Chapter Two – Appearances

My name is Chad.

I’m a follower of Jesus who’s been saved by His grace since the age of 5. I’m married to the incredible love of my life, Gia Marie. These 2 things are the most important to me. 

Here’s a bit more about me for those of you who may not know…

I’m a dad to a few different crazy dogs [1 Shih-Tzu named Chloe and 2 Lab-Pit-Bulldog Mixes named Tucker & Bailey]. They keep us on our toes and there’s definitely NEVER a dull moment with them. Anyone who says…”hey…let’s have 3 dogs – 2 of which eat more than humans and weigh more than some humans” obviously has never had 3 dogs. It is fun to say the least.

I have 2 wonderful parents here who have been married for 30+ years. I actually don’t think they know how long anymore, and if you ask them on any given day, you may ACTUALLY get a different answer. The only thing they know is that they were married the day after St. Patrick’s Day [funny story for another time]. I’ve got some extended family on my Mom/Dad’s side in PA/NJ who are fantastic that I don’t see enough but FB helps us keep connected [love you all]. I’ve married into getting some great in-laws who are always fun to be with and love us dearly. I also have an incredible set of family that lives in FL/NC/VA/TX/UT/TN/Amsterdam from my lovely wife’s side [sorry if I missed some of you because you moved – LOVE YOU].

I’ve been a life-long musician: classically trained in piano [thank you Mrs. Alma Sparks] since I was 5 all the way along with jazz/improv through high school [a special thanks to the late Mr. Scott Strong – and Trish, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU!] . I started playing guitar when I was 12. I had some really great formative instruction by Mr. Kevin Mullaney alongside videos of John Mayer from his live record in Birmingham, Clapton playing sold-out arenas, the Edge & Bono just bringing the ROCK, Daniel Carson setting new standards in Christian music, Nigel Hendroff from Hillsong perfecting tones, MWS being the first CD I ever purchased from Sign of the Fish [WHO REMEMBERS THAT?!], Chris Tomlin and the “Not to Us” record being on repeat forEVER, Brian Kohout for pushing me ALL THE TIME to get better, Steve Fee & Northpoint for continuing to push into the Christian music scene, Louie Giglio and Passion for inspiring and enabling a generation of worshipers to write killer songs, and constantly having a drive to be better. There’s many others here – far too many to name them all……

God has granted me opportunities to play on some of the largest stages and to meet some incredible people along the way. I get to play at a few studios in town as a session musician/producer. I get the chance to record and help people write/record music [Special Thanks to Dick Hodgin for taking a chance on me 10 years ago]. On any given day, there could be the guy that lives down the street from you recording his dream album. The next day, Clay Aiken. The next day, One Republic. The next day, the mailman. The next day, Pentatonix. You never know and I love it. From time to time, I get to tour and play live shows with some really great singers/songwriters/musicians.

I’m one of the few still in town left that was born/raised here in Raleigh. Yes you heard it right…I’m from Raleigh. My parents are from PA…they adopted me from Wake County when I was 2 months old [story for another time]. So no…I’m not just a yankee transplant…I’m from here. 

I’m a food/beverage connoisseur who loves to try new places around town. Anyone who knows me – they know I always have a recommendation for a new food place to try and always love sharing those ‘first time’ moments with people. If you want to go try somewhere new, let me know – I’m always down.

I’m in an operations & project manager role at an incredible commercial contracting company here in Raleigh. I’m blessed to have a great job and I’m grateful to work with some pretty amazing people. We strive to make a difference in our community and in people’s lives. We get the chance to make our clients’ lives easier by giving them functional and practical spaces to work in. We get to make our customers’ dreams come to life by taking their plans on paper and transform them into reality here and now. I get to learn something new every day and still have the opportunity to lead people in the process.

Why tell you all this? Why give you all of these things about me? Well…all these things are a part of my story. All of these things are part of what God has done and is still doing in my life.

God really has blessed Gia and I and we are thankful for His grace and kindness towards us. We’re loving Him more and more each day, and loving each other more as well. We are sacrificially serving one another and look forward to all that God has for us. That pretty much sums who we are and what’s going on these days. Thanks for checking with us! Looking forward to the next blog!!!

Let’s stop right here.

From all appearances and looking at the information I just gave you, some may say “Man, what a great life. That sounds incredible.” 

While all of the information above IS important and can be helpful for the framework of understanding more about me, I’m actually only showing you a fraction of me. I’m only giving you a very guided glimpse and specific look into the areas of my life I want you to see. What if I told you that while all of the things above are true, I’m leaving some things out. I’m giving you enough information to formulate your own fuzzy feeling about our life now and then allow you to deduce that everything is great. I’m giving you enough details on surface level information to redirect your thoughts momentarily about what this blog was for, disarm your expectations, reroute your thinking and then convince you that you should be satisfied with the present information given. 

