A few years ago I was introduced to a YouTube entertainer named Paul Soares, Jr. Paul is best known for creating YouTube videos that center on a game called Minecraft. At first, there were no real tutorials showing players “How to Survive & Thrive”.
What did Paul do? He created a video series called “Survive and Thrive”. Today, Paul creates videos featuring a variety of other games. Nevertheless, he is still remembered for his Minecraft content.
Paul was really taking a risk with his first video. He had no idea that his first video would be so popular. What is Minecraft? It is a sandbox style, building games that have things coming out in the midst of the night. Guess what the first thing you’re supposed to do? In Paul’s first video, he dubbed his first shelter, a hidey hole.
What if Paul never came out of that hidey hole? A boring series is not the only problem. In the course of his career, Paul went on to touch many lives and I’m not talking about video games.
It all started when he decided to take a risk and come outside. Is it not time for you to come out of your own hidey-hole?
When I first wrote the following story, it was called “Escaping the Bubble”. For me, it seemed a good title as I could not think of a better one. In time I would hear of Paul Soares and his hidey-hole. “Come out of Your Hidey-Hole” seems a better fit. I will let you decide.
There is one difference between my hidey-hole and Paul’s. His hole existed in a game. It was meant to shelter him from the bad guys that came out in the night. My hole was meant to be a place of hiding from the outside world. Why was I hiding?
As a child, I struggled with a fear of rejection and a need for acceptance. If you read my earlier chapters, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The sad truth is that the pain of severe rejection doesn’t go away as you get older. You have to deal with it in one fashion or another.
For me, I chose to hide in fantasy role-playing games. I got involved in these games when I was in college. In 1990, fantasy role-playing games became a place of refuge from the outside world. My old group probably did not know of the hellish summer from a few years before. That summer ordeal served to exacerbate the existing emotional pains in my heart.
In 1990, I was introduced to the world of fantasy role playing games. It seems that I had found my hidey-hole. It was a chance to escape and hide from the outside world. I deceived myself into thinking the games would somehow help me. In reality, these games are not meant to solve problems of the heart.
What kinds of games am I talking about? Games like Generic Universal Role Playing (GURP), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), Top Secrets, and Marvel Superheroes. The group would use a paper based character sheet and dices when playing. I would just create a fictional character and interact in an imagined setting.
By their very nature these games drew me in like a magnet. For me, fantasy role playing games became my hidey-hole. With a touch of irony, I was still afraid to venture forth from my little hole. Do you see a problem?
My hidey-hole was potentially becoming a prison as opposed to a place of safety. I seriously needed to come out my own hidey-hole. I had serious problems and these games were not helping. In reality, they were never meant for such a purpose. By hiding, I was simply avoiding the problems.
Donn was a member of my old group. He did point me in the right direction when saying “You need to talk with a counselor to solve your personal problems. It’s not solved by hiding in a fantasy game world.”
He was right. I had to learn to deal with the problems and not run from them. Thankfully, there is someone that I can easily go to for right counseling. In time, I would learn this truth.
First, I needed to stop running from the deep pain of rejection and deal with my need for acceptance. Here is an irony for you. I was being accepted, except I could not see it.
Did I go running to God when Donn pointed out the obvious? No, I did not think of going to my heavenly Father. In truth, I did not start out with a picture of a genuinely loving God the Father. It would be some time before I’d learn about God’s love and provisions.
It’s a good thing that my Father didn’t wait for me to learn of these things. God the Father was actively involved with me the whole time. I could say the same thing about Jesus.
At the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples, “I will be with you to the end.” The promise was not just for the apostles. It is for everyone who chooses to accept Jesus and place their trust in Him.
These things did not happen overnight. For one, I did not break out of my prison alone as I was going to need help. How did I break out? Donn had the right idea. I needed to get some help in dealing with my personal issues.
It began by acknowledging that I had a problem and that I needed to talk with someone. Today I am a big fan of prayer and I’d recommend it as a starting point. Did you notice that I called prayer a starting point?
I needed to take other steps towards leaving my hidey-hole. I needed to talk with some people about the pains in my heart. Though I forgave my former employer and his cohorts, I was not out of the woods. I had plenty of other junk lying around in my heart. That junk could only be dealt with by talking with God, good friends and a wise counselor.
In my heart, I was suffering from the shame created by the abuse. Along with shame, a sense of guilt and condemnation took up residence in my heart, too. Somehow, I believed the lie that said “It’s acceptable to be treated like crap.” It’s why I tolerated so much junk from my old role-playing group.
I was looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. Plus, I was unconsciously seeking confirmation to the false beliefs lingering in my heart. These lies needed to be exposed to the Light of Scripture, prayer and right counsel.
With my Father’s help, I slowly broke free of the many chains binding me to my little prison. For one thing, I felt alone and isolated in my pain and suffering. Though you can be in a crowd of people, it’s very easy to feel loneliness and isolation. Guess what? You are not alone.
In truth, there were many people who could identify with me. However, I was too wrapped up in my own problems and I could not see it. How do I identify with such a person?
There are two ways to identify with someone. You could commiserate with the person but there is one problem. You are not helping the person in the long run. One day, they will need to stop with the pity party and deal with the issue.
There is a time and a place for a sympathetic ear; however, it needs to be followed up with a gentle push forward. In my case, I needed to be saturated with truths and the pointing to the obvious. I’d advise patience and perseverance for those who seek to help. For me, it was not easy to break free of my chains.
Years ago a pastor gave this word of counsel. “Barry, you need to be planted in a church community, a place where you can be nourished by fellow Christians and you can nourish them.” Though Mark did not know it, I was given a very important key.
