When I decided to follow Jesus one night at a Christian conference in Atlanta, I assumed becoming a Christian would make life easier. I thought the rest of my life would be smiling and smooth sailing.
I assumed I wouldn’t be tempted by women and partying and acceptance and all the things that I’d been a slave to for so many years. I thought I would walk around with a continual inner peace and serenity like Gandhi or something.
This turns out to be a lie that too many people believe. You’ll actually experience more temptation, not less, after you become a Christian. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you’ll start living perfectly overnight. It certainly doesn’t mean your problems will disappear.
Rather than ridding you of problems or temptations, following Jesus means you have a place—no, a person—to run to when they come. And the power to overcome them.
I wish someone had told me this after that night in Atlanta. Because when I started stumbling and faltering after I became a Christian, I hid my struggles. Why? Because I didn’t think it was supposed to go down like that. And because too many Christians I know lived by the same lie and condemned, shamed, and rejected other Christians who messed up.
Since I thought I was supposed to be instantly sinless and my Christian friends did too, I lived a double life. I acted like a Christian around other Christians, but I let loose whenever I wasn’t.
I can’t tell you where we got the idea that following Jesus is some kind of quick fix for all of our struggles, but it wasn’t from the Bible. No, the Scripture is like one big, unbroken story about people who decided to follow God and ended up failing almost as much as they succeeded.
After God told Abraham he was going to have millions of kids, the old man literally laughed in God’s face. Jacob was a lying cheat before he met God at Bethel. And he was a lying cheat afterward too. These are two of Israel’s greatest patriarchs.
Moses was a murderer, a doubter, an excuse-maker. He was chosen to lead God’s people out of slavery. David was “a man after God’s own heart.” But he was also an adulterer. His son, Solomon, was the wisest man who ever lived. But he had hundreds of wives.
And Jesus’ disciples were all flawed in their own way—from Thomas, the doubter, to Peter, the hothead. With such a long list of people who both followed God and stumbled constantly, why would we assume our experiences would be any different?
But somehow we do. We fool ourselves into thinking that when we’re “born again” we come out of the womb walking. But spiritual infants are like physical infants.
When a child begins to learn how to walk, they fall a lot. I remember when my oldest son took his first step. My wife and I were so excited, but we expected him to fall right after he took it. And he did. But we didn’t condemn him for stumbling.
We were patient and encouraging. We clapped when he got back up and cheered him on for continuing to try. Each time he attempted to walk, he would take more steps than the last time.
But he would still fall, and sometimes he hurt himself. By letting him fail and loving him through it, he eventually succeeded. Now walking is a way of life for him. He can even run a race.
As with children, there is no time period for figuring out how to walk. Some kids are quick learners, and others take their time. This is also true spiritually.
After the Apostle Paul was converted, he retreated to the desert for three years and came back in full force. But it took Moses 40 years in the desert to get his act together.
Because God is a perfect parent, He is patient with us whether we are more like the 40-year-old Moses or the 3-year-old Paul. We need to have the same patience with each other and with ourselves as we make our way out of our deserts.
Many people don’t act like this. Because we tend to only tell stories about the fast-learning ones who find walking easy, we don’t tell many stories about those of us who fall. We just ignore them or condemn them or shame them. And because we don’t know any stories of the many others who are falling, we assume that we are the only ones who do.
Before rehab, I was trying to walk out of the desert by my own strength. That’s how I’d done everything my whole life, and no one told me it should be any different after becoming a Christian.
But now I realized that I had someone to help me learn how to walk, a parent who was patient when I stumbled and who would help teach me to walk if I’d let Him. Falling wasn’t the end of the world as long as I got back up and kept walking. After all, repentance is a continual act—a lifestyle—rather than a single event.
By the time I left rehab, I’d begun to finally surrender to my own imperfections. I’d been brought low by the embarrassment of being there and my crying mother’s visit. My mother was sad because I’d stumbled, but she was cheering me on to get back up.
In the same way, God refused to give up on me. He was still showing up, still waiting, and still wanting to help me start again.
LECRAE (@Lecrae) is a Grammy-award winning hip-hop artist whose 2014 album, Anomaly, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, Rap, Digital, Christian, Gospel, and Independent charts. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and three children. Excerpted from Unashamed. Used by permission of B&H Publishing.