“They are just angry because the truth you speak contradicts the lie they live.” — Steve Maraboli
I have never lacked inspiration for bible verses. Growing up as a preacher’s kid in the American Baptist tradition every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening I could tell you exactly where I would be: in a pew. Naturally, the “Top 100 Hits” of scripture flow through my brain constantly…even as an agnostic.
But as I grew older I began to see the holes in scripture — the parts that didn’t include those that were like me. Even so, while I don’t study scripture daily as some do, I still find myself attracted to the poetry of the gospel.
And as we witness the severe questioning of truth in our world I think of the eighth book of John. Here we find the teacher Jesus at the temple as he is challenged by those he wishes to heal. The story is as old as time…or at least as old as John.
But the verse that plays on loop in my head is 32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Whoa. Truth will set me free? So why do I feel like truth has done nothing but imprison me my entire life? Why is it when I finally told the truth to my family and came out to them as gay I was immediately ostracized by the very people who’d taught me never to lie?
#Storytime: I began studying music in middle school. I played the french horn which was difficult, not just because it required a lot of practice but also because it took up a lot of room on the bus and the bully of a seatmate I’d been assigned didn’t like that apparently. Insert shoulder shrug.
As was often the case, one service my father provided an analogy to serve his point. The idea was that a grace note is so named because it is unable to be measured. Therefore, grace from god is unmeasured yada yada…
Here’s the kicker: that’s not really true. For example, in the classical period a grace note was very specifically metered. Not to mention that rhythm is for all intents and purposes math and therefore everything can be broken down into a measured amount.
So when asked to confirm that grace notes are unmeasurable, I pushed back. Now I didn’t think about that as pushing back. I was asked for my opinion (btw this was in the middle of a service) and I offered my expertise in the moment. After a little back and forth my father gave up and I received that look from my mother.
You know the one. The poisonous “you are so gonna get it later” look. In healthy familial environments this look is reserved for moments when you misbehave badly. But being raised by manipulative parents meant anytime you didn’t make them look good you were on the chopping block.
The truth will set you free.
How many of us have lived under this ideal? That being honest and upfront as we navigate life may not always mean things will be okay, but it will mean that they can be managed.
I know it seems like a small example, but I find it incredibly germane to the greater issue haunting our world. Some on this earth believe that truth is what confirms their ideas. We witness it in the refusal to follow simple CDC guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We experience it as more and more politicians refuse to accept the rightful and fair election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States.
The truth is (see what I did there?) we have been convinced that truth is what really matters and yet some subjective ideas are paraded as truths by those clinging desperately to their power. I witnessed it constantly as a preacher’s kid. The church doors were claimed to be open for all and yet when a visitor showed up and was too effeminate the congregants were cold to him. When a member wanted clarification on contesting verses they were often told not to question “god’s word.” And when I confronted my family with the unloving way I was treated after coming out as queer I was told I needed to get my heart right with god.
But the truth did set me free. Living boldly as the person I was always meant to be means I am free from the shackles of an existence of obedience. I became free to find truly unconditional love in my partner.
You want truth? Here’s truth for you: you are not broken. You are not sinful. You are human. And being human means dealing with fear, making mistakes, and, yes, sometimes even being wrong. But those moments can never define you completely. You are innately good, no matter what others may whisper in your ear.
So let the cat out of the bag. Say the truth even if you know you will be challenged. If we are unabashedly ourselves and speak open and honestly with others, we should find ourselves at a table both judge-free and judge-less. If not, it’s time to find another table.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.