Not only did I intentionally leave things out, but then I also gave you a reason for why you should be satisfied with the level of information you received. I intentionally gave you partial information so you would create your own conclusions about everything that’s going on. I wrapped it up, put a nice bow on it and then allowed you to be the one that inserts and assumes the conclusion. I didn’t actually tell you everything was great, and I only actually gave you facts about my life. So…could it actually be my fault that YOU deduced something that wasn’t accurate? I mean… I didn’t tell you how to think or how to respond towards me. I just gave you specific information. What you did with it is your business. You have a conclusion that I don’t know…a mental process for how you got there that I’m unaware of…and responses based on those 2 things that I don’t know [although I could guess all 3].  This means that when it comes time to relay the information to someone else about something you’ve deduced and I get questioned, I get to tell you that there was a misunderstanding or say, “Where did that come from?”. I’m left with plausible deniability and I can be absolved of any real, concrete responsibility. So, if your conclusion was wrong….that’s not my fault. 

The redirection changes to misdirection when the motive changes. The motive is to be seen as someone who people like and is respected. At the root of this is pride. The desire to be seen as something I wasn’t. I can tell you this is a slippery path of self-preservation. This path quickly slips from wisdom to deception to deep hurt to a very dark place.

I think if we’re honest, we do this as a means of self-preservation. We make “if-then” statements regarding our thought process with appearances and how we can secure ourselves through life. 

Examples: 

“If I present myself as being a hard-worker, then, I will be trusted in the workplace.”

This is a positive example. The negative examples are precautionary and work the same way:

“If I throw rocks through my neighbors windows, then, the police will come and break down my door, throw tear gas in my house, unleash the pack of German shepherds, shoot lasers from tanks in the street, and make sure that I eat little Debbie Cakes in prison until I die.”

ok…well maybe not… but hopefully you catch my drift. Hopefully a desire for respect and godliness is found in these situations.

I not only provided partial information, but sometimes this can be presented in a way that can conjure up feelings. I wanted to present a particular set of information that allowed you to formulate a conclusion that I didn’t have to verbalize. When partial information or half-truths are combined with ulterior motives that are actually intended to deflect, distract, or disguise the truth, this is where you get into a world of manipulation. 

Manipulation is used to alter a natural set of circumstances by interjecting information, action, or some other means to change an outcome either for or against someone or something. 

For me, this is where everything fell apart. I manipulated my understanding of God, my wife, my own understanding of sin, confession, accountability, manipulating my understanding of reality and here’s the worst part – I told myself a lie that made it much worse: “Everything is fine – just trust yourself, Chad.”

The equation is simple…when you desire the appearance of godliness more than you desire God, Himself, you are never satisfied and what you’re actually worshiping is an idol. God wants you to be like Him, but not to the degree that you remove Him from the equation. You can’t have godliness apart from God. You can’t actually know true godliness unless you really understand who He is. I’ve used this line in apologetics to my atheist friends and those who believe other religions: “If we don’t agree on who God is, we most certainly won’t agree on what He says or what He does.” However, I’d like to apply this differently in this situation. “If you don’t know God for who He is, you’ll never understand what He says or what He does.”

These statements completely envelop my mindset over the last few years. In my case, there was so much about my life I didn’t understand, but I thought I was so accomplished and ‘mature’ that I didn’t want to be seen as weak in asking for help. So, I gave off a strong appearance that I had things together, when actually a little boy was crying out for help but listened to the loudest voice in my head…pride and shame. 

“Don’t ask for help…you’ll look weak. Keep up the appearance of strength.” or “Don’t act like you don’t know…just keep up the appearance that you do know and people will assume you understand. Keep up an appearance of experience and knowledge.” 

This not only happened as a coping mechanism for fear of inadequacy but also came out in things like…

“Don’t confess that sin…it’s just between you and God…and really, it’s not a sin. It’s just the way people are. No one has to know…” or  “You don’t need to talk about your personal struggles with anyone. It’s just between you and God. It’ll ruin your appearance as a godly person and a leader. There’s consequences if people know you can’t rule your own house well. You’ll lose your ministry and lose your position as a leader.” 

“If you let people in…they’ll see the real you and they will judge you for it.”

These things haunted me every day. Some days were better than others, but still they were always in the back of my mind.

I’ve always had a ‘way with words’ but it was always just creative or charming, never intended for harm. However, when life was crashing down around me, I believed the first lie… “Chad…you can do this on your own. You don’t need any help. Sure, God is there, but you don’t need His help yet. You’re doing great.” Once I believed that statement, I then was constantly concerned with my appearance in regards to how people viewed me. My wife is amazing and she is an incredible gift that God has given to me. She knew something was wrong years ago and begged me to go to counseling. Do you think I went? 

