Recently, my very heartbeat has cried out for authenticity. My unrehearsed strategy was to start by encouraging those around me to be authentic with me--perhaps that would create the environment in which I could simultaneously and safely begin to reveal my true self as well. It has been something of a slow process.
I've learned to be careful but persistent. I had dinner with my mom and sisters this week, and had to broach a difficult subject. I was intimidated, and in my awkwardness, I said things poorly. The atmosphere was immediately strained. They are patient with me, and I kept trying. They know my occasional verbal ineptitude, and eventually we got it sorted out. But in all honesty, that solitary assault on my confidence nearly dismantled the entire effort. What if my purehearted honesty meant the loss of those most dear to me?
And then, tonight, it happened again: another occasion arose that shook my resolve. I had a phone conversation with someone that I love. It was ill-timed from the start: I was at the YMCA in gym clothes, ready to work out. But I thought it would only take a moment. I had a question for her that I knew I could phrase better in writing. But I wanted to try to do it verbally, to try to grow in that area. And once again, I did it so poorly. The conversation was good, and it ended well, but when it was over, nearly an hour later, I cried. I knew that very little of my true heart had been represented. I knew the case against my true authentic self had been strengthened. She is patient, and eventually I will figure out how to be authentic with her too. But I ache, because my heart is weary of this constant effort. It seems often, in my effort to be authentic, I constantly feel vulnerable and embarrassed.
Since we hung up, I have been wrestling with myself. I cried in fear that perhaps I am misplaced. I nursed my proud heart and mourned my embarrassment (my least favorite emotion). I have spent several years in the shadows and have become comfortable in the ambiguity. I feel exposed now, and nervous. I wonder if the quest to be real is worth it? Why was I so foolish to accept advancement? My heart is crying out: what if they don't like me?
I came home, and began to write. And I cried. Nick took the kids and I hid in our dark bedroom, like a wounded animal. I wrote and deleted and wrote, sobbing. I wanted to erect a verbal anthem in defense of my heart. I reread at one point and realized I had droned on for a whole paragraph about toilet paper and why I don't buy tissues very often. And then things became very quiet and one dawning whisper came to the surface.
Divine One, it's time to get over this. (my name means 'Divine One'. God knows I prefer to be spoken to directly.)
In that moment, I was surrounded by Love himself. I felt Him lift up my spirit. My chin followed.
My journey, my obsession, really, with authenticity is not about what people know about me. It's not about people's perceptions of me. It's not about how I dress, or how I shop, or what I like, though all those daily decisions do reveal my priorities, my character, and my tastes. Authenticity is coming to stillness and acceptance within myself. It is the concrete refusal to hide what was meant to be seen. It is the courage to display what God did when he formed me. He created my temperament, my personality, my gifts, my skills, my abilities. He permitted my weaknesses. He delighted when I was finished. Before the world was created, I was in Him.
Authenticity is a personal confidence, believing that when Jesus said it was finished, He meant it. It means that I can, without shame, admit that I consider myself to be pretty awesome. Shame is dismantled. Fear dissolves. Jesus has fully invested in me, so courage replaces timidity.
It means I stop hiding. It means there is nothing to hide.
There is Someone within me who must be revealed by the best of me. When I hide, when I sidestep confrontation by masking myself, I serve fear, and I limit the true revelation of He Who Is. My Quest---this solitary obsession--is only the beginning. The ultimate burn of my heart is to see Jesus lifted up! He cannot dwell in types and shadows. He does not have power behind my mask, within my disguise. When I reveal myself, my heart, my thoughts, the true glory of His Original Work is revealed. He must come. He is magnetized to me, my spouse, my children, all those whom my life affects. (When you consider this, you must consider the possible origin of the instinct to hide.)
Oh, how I yearn to see His Kingdom come!
The trick is not in the loyalty to design, it is in the delivery. It is the thorn in my side, my moment-by-moment challenge. By nature, I am brief and matter-of-fact, to the point, no detour. People take time. I value direct honesty. People are easily wounded. I am wired to find solutions. People need the process. I am easily transparent. People can be intimidated by that, or mistake it for confidence. I am chronically transparent. People are guarded and complex. I am a good writer. People like to talk. I battle: be polite or be honest? Be flexible or be honest? Be silent or be honest?
I just gotta relax and trust Him to guide me. He must. If I am to have any friends at all on the other side of this journey, if I am to have a single companion left, if I am to have any influence at all, He will be faithful to me. He will burn up the chaff and leave the good. I can trust Him to be my helper. In fact, I can delight in these weaknesses, because as I learn His voice, His power and glory will become apparent in me!
So I end this with a earnest entreaty for you to be authentic with me. I am uninterested in your disguise, regardless of it cleverness or maturity. I want to see you in all God's glory. I need you to release me.