The other day I made a confession here on the blog and then wrote, “There, now you know what a truly horrible, small-minded person I am.” I meant it. It was something I was embarrassed to admit. And I truly want to change…but not always.
Authenticity. It’s a high value these days. It’s one of the core values of this blog. And that’s a good thing mostly, I think. For awhile, we as Christians were trained to pretend to “Look like Jesus” no matter how much we weren’t. But then came a rash of young leaders who called us on it and it became cool to be authentic. To be honest and specific about the ways we are a broken hot mess.
That in itself is a good thing, right? But there are also some challenges at the intersection of grace and authenticity I think.
1. Authenticity. For some of us it’s hard to get to the starting line. The challenge is finding relationships…community, if you will, where we can truly be honest about who we are…the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s the risky challenge of just being willing to say, “Here’s my mess.”
2. Grace. For others, we can be brutally honest about our weaknesses, our failures, but the challenge is really knowing God’s grace to the core of our being…Knowing that nothing we can do can ever make God love us more or less than He does right now. The hard thing is owning our sin, but not wallowing in our worminess.
3. Change. This is one that I fear I have to be aware of. It’s wearing our authenticity as a badge of honor and stopping there. Awhile ago I heard a preacher speak and he was very vulnerable. You could almost hear the inaudible admiration from the people listening…”Oooh he’s so authentic!” But here’s the thing…He didn’t go any further. He expressed mild embarrassment, but is that repentance? He told us what he had done, but not what he was doing to change. It was like what he was doing was what I often do: image management. “Confess” something safe, but make it so common that it falls in the category of “acceptable sin” that no one would really expect us to change.
Yesterday morning in church we did a spiritual inventory that we take every year, kind of like a physical check up but you don’t have to get into one of those white paper gowns and no one gets to see your weight (or the answers on your inventory). At the end there were two areas where I was noticeably weaker than the others. The thing is, I looked at these two areas and it didn’t bother me all that much (which is just another reason I’m a terrible person). Is it possible to be too comfortable with being honest, and too secure in God’s love of me?
Psalm 52:1 says, “Why do you boast of evil…? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?” The other day, I read this verse and I thought “Aha! Is this what we’re doing sometimes?”
Our righteousness IS as filthy rags, BUT God throws our sins as far as the east is from the west when we come to Him AND calls us to be holy as He is holy. All of this in the same Bible! How can we get this straight? That we are both wrecked and beloved at the same time. And God loves us too much to want us to remain the way we are.
I believe we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, but not just over things like our dog dying or our mother-in-law’s car wreck. I think we’re to be truly honest about the darkness in our lives, but truly sorry too, and truly committed to doing better and finding ways to help each other together.
The good news, as always, is that we’re not in it alone and we can’t do it alone. “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”
Which of the three challenges above do you struggle with the most? Authenticity, grace, change? Or other thoughts?