happened when the lie failed me—it had been failing me most of my life. But what if the gospel failed me? What if those closest to me failed me? What if I put aside the lies and shared the truth? Those questions scared me so much that I never even considered what the real answers were.
One of my closest friends asked me if I had shared my story with a mutual friend of ours, someone who loves Jesus and loves me well. My response was that the other friend couldn’t handle it, that he had not even asked to carry that weight of my story. I had convinced myself that I was safer in community with the lies than in community with the believers around me. So one night when my anger overtook my fear, that mutual friend got my whole story dropped in his lap. In a fiery avalanche of rage, accusation, and contempt, I blasted him with my story. When my verbal stream of consciousness was exhausted and my protected truth hung in the air, the adrenaline faded and my fear and shame returned. As the lies in my head voiced that I was a fool to trust, my friend’s words overpowered them as his hand gripped my shoulder: “Thank you for trusting me. I love you and I’m here for you.”
Do you know the feeling of having a life-long fear fall away and be proven wrong? Do you know the feeling of someone looking at your secret shame and not walking away? Do you know the peace of sitting with someone who knows the worst of you and having it make your friendship stronger? I always knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my lies were all someone could handle; that the truth would destroy everything I had built. It was only once I finally followed the call to be honest and glimpsed life past the truth that I could see the death I had been living in for so long.
I have a group I call my bench: men and women who know my secrets, know my battles, and walk through life with me and love me—not in spite of my secrets, but regardless of them. That distinction is huge. My story is not tolerated or just put up with. It is loved and cared for. They don’t ignore my secrets or pretend I didn’t tell them. But they don’t let them define me in their eyes. One of the sweetest parts of my present life happens fairly regularly, and each time it shocks me. It happens in those casual moments when I’m hanging out with a friend. We’re sitting across from each other, and maybe one of us makes a joke and we’re laughing. Or we’re just chatting about work, families, or the latest show we’re watching. And as we sit there, I realize I have once again forgotten…they are on my bench, they know. I see their eyes looking at me, and there is nothing on the other side but love, acceptance, and friendship. My breath catches and my heart skips a beat. Like stepping from a dark room into a sun-filled day, the fear and lies are instantly replaced, yet again, with warmth and joy. My eyes shimmer with this repeated whisper from God, my Father, and I feel his arms wrap me in a loving, “See, I told you so.”
The lies, as Kailey said, always demanded that I adjust my life to protect them—to protect them but not me. Those lies became the gravity that helped keep me in place, held me down in loneliness and isolation. But through sheer desperation, I accidentally broke free from that gravity into a weightlessness found only through the truth to which Christ calls us.
Did I say before that I was afraid? Change that to: I am afraid. I still fear being known. Yet, there are people around me who are trapped by the same lies that held me hostage. There are men and women who share the sanctuary seats with me on a weekly basis who are dying on the inside. I know that death—I lived that death. So what is next? Do I let fear keep me where I am, a little more known and safe with a bench that is big enough? Or do I remember what it was like to scream silently for someone to tell me it will be OK? Do I choose to be that someone for a brother or sister starving in isolation? We are the ones who will make it safe for others to tell their story, and we do so by telling ours truthfully, with care and wisdom, while not letting fear keep us hidden.
Stephen told the truth and he was killed for it. Yet the death of Stephen was the trigger for the gospel being spread to the ends of the earth. What death am I willing to face to tell the truth? Will I let my reputation, my pride die in order for others to know there is truth beyond the lies? I desperately needed someone to share their story and make it a safe place for me to share mine. Is God calling me to be that for someone else? And if so, will I follow Stephen and speak truth, or will I convince myself that the lie is OK? Hmmm, let’s see….
If you have ever felt like there is something standing between you and the person God has called you to be—or if you just feel like life isn’t what you thought it would be—reGROUP is an opportunity to walk toward healing and recovery through a safe, small group community. Everyone is welcome to join us for reGROUP on Monday nights at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Campus.
Del Schwalls fights floods for a living as an environmental engineer and teaches training classes all over the country. He’s originally from south Georgia and has been living in Orlando for 15 years. He first visited Summit in 2007 for a Summit Connect event, returned the following Sunday, and has been here ever since! He also has an identical twin brother named Dug.