Have you ever wondered who you really are?
Have you ever said something and wondered if you truly believe those words are true?
Have you ever wondered how much of what you say actually comes from the depths of you and how much is a repeat of someone else’s ideas or thoughts or beliefs?
The other day I was reconnecting with an old friend, retelling the stories of the past few years and giving pieces of my current struggles. I am generally a transparent person, I don’t mind the tensions of faith, but after recounting my hurts and fears I stated, “I don’t know, God will work it out….” In essence, I had dismissed every emotion and true belief that I had spoken. Anything real or deep or genuine, I had wiped away with a simple statement used to round out the edges of raw humanity.
It felt like a personal betrayal of self, as I have fought to remain authentic in this cross-cultural life. I have fought to keep myself from hiding. I have fought to be honest. Yet, I instinctually ran for cover when my courage failed, when I felt uncomfortable with my own revelations.
In this striving to be authentic, to know truth, I’ve found that authenticity emerges in those moments when I peek my head up, say what I truly believe about God, the world or myself. These aren’t the words of others. These are my words, spoken from the depths of experience and integrated faith. When what I say I believe is lived out in my life in tangible ways, as though my thoughts and words and actions are in alignment.
This true authenticity is not easy to find, and it is not easy to be. As simple as the idea is, it is a lot harder to implement as it carries with it a risk of rejection and judgement of our very core. It is much easier to spout ideologies of other people, to say what we know we ought to say, then to truly and courageously, expose ourselves to judgement. In this way, we don’t feel the rejection at our core when ideas are challenged, and any judgement is easily brushed aside as we rely on scripted beliefs.
I’d like to think that Christians and cross-cultural workers are the most accepting of authenticity. That these communities would be the safest place where we could truly be ourselves but I have not found that to be the case. There is a very low tolerance for authentically exposing ourselves when it doesn’t align with the Christian dogmas of our time and place. We rely on words like, “BUT, God is at work,” to dull the sharpness of our true struggle.
This is incredibly damaging because it is the wrestling and the struggling and the processing of our experience that deepens faith. This IS faith. When we can’t be broken, when we can’t be in process, when we can’t disagree, when we can’t be challenged, faith weakens. Then, when we are confronted with real pain, real betrayal, real loss and real evil, we collapse, and we have no answers for ourselves or for others who suffer.
But the gospel of Jesus Christ is not doctrine, it isn’t dogma, it goes so much deeper than that. It is the power of his sacrifice alive within our souls and expressed from the depths of ourselves. We give the gospel power when we share from that place within us, the place that feels the spirit of God move in passion because we are not speaking in theory, we are speaking from those broken places in which we have wrestled face to face with God himself.
That is our authenticity. That is our power. It is that which will change the world and shine a spotlight on Christ’s love because we can empathize in the reality and are not threatened by the struggles of others.
A part of being dangerously authentic is allowing others to be in process too, to be able to listen to the railing and the struggle without having to fix the theology. I love Job’s response to his friends when they tried to straighten out his theology with rote dogma.
“Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my words of desperation?” Job 6:25-26
What is the point of our perfect words? They prove nothing, especially when the words of a woman in struggle are like the wind. Her words are a part of the process, they are a part of the wrestling as she painstakingly rebuilds the image of God and reality from where it collapsed around her. She will be stronger for it and she will have something unique and real and eternal at the end.
If I could do it over again, I would return to my previous conversation with my friend. I would erase the clichés from my own mouth and let the truth of the struggle sit openly. I would risk looking pathetic, I would risk looking unspiritual and instead of weakness I would find strength.
Let’s not be hallmark card Christians, reliant on platitude and piety. Let’s be an army of women, armed with the courage to question, the strength to wrestle and the discipline to share all that God is doing within us. Let’s be women of depth, not because we have the right education, or the right words but because we have seen God and we have touched him and tasted him and we are willing to step out, once again, into the realms of the unknown, to grapple with God and truth.
Let’s be real.
Let’s be authentic.
Who are you? Do you rely on cliché when you experience difficulties? Can you take a risk and examine your speech for platitude? Let’s talk in the comments.
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