A growing trend in the blogosphere is a push for authenticity. Of course, it’s juxtoposed with everyone’s perfectly filtered Instagram photos, so it’s been a subtle transition from the “close to the chest, dirty laundry is not for airing” mentality of previous generations.
Even so, I’ve noticed that, particularly in Christian circles, the blog posts that we share most eagerly tend to be the ones where the author writes with witty, self-deprecating humor about his or her mess of a life.
There’s something comforting about getting a glimpse into someone else’s mess, isn’t there? And honestly, it can be liberating to share that mess with a little caption about how closely we can relate with a few hundred of our closest friends. I do it too, and will likely continue to do it. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with it. In fact, if I had to chose between a secret-keeping, facade-wearing, image-protecting life and unashamedly claiming my mess, I’d chose the latter in a heartbeat. I’ve lived in the former for far too many years, no thank you! One of my favorite songs that I keep on a constant playlist is “If We’re Honest” By Francesca Battistelli. Trust me, I value authenticity.
Like most things, however, I believe there is a balance to be found. And motivation and heart condition tend to be the tipping point of that balance.
I can’t help but wonder sometimes about even my own cynicism toward liking or sharing (or even reading to begin with) stories of people who are actually doing this thing called the Christian life well. Why is it so engrained in me to assume that those are the stories that are fabricated and false. And even more importantly, why do I feel the need to be sure I portray my “authenticity” by broadcasting my inadequacies as though they are a prerequisite to being relevant?
The answer, I believe, lies in where we are most inclined to ascribe glory.
There are so many nuances to this word, glory, so many definitions used in various contexts. So let me start by clearing up that when I’m talking about glory here I’m talking about public praise, honor, and fame.
Whether we try to achieve these things by June Cleavering our Facebook page or by appearing relatable in our our imperfections, the result is still the same. The focus is on ourselves.
God has made it pretty clear that He’s not interested in us making a name for ourselves, but rather making a name for Him. In fact, He’s not just interested in us making a name for Him, it’s the reason He created us.
Over the course of my adult life, God has convicted me of many things as He’s continued this work He began in me so many years ago.
Early on the convictions largely revolved around my lack of authenticity. He was chipping away at my pride that I allowed to determine just how much I would let others know about me.
Next it turned to the fact that I was so apt to wallow in self-pity and self-deprecation. At that point He was chipping away at my pride that I allowed to consume my thoughts with my own inadequacies, rather than allowing Him to be strong where I was weak.
More recently, He’s been convicting me of being more concerned about being authentic so that I may be relevant and relatable, than so that His name can be made known by the work He has done in my life. He is chipping away at my pride that I’ve allowed to deceive me to think that I am here for any reason other than to shine a light on who He is and what He is capable of.
I’ve been working my way through 1 Peter with my women’s Bible study group lately. There are some topics in 1 Peter that I think we tend to read and think of very philosophically and metaphorically, but not always realistically and practically. Topics like holiness and submission to authority. Holiness seems so pie in the sky and unattainable, and submission just tends to cause most of our stomachs to turn because of such misuse and abuse throughout history.
But here’s the thing about both. God has commanded them. And interestingly, at the end of the day He’s commanded them both for the same reason. Neither one is in our nature. We cannot be holy apart from God and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and our flesh will never bend toward submission for any reason other than fear (which is not of God).
Both of these commands are opportunities for us to walk in obedience so that God can then come in and do the things that we cannot do on our own. Enable us to act increasingly more like Jesus. Enable us to submit to authority even when a boss or a government or a spouse is being unjust or unfair. And the world takes notice! It’s why Peter says to “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” in 1 Peter 3:15. Because they are going to see something in you that is different!
I think, at best, we sometimes shy away from sharing with others the good work God is doing in our lives because we don’t want to come across as “holier-than-thou”, or as though we have it all together. At worst, I think we can sometimes allow ourselves to stay right there in our muck and mire altogether, believing we are incapable of being changed, incapable of living a life that honors the Lord.
If our heart condition is such that our greatest desire is to make known the name of God and increase His fame among the earth, then how can we do anything less than allow Him to do great things in and through us and be quick to tell others when He is faithful?!
Authenticity is wonderful. And I believe that it is necessary if we are ever going to fully allow others to know the great depths that God has been willing to go with us to pull us out of our muck and mire.
But let’s make sure our authenticity is for the purpose of broadcasting our great need for Him, not just broadcasting our own brokenness so others can relate to us. Let’s make sure it’s to broadcast His ability to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and let’s make sure it’s to broadcast to the world about this great God that has brought us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).