“Live you.

Huh?

“Live you. Live your life. No one can do it for you.”

That’s how a life-changing conversation with God unfolded in my bedroom a few weeks ago. His words ignited a maelstrom of passion, previously stuffed emotions exploding into daylight, honest questions, and compelling vision. In short, my life just did a major switchback up into an uncharted new road and I’m loving (almost) every minute of it.

A huge part of this epiphany was that I could not live my life if I wasn’t being myself. Makes sense. C.S. Lewis has said of his relationship with Jesus, “May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou I speak to.” Amen. We’re not talking about the old self here, the sinful creep of a man I used to be. I’m talking about my “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

I can’t speak for you, but in my case, there are layers of Brad that rarely see the light of day. Places that aren’t balanced, ideas that undermine the status quo, longings to speak and act in ways that would definitely weird people out, offend others, and create some real dissonance in the flock I lead.

But I am me. Tragically flawed, beautifully passionate, uniquely gifted. All of that. So are you, by the way. Please hear that.

I preached on Lazarus’ resurrection last Sunday. Totally let ‘er rip. After the dust clears, I can honestly say, “I am Lazarus.” I am that dead guy, and Jesus has been calling me out of the tomb of social conventions and expectations. A deeper part of my heart, a core I have tried to forget, is awakening. It hears the call, and it’s been answering—primal, fragile, unsteady. But the layers have been coming off. I’m learning to be more real, which amounts to being more raw. The polished part of me has been public for awhile now. It’s the unfinished stuff that’s making an appearance, and it’s been so refreshing.

It’s like parts of me have been kept hidden till now—or maybe held captive, maybe even held hostage in the basement. I keep them there, under lock and key, feeding them just enough to keep them alive, afraid of what they will say and do and think and change if I let them out into the world. Afraid of progress, of failure, of brilliance and people and pitchforks and lynchings and hangmen. It’s like I’ve been waiting for permission to be myself. Permission from whom, I wonder? The world? It will never come. From my critics? Never. And now, from Jesus, comes the permission. No, not just permission, a commission. And I’m learning to answer. I resonate so deeply with Aragorn the the LOTR movies—pensive. Unsure. Called. And finally, rising up into his place in the story.

People around me have been sensing it, too. You have a new freedom, they say. You’re preaching with liberty, someone mentioned. Yes, I have been. And I’m just getting started. I’m sure to offend. I’m sure to alienate some—not by choice, but by design. But what can I do? I have to live me. I have to live my life. No one can do it for me.

How does this strike you?