HA. Counseling? Please. That’s for people with real problems. Come on…seriously?

[side note – counseling is nothing more than intensive discipleship. I’m telling you this – God has used it in our marriage in a HUGE way. There’s no shame in getting help. It’s the wisest thing you can do. I can’t thank our counselors enough for the constant love, grace, and support. We love you both.]

Truthfully, internally it was more like – “If I go to counseling, then I’ll have to tell all these people my sin and issues and I’ll be seen as a weaker person. I can’t lead people when they know my problems. I’ll definitely lose credibility, lose my appearance…”

I’m not sure what stage of life you’re in, but I can tell you this – if your spouse/family asks you to go to counseling, there’s a great chance that you have a blind spot that your pride is keeping you from seeing. I know that was the case for me. My wife was begging me and my answer as the spiritual leader of our home was “Yeah…I’ll look into it sometime…[which was never]” If you’re a pastor/church leader and this scenario describes you, stop now and get help. Don’t let pride ruin your family, ministry, and testimony of who Jesus is to the people you shepherd. Go now. If you don’t know what to do, shoot us a message, we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

There’s a cultural and contextual standard [especially in the South] that says that we must act right…especially in church. There’s certain things that were MADE for church. Church clothes, church music, church food, church old ladies…you guys know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be order or desire for godly living, but there’s a built-in market for playing the part right here as we abide by ‘church’ standards in our community. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a suit and tie, a pipe organ, potluck dinners, and the 3rd pew on the left…but when you know how to play the part, you become less interested in the reason for being there – to grow in your faith with Jesus. There’s a whole culture of people who attend church on Sunday so they can keep up the appearance that they look & do things like Christians, but never have any desire to live for Jesus at all.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t care at all about how you act or what people think, I’m saying that feeding the lie of appearances is never the answer. I’m encouraging you to be authentic. Be the real person God made you to be. Show people who you really are. Kill the desire for appearances in your own life. 

Desiring appearances so much to the place where you are giving half-truths about who you are because you’re afraid to talk about sin in your own life is a complicated way to live. This idea of being intentionally misleading is dangerous. 

Quickly you find yourself needing to keep appearances in all your relationships, while the one or two people closest to you see that something is wrong, you’re deteriorating and don’t know why. You can’t keep this act up forever. Stay tuned…I’ll tell you what happens next.

-Chad

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Eph. 2:1-10]

7 thoughts on “Chapter Two – Appearances

  1. Tears in my eyes reading the scripture at the end. Thank you for the reminders…so many…the need for repentance, the importance of a deep and abiding relationship with my Savior, our journey in this life of sanctification together as believers-to be mindful of struggles, to look deeper than the surface “church” answers and appearance, to encourage and lift one another up in prayer. And oh yeah, Sign of the Fish…now that’s a memory!! 🙂

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  2. Oh man, Chad..as a worship leader at my church now I feel the pressure of being perfect constantly. I find that I have forgotten the reason why I get up there and sing and play. This entire article spoke to me and pinpointed some dark issues I’ve been keeping hidden from people because I “have” to be perfect.

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    1. Micayla,
      I’m so glad the Lord used this to help you. I pray you will kill the need for appearances and have true and honest confession along with an authentic dealing with those dark issues. We are praying for you!

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  3. My teacher comment. I read that you were an English major and your writing showed that. The end of that.

    Ok Still don’t think I know the real Chad but that doesn’t matter. I’m learning that there is much more to you than I thought. Like me, people see of side of you that really isn’t you. Most of us live that life to be acceptable. You will grow more as you reveal and understand/believe who you really are. I still don’t know who I really am. Thank you for sharing. Keep searching and never give up. You know that God knows who Chad really are. We can’t hide from that. But He loves us just the same. I’m praying things will evolve that help you grow. No matter who you are, I will love and respect you for you through all of your changes. But remember this. God is the ONLY one you truly have to respond to. He knows who you are to become. He knows your positives and negatives. He made you. He knew you before you were born. He knows what you are capable of and what you will do. I keep telling myself “your will be done.” Just keep trusting in Him and keep your faith.

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    1. Thank you so much, Ms. Flora.

      Grateful for your prayers and encouragement as we continue to walk through this journey together. We love you!

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  4. Chad I appreciate and I’m so grateful for your openness in sharing your story. It has helped me. Your story is yours, but i the basics of your story is our story. It is what each one of us goes through in our search to know God and to understand who God in our story. So thank you for your story. I am sure your story will impact others to seek God, His counseling, to love one another, and to pray for one another. I thank God He loves us, He disciplines those He loves, He is always faithful, He is always with us and will never leave or forsake us. I look forward to hearing how you will continue to grow in Christ be patient.
    I love you, Gia and family and I’m praying for all of you the peace of God in your journey.

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