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Authentic Thoughts

August 3, 2009

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2009 7:28 pm

    Authenticity and transparency will always bring real freedom. It may, however, rock the boat of may “religious” people who have forgotten what it feels like to be tormented by sin.

    The “church” does understand the struggles people are going through. However, in too many areas we’ve somehow divorced the mission of the Church (to bring people into a saving and life-altering relationship with God through Jesus Christ) and the methods of the Church. We’ve made the Sunday gathering a type of social club where we use man-made rules to club people into submission. That’s sad.

    Furthermore, I place the blame for much of this squarely on the shoulders of leadership. In the churches I’ve been part of, they knew up front that I was a sinner, and they knew quickly when I was dealing with something. Furthermore, I make it a habit to never condemn anyone who is having a difficult time, regardless of their particular sin. Jesus died for ALL sin, not just the religiously acceptable ones.

    (Samantha, you got me started!)

    Anyway, I hope we can all find the type of community of believers you’ve found — those who will rejoice and mourn with you, call you out when you need it and allow you to do the same. What a wonderful place that is. As I previously blogged (http://jimthornber.com/2009/03/24/the-safest-place-in-the-world), our Christian relationships should be the safest place in the world.

    Blessings,

    Jim

  2. August 3, 2009 8:48 pm

    I can totally appreciate what you’re saying and confess that, as much as I desire to “live authentically,” I think there are a lot of fears baked into the actual execution of it. More than anything, I think I fear rejection – not rejection from people in general, but rejection of the people closest to me. If I’m honest, I’d say that this is rooted in the fear that if these people who I love so much knew my more ugly faces, they wouldn’t love me anymore. I know in reality that this is [probably] not the case, but some of my previous experiences have taught me otherwise and those types of lessons can be difficult to overcome. Even so, I struggle with this and am constantly working towards being nakedly authentic with the people in my life because I know ultimately that this is the only way to build true community…and as a single woman, I really need that community.

  3. August 3, 2009 8:57 pm

    Thank you for your comment Jim. I liked what you said about not condemning someone who is having a difficult time in a particular sin. Sometimes as Christians that’s a natural response (sadly). We act like the Pharisees. We really have to be patient and help others in love even when it’s really hard. Community is all about loving people closer to Jesus and helping them on that road. I will stop by your post.

    Deb- thanks for your transparency. I agree completely. Growing up I had a hard time always loving my family (those closest to me) because of my selfishness.

    Do you think it’s harder for singles to develop that “authentic community” with one another or easier than say married couples?

    • August 10, 2009 6:46 pm

      I do think it can be harder for singles to develop “authentic community” than for married couples. I say that because when you’re married, I think it’s harder (although not impossible, I’m sure) to hide who you are. Your spouse spends so much more time with you that they see your best and your worst. Whereas being single, no one is around me that much. Being authentic is something I have to actively work at. I have to be deliberate in letting people in. I’m sure some of that is also true in marriage, but I definitely get the sense that the nature of the marital relationship lends itself better to transparency.

      Does that make sense?

      • August 10, 2009 8:44 pm

        Deb, that makes complete sense. I say this all the time to my friends but when I was single it was so much easier. (I actually thought I was perfect believe it or not). Then, I got married and realized I wasn’t after all! But it’s not at all to say you can’t reach that level being single. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what stage you’re in. It’s a matter of following God’s word in confessing our sins to one another, consistently.

        I liked what you said about being deliberate to let people in. It really is a matter of intentionality. I’m currently learning that in my closest women friendships. And of course to feel that trust.

        Do you think authentic relationships are what a lot of people strive for but they don’t know how to get there? Is this a relevant topic for 20s and 30s today?

  4. August 3, 2009 9:07 pm

    I think most honest people would be willing to confess their darkest secrets, realizing there is really nothing new under the sun. Will some be disappointed? Sure. But only those who have put us on a pedestal we don’t deserve. Those who are really in touch with and own their own sin will be the last to condemn you. Like Deb, I have some ugly faces. Sometimes they show and people see the side I wish they didn’t. But sometimes they show and I’m embarrassed, and my friends say, “I always knew that about you but love you anyway.” Those are my true friends.

    And Samantha, I think an authentic community can exists between any one who is honest with who they are and open to where others are in their walk with Christ. When I was single I had great authentic community, and it continued after I was married. I still have great community with singles. We’re all of the same Body, and when we realize that, REALLY realize that, we’ll stop segregating ourselves as if the smaller and more concise the group, the more authentic and transparent we’ll become. The younger need the wisdom of the older, and the older need the perspective of the younger. Basically, everyone needs everyone else!

    Blessings,

    Jim

  5. August 5, 2009 1:29 pm

    Great thoughts Jim. So true. What I am realizing lately is that my unbelieving friends are starting to see something different among those who claim to follow Christ because they see such transparency. They see people who aren’t perfect or who pretend they are. It’s really been life changing to see this (for me). I think it’s freeing and refreshing for them to see Christians who admit that the only thing that makes them what they are is Christ alone. It’s not how good or righteous they are on their own.

    Keep the thoughts coming. I will be posting more on this especially since I have an article due on it soon. Thanks again.

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