It was my least favorite night of the year.
Between kindergarten and sixth grade, my kids participated in a Christian children’s program called Awana. Nearly every Wednesday night, they joined other young people for games, Bible teaching, snacks, and Scripture memorization. They wore vests and earned pins and patches – and they often received yardsticks with their favorite candy bars taped to the length when they met the Scripture challenges of one of the leaders, Mike Myer. Mike pretended to be tough and gruff but he had a heart far bigger than the yardsticks of candy bars he handed out. The kids loved Mr. Myer. Besides earning one of his yardsticks, and participating in game-time, and the yearly pine derby races, one of the most loved parts of Awana was theme night. Crazy Hair Night. Bring a Friend Night. Affliction Night. Missionary Night. Backwards Night. I don’t remember them all, but I DO remember Layer Night.
I dreaded it.
The idea was for the kids to see who could wear the most layers of clothing. Some of my children tended to be competitive. Very competitive. Layer Night meant oodles of socks, shorts, long pants, sweat pants, older brother’s pants, tee-shirts, long sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, dad’s shirts and ties, jackets, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves – any article of clothing that could be used as a layer.
I dreaded it because before the start of game time, all the layers that went over the kids’ regular clothing were removed, counted, and left in a heap.
And the clothes in that heap were wrinkled and dirty by the time they made it home. As a family of eight, I was accustomed to mounds of laundry from everyday living. I didn’t need the extra piles from Layer Night.
But it sure was fun to watch as my competitive son tried to waddle out the door and into the car. Awkward is an understatement. It probably would have been easier to flip him on his side and roll him the short distance to the church we attended.
Yeah, the awkwardness of a waddling nine-year old wearing six hundred, ninety-five layers of clothing is pretty hilarious.
But that same look isn’t quite so funny when it is a full-grown, Christ-following adult.
Yet we do it. Walk around in layers.
We Bible believers put on Christ, just as we are commanded to do. But we forget about – or maybe we are too afraid – to remove all of the old layers beneath. We even continue to add extra layers because we think we need them for protection.
And so we waddle around wondering why the promises of God – the freedom and joy and abundance – don’t seem to work for us.
In my recently published, short memoir Papier Mache Princess, I share my own awkward journey of hiding beneath layers of insecurities and lies that I continued to believe even after I recognized Christ as my Redeemer and Savior. Like many others, I believed that once I became a Christian, once I surrendered to the One who came to bring abundant living, that my old life was gone. And in many ways it was – God immediately saw me as righteous in Christ, my sins were forgiven.
But there was still the tension of walking out that incredible gift from God. Ephesians 4:20-32 tells us that walking the Spirit filled life isn’t just a matter of putting on Christ, but also of putting off so much from our former way of living and thinking – ideas, beliefs, behaviors, and coping mechanisms that have clung to us from childhood or other life experiences.
But you have not so learned Christ. If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry and do not sin,” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole, steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good so that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:20-32 NKJV
The first step in taking something off is recognizing and acknowledging that we even have it on. We can do this by paying attention and asking ourselves: do I struggle with unforgiveness? bitterness? anger? gossip? lying – or exaggerating? Do I lie to myself rather than believing what God says about me? Do I struggle with lust? (Lust isn’t necessarily a sexual thing – it is a strong desire or craving for something – perhaps an addiction to shopping or something else, or always wanting more, or wanting something that someone else has.) We can ask am I selfish or am I giving?
Carrying around extra layers prevents us from walking freely. Many people quote Philippians 3: 13, when Paul says “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” as a reason for ignoring our pasts. But in the previous verses, Paul was talking about all of the GOOD things that he once put his confidence in. He listed them, looked at them, and compared them to knowing Christ. Finding them woefully lacking in comparison, he let them go and pressed on for a greater prize.
The thing is, we can’t let go of what we don’t know we are hanging on to.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. That’s what Ephesians 4:23 says.
Letting go begins with our thinking, what goes on in our mind. We must take time to be still and figure out what we are believing, because beliefs determine behaviors. And unless we recognize and let go of old, unhealthy patterns of thinking and believing, we will never fully experience the grace(ful) walk that is in Christ. We’ll continue to waddle. Our behaviors might change but it will be an awkward, gritting the teeth, waddling kind of change, rather than the liberation that comes from a renewed mind.
Sometimes it helps to have a mentor or a close friend to go through the process with us. Or to begin a purposeful daily journaling habit. Coaches and counselors are also valuable resources. (Note: I will be able to take on 3-4 new clients beginning in January. Check my coaching link to see if you are interested. God has really impressed on my heart to do this on an income-based/donation payment system rather than charging a set fee so don’t let cost be a stumbling block. My goal is to help as many people as I can walk in freedom, and live the abundant life they were created for.)
We live in the present by letting go of the past. And we let go of the past by looking at it, discovering what is worth keeping, and discarding the rest.
Prayer: Father, I pray for each person who reads this today to know YOU and the power of Your resurrection, the power that raised Christ from the dead and dwells within Your children. Guide us in letting go of any of the layers that hinder of us from walking in freedom. I pray that you will provide friends, mentors, coaches, and counselors for those who need them on this letting go journey. And I pray that as we let go of cumbersome layers, we are able to fully display Your glory by walking in kindness, being tenderhearted, able to forgive others as well as ourselves. May we live out the abundant life You came to give us. In Jesus Name.
Grateful for this abundant life,
One more note – Papier Mache Princess is now available on Kindle! It is also available through Barnes and Noble. I appreciate those who have purchased the book and am even more grateful for those who have shared with me the impact that it had on them. I would appreciate it so much if you would share the link to it with others and also leave a review and/or rating on Amazon. This is helpful for new authors. Thank you. <3 Marie