My Secret Double-Life | Third Space

My Secret Double-Life

Tue 12 Apr 2022
How my weekday-worst undermined my Sunday-best

Have you ever played Codenames Pictures? I strongly recommend you play some time. One of the things I love about this game are the pictures itself. My favourite pictures are the ones that look innocent at first, but shape shift when you pay closer attention, often masking something far more sinister.

In a game this is harmless, but when you are doing it in real life - using sleight of hand to project innocence - it's a different story. This was my life for a long time - I was living a double life.

My Origin Story

I grew up in a “typical” Christian family - going to Church on a Sunday as well as attending Sunday school and youth group. My parents did their best to teach me about God and set boundaries while still allowing me to make my own decisions.

As I went through the later years of primary and high school, all of the Bible stories I had been taught just seemed like stories made up to keep people behaving. I knew all the answers to the Sunday school questions, but I did not feel any spiritual connection with God or Jesus. God had not spoken to me audibly or revealed himself to me through any miraculous sign. I came to believe that the physical was all we had, you couldn’t scientifically prove God was real. Christianity just seemed like a means of controlling people. Rules made up by the church to force people to get along.

But even while I thought this about Christianity, I still went to church. I even taught Sunday school, and lead in youth group somehow. Meanwhile the rest of my week looked very different.

My Double Life

If you were to see me as a picture I would have looked like a “good Christian girl” to the unsuspecting eye, but to those who knew me deep down I was becoming a drunk, out of control, pleasure-seeking teen.

Up until I was 18, my life was all about myself. Parties every weekend, drinking, smoking, drugs, sleeping around and even stealing. I looked for validation from other people. Giving into peer pressure from my friends and fulfilling any desire I had.

I wanted my freedom, so I lived a double life that my strict Christian parents didn’t know about. However this did not have the effect I wanted. It left me feeling lonely and disappointed in myself. I hurt a lot of people because of my bad decisions. I was sad, angry, held a lot of grudges and was unable to forgive people. I lied to my parents constantly and had a very bad relationship with my sister.

People were shocked to hear I went to church and that made me feel pretty ashamed. I would call myself a Christian only when it suited me. I would change the way I acted, what I would say or wear to suit the group I was in. It was as if I was two entirely different people. I started to feel a lot of guilt because of how inconsistently I was living and it was exhausting to maintain my disguise.

My Turning Point

Naturally, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about Christianity -because I grew up hearing it all- but in reality I knew almost nothing. I was too lazy to find out for myself or perhaps I didn’t even want to know because I didn’t want to be told I had to change my lifestyle.

In spite of this, something started changing anyway. I had the growing feeling inside me that there must be more to life than this. When I was in late high school I remember praying to God saying I wanted to believe but I wasn't ready to give up the way I was living yet, I wanted to continue letting my desires and impulses govern my behaviour.

After I graduated high school my dad encouraged me to enrol in a gap year program where you study the Bible and also get to go on an overseas mission trip. I thought ‘yeah, why not? I like to travel, meet new people and Christian camps had always been fun in the past.’

I was quite challenged by the things I learned during this gap year. The Bible came alive to me and couldn't be dismissed as a fanciful story anymore. It was a real, historical document about people who really existed, and still stands up today after 2000 years of scrutiny. The man Jesus who did miracles that could not be explained and said he was the son of God, he was not made up or even just a moral teacher. We were not children listening to fairy tales but adults having discussions about the big questions of life.

My New Freedom

I realise that in the life I had been living I wasn’t truly free. The pleasures the world around me offered could never ultimately satisfy me. I was filling a hole in my life with superficial things and I was deeply unhappy. True freedom, I discovered, was being able to say ‘no’ to those things and ‘yes’ to Jesus.

As my understanding of Jesus grew, my tight grip that I had on my life and heart began to loosen. I started to feel a spiritual connection with God. It is hard to explain why giving my life over to God made me feel freer, but I think it’s because I knew He loved me unconditionally. He has created me, so he knows what is best for me. Even though they can sometimes feel like arbitrary rules, setting boundaries is what a loving parent does for their children. We can learn from the Bible the way to live which will bring real fulfilment and happiness.

My Life Picture Now

I used to keep many secrets from my parents and have a very toxic relationship with my sister. But it wasn’t until I became a Christian that these broken relationships with my family started to heal. I didn’t want the secrecy, anger or resentment anymore because it divided us.

Over many years I've felt this change: my family relationships have healed, I am close with my parents and good friends with my sister. I feel such love and respect for my family and this could only have happened because of the way God reshaped my life. God has given me freedom from my anger. Of course my family can still annoy me from time to time, but my love for them swallows my selfish impulses, and God has made this possible for me.

Over time as I've learnt more about Jesus, I have seen my habits, desires, and the way I treat people start to change. I've stopped pursuing the things that give me the sugar rush of temporary happiness, knowing that they won’t make me happy in the long term.

If I were a picture now, I would strive to be like this flower with its roots exposed (pictured below). No more squinting, no more double takes, no more contradictions, no more hidden or subliminal images, no more secrets. I want my life to be clear and coherent, where what you see is what you get. Of course there'll still be mess under the surface, where the intricacies of my tangled and complicated life weave a unique story. But I know God can untangle the nasty knots and provide the life I need in order to flourish. Hopefully it's a captivating picture.

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