This is why it’s good to be in a church with real friends. Guess what? A church is not meant to be a hidey-hole. Rather, it is a place to equip, encourage and propel you forward. For this to happen, you need to do more than go to church on Sunday. I will give you a hint. It’s called a relationship.
There is another chain that needed breaking called “the chain of unforgiveness.” To break this chain, I needed to learn about forgiveness. It’s easy to say “I forgive”; however, it’s one of the hardest things to do. Though I did forgive those people, I had to let go of the pains and the hurts that I was holding on to. I needed to surrender them to God.
For some people, it is not a one-time affair. In some cases, I had to struggle with letting go. For this reason, I kept going to Jesus and saying, “I do forgive these people and I choose to let go.” I had no problem in asking Jesus for help. The people who inflicted such treatments were not the only ones that I needed to forgive.
For one, I needed to forgive the people that hurt me. In this case, I am talking about the abuse I suffered in the summer of ’83. Did they deserve it? No, there is no justification for treating any human being like that. Their behaviors were shameful and evil. I can assure you that Joe was dealt with.
Why would I forgive these people? Yes, the Bible does teach that I should forgive those who have acted wrongly against me. It is for a good reason. If I don’t choose to forgive people, then my heart gets weighed down by bitterness, anger and unforgiveness. I’ve heard that these things can also affect your physical health and not just your emotional health.
The problem of unforgiveness gets worse. Guess who is not affected by your bitterness, anger and unforgiving attitude? It’s the people that you’re angry at. That’s right. It is totally wasted and you’re the only person suffering for it. Isn’t it time that you forgave that person?
In my situation, I chose to forgive those people and to let go of the anger, pain of humiliation and any bitterness. I surrendered it to God in Heaven. Is it easy to forgive someone especially in the case of abuse? No, it is not easy and I needed help in saying “I forgive Joe.” I can assure you that God was helping me the whole time. I can still recall the pain in my voice. Jesus was right there and helping me.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in doing this very important step. I felt a need to forgive and Jesus supplied the needed strength. When you forgive someone, it’s really for your own benefit. If you’re having trouble, then I’d encourage you to talk with God about it. Yes, it’s okay to talk with a trusted friend, pastor or counselor, too.
If anyone is without sin, then let the person cast the first stone. It’s easy to point out the failings in other people; however, no human being is perfect. It’s hard to admit to our own shortcomings and I’m thankful for God’s help in doing so. Do you recall my talking about my old role playing group?
Some years ago, it was on my heart to call Mark. He was a member of my old group and a fellow Christian. I felt a need to forgive the guys in my group. As I talked with Mark, he pointed out that I needed to acknowledge my wrong behavior and ask for forgiveness. Mark was right and I did apologize for my own misbehaviors.
I could have used other examples; however, the above one is an easy illustration. Forgiveness is a two-way street. Yes, I needed to forgive certain members of the group; however, I needed to acknowledge my own faults and ask for forgiveness. It’s not always easy, for it requires humility, courage and prayer.
It requires humility and courage for one simple reason. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out. What if the person reacts in anger? What if the person doesn’t remember the incident? What if the person warmly hugs you and says, “I forgive you.” I have been on both sides and I can appreciate the effort.
So far, I’ve talked about forgiving other people and asking people to forgive us. Though challenging, it’s not the only area of forgiveness. I needed to ask God the Father to forgive my transgressions and sins.
Here is what the Bible says in John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” When I accepted the free gift of salvation, my sins were forgiven and I became free to have a personal relationship with God the Father through Jesus. Am I free to act like a jerk later? No, I am not.Here’s what John says in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
What about my feelings of shame and condemnation? Though I did forgive my tormentors, I still experienced strong feelings of shame. I can still recall the sense that it was acceptable and bore a feeling of helplessness. I could easily hear someone say, “You did something to deserve this treatment.”
I was the perfect candidate for the “Blame Game.” Sadly, I actually did run into a group who practiced blaming the victim. It seems that they had a strange view of the heart of God the Father. Thankfully, God delivered me from such a group.
How did I break free from such a terrible yoke? Yes, I forgave my tormentors and that’s a good starting point. However, I needed an extra step. I had to forgive myself. In case you missed it, I was blaming myself for the troubles I experienced that terrible summer. I was walking around with a strong sense of condemnation and an undeserved guilt.
I had to stop beating the crap out of myself. I believed a bunch of lies and I needed to stop. Jesus came to set the prisoners free and I was such a prisoner. He came to break off the shackles of shame and condemnation created by those who tormented me.
In time, I came to learn some simple truths that really helped me in the area of condemnation and shame. Popular culture says, “Stop beating the crap out of yourself. Forgive yourself and let go.” There are some merits to this line of thinking; however, you can only go so far in your own strength. Would you like to hear an alternative? In Romans 8:33-35, Paul says the following:
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God Who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus Who died—more than that, Who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
The above quote comes from the NIV (New International Version) and it is an appropriate translation. Did you notice the emphasis on “No one”? God the Father has declared His children, free and clear of any charges. Those charges include the ones that we bring against ourselves. As Jesus is the One Who died and paid the price for us, the Son is certainly not the One condemning us. Did you catch the part about Jesus interceding for us?
Some time ago, a friend pointed me to 1 John 3:20-21. Here’s what John has to say:
“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”
I have read the above passages many times. For years, I did not associate the above quote with the pain that I was going through. Thankfully, Jesus was already working on my heart and the Holy Spirit was helping me in the healing process. In time, I came to discover that I am not alone. That’s an important step in coming out of one’s hidey-hole.
I can fully agree with Paul, when he says:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:37-39]
Did you notice that your past is not on the list? A product of self-condemnation is living in the past. Did you not know that Jesus came to set you free from the shackles of the past? Is it not time to cross over to the present and come out of your hidey-hole?