Authenticity. Being authentic. Not fake. Genuine. Real. Threadbare and exposed.
Are you authentic? If you answered “yes” then allow me a further probe. Who decides what’s authentic? How do you determine the boundaries for the definition, or does the definition (in and of itself) require that no boundaries be put around it? Does being authentic mean you just throw your “all” out there and hope for the best—take me or leave me, this is who I am?
It’s getting a lot of buzz these days . . . authenticity, especially in our “Christianese”—the vernacular of us religious folk. There’s something to be said for our exposure before one another; truth-telling can be a crucible for holiness. We can’t move forward in our faith by faking it. But I’m wondering, if, perhaps, our version of authenticity stops short of being a productive, spiritual discipline.
What’s the point of keeping it real, if keeping it real becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieving an end—holiness?
Case in point. I’m about to expose myself. Hold on. You might not be ready for this one.
Yesterday, I canceled my appointment with my general practioner . . . for the 2nd time. It was scheduled for 3:45 PM. I called (actually I had my husband call) and cancel around 2:00 PM. Why?
- I didn’t want to weigh in.
- I didn’t want a repeat lecture about my cholesterol being too high.
- I didn’t want to weigh in.
My decision was based on an earlier encounter with the bathroom scale—my husband and my twenty-three-year-old son’s throw-down, weigh in. They bantered back and forth about who weighed less, who ate more, and who would be thinner the next time around. When I heard their numbers, I was crushed and loudly pronounced my angst.
“I’m the heaviest person in this family. I weigh more than the rest of you. Call the doctor, Billy, and reschedule. I’m not going in today.”
He complied; I cried and continued to wrap myself up in the enemy’s shame regarding my appearance. Nothing’s fit right since cancer. Nothing looks right, either. It all feels wrong on me.
There, that wasn’t so hard. There’s some real and authentic truth for you. I’m not proud of it; I should have put “my big girl panties on a dealt with it.” Problem is, the big girl panties are too big, and I’m not keen on exposing them to others. Just keeping it real, friends. But here’s the problem: it’s not enough to tell you about it, throw it all out in front of the world while shouting, “Take me or leave me, this is who I am.”
This isn’t authenticity, not according to God; this isn’t transformation. This is defeat; this is refusing to do the hard work that follows personal disclosure. That hard work for me?
Well, it’s not just about my moving more and eating less. Greater still, it’s about exposing my pain before Jesus, about moving more into his Word, and about eating less of the enemy’s assessment regarding my body.
This is authenticity . . . not being afraid to fully disclose the pain and truth before the mirror of God’s Word and before God’s heart, knowing that with reflection will come greater understanding, greater strength, and greater exposure to the only truth that has the power to transform me rather than to judge me. If I’m willing to do this—to go all in with Jesus and with his assessment regarding my appearance—then I can boast about personal authenticity. Otherwise, I’m just living a lie, kidding myself and trying to kid the world into believing that my big girl panties and me are here to stay; take us or leave us, this is who we are.
Authenticity. It only comes to us as we are willing to come to the cross and expose our nakedness, our wounds, and our truth to the nakedness, wounds, and truth of Jesus Christ. He is the standard-bearer for authenticity; he defines it, refines it, and mines for it in each one of us. He is the means to our holiness. He is the end of it as well. When we go to him and pour out our reflection before him, he begins to pour out his reflection into us.
This is how we can make peace with our flesh and live in peace with God’s people. His truth over-powering and replacing the enemy’s lies. His estimation overtaking the mirror’s assessment and bringing forth new life from woundedness. More of Jesus reflecting authentically through less of us. Accordingly,
Take us, don’t leave us, Jesus, this is who we are, and this is why we so desperately need your hand of grace in our lives. Amen.