By Chuck Dennie
I’ve served in large churches for the past 10 years. These churches do amazing things in people’s lives, their communities, and around the world. They create environments where people’s lives are made whole.
The problem is, my life was broken. My mom left when I was 6 months old, and I could tell you about many other sources of my brokenness, but we all have a story we could tell. I came to believe early on that love is earned, and so I began to pursue the approval of others. When you combine these factors and this approach to life with the sinful nature that lives in all of us, you have a recipe for brokenness. I am ashamed to admit all of this, but it’s the truth.
A couple of years ago, I started to assess my life and my feelings by peeling away the layers about what I didn’t like about myself. During this personal inventory, I listened to what people were saying about me, and I quickly realized that how I felt on the inside did not match what was happening on the outside.
On the inside I felt scared and insecure. I felt like no one liked me. I considered myself fat (that’s probably why I was working out five times a week for over an hour a day). I thought of myself as boring and unsuccessful. The list goes on. But on the outside I acted like Chris Hemsworth (you know, the blond dude who plays Thor). True story: One night my wife and I went to see the new Thor movie, which Joanne was not excited about . . . until the opening scene when Chris Hemsworth filled the screen with flowing blond hair and huge, rippling muscles, and I heard Joanne say, “ohhhhh.” It’s now my wife’s favorite movie. But I digress . . . back to my story.
So, on the outside I projected myself as a confident, strong, talented, put-together, successful person who has everything to offer. But it was all a front, a put-on to try and make people like me. You see, I didn’t truly like myself. I didn’t believe God liked me. And I believed that if you knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me either.
So I performed.
A few months ago, when I’d finally had enough, I checked myself into the Living Centered Program at a place called Onsite. I learned about it in Donald Miller’s book Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say I experienced more life transformation during one week in the program than I had in years.
That week, I learned that vulnerability is one of the most strategic keys to building a deeper spiritual life and healthy relationships. Vulnerability—to be truly seen by others . . . to open myself up and let you in to the not-so-good parts of me. Vulnerability is waking up every day and loving Joanne without the assurance that she will love me back. Vulnerability is also sharing my art and ideas with the world and having no assurance they will be accepted or appreciated.
So now the good news: I know Jesus and he knows me. My journey has not been perfect, but I can say I’ve been crazy in love with Jesus since giving my life to him in 1994. So crazy in love that in all my mistakes I always returned to him. Crazy in love because in constant chaos he proved to be the stillness. Crazy in love because while being tossed by the sea he proved himself faithful as my anchor.
First John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I am learning. He is not punishing me. He is perfecting me.
I am only beginning this journey, but I am starting to realize it is in moments of vulnerability, of being seen, that we truly experience authentic community with God and with one another. My prayer is to allow myself to be fully seen . . . both the good and the bad. I believe God is more interested in who we are becoming than what we are doing.
Chuck Dennie is an award-winning musician, producer, and director. He was a founding member of By the Tree and worship leader and campus pastor for Life.Church. He serves as creative director with The Crossing, Quincy, Illinois, and lives in Franklin, Tennessee. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.