CHAPTER FIVE: Let's Be Real
The one golden nugget that I learned in life is when we gather together to support each other through our good and bad times, we discover we're not alone. The truth is that no matter how brave we want to be, no matter how much we want to be in control, or how we try to focus on the positive even when darkness plunges us into a pit of despair, it's when people encourage us to just be ourselves that we can be real. When we graciously accept another person with their flaws, weaknesses, and strengths, we graciously empower them to know:
- It's alright to not be perfect.
- Your imperfections and life experiences help others to relate to you on a deeper level.
- You are not alone.
- Being a woman of faith does not mean you have it altogether.
- God loves you in spite of your mistakes, weaknesses, and sins.
Have you ever gone somewhere in which you sense the person sitting next to you is wearing a false mask? They have a pretty smile and go through all of the motions acting as if everything is fine, yet underneath their designer dress they are slowly crumbling. Perhaps, they have control issues, drink until they are numb, or they're trapped in a rocky marriage where they feel isolated? When they bravely remove their facade to be real, it helps you break the toxic trance you are in to remove your own false mask.
How would our lives dramatically transform if we each became our authentic selves? Would we be more sensitive and compassionate if we truly felt their pain? What if we walked in their shoes for one day, what would it be like? Here are a list of “Christianese” phrases we say to people when they are experiencing tough times or a faith crisis that can actually hurt more than help:
- "God never gives us more than we can handle." REALLY? So you sister shouldn't feel fearful, overwhelmed, or hopeless when her doctor confirms she has stage four ovarian cancer?
- "One day at a time." Excuse me? Try telling this to the mom who just buried her two-year-old son after a drunk driver stole his life. She's not only struggling to get through each day; she's trying to get through each agonizing minute.
- "It was God's will." When the most devastating loss has happened to you, would you want to hear this? How about after you lost your home to a horrible flood? Or you caught your husband having an affair with your best friend?
- "If you have faith you will not have fear." I disagree. As for myself, I happen to have a whole lot of faith and fear simultaneously. Five years ago, when I endured wicked withdrawals from potent chemicals and was hospitalized twice, I was beyond scared...I was having panic attacks and living a real life nightmare. Through hellish suffering, I begged the Lord to help me regain my health, but I admit there were plenty of times I had doubts in God and my faith.
- "You must have little faith or you wouldn't have gone through ____________ (Fill in the blank). This one really burns me up! Where in the Bible does it say that we are exempt from hardship, pain, or losses? No where. Why do Christians feel the need to say this when in reality it only causes the person who is enduring adversity to feel ashamed or condemned? Who are we to accuse someone of lacking faith when only God knows their heart and personal situation?
The truth of the matter is that everyone feels broken, lost, stunned, angry, and grieved at some point in their lives. In reality, most of us wouldn't relate to someone who has a perfect body, perfect marriage, and perfect job with perfect children in their perfect home with a perfect white fence. This sounds more like Leave It To Beaver! When we come across people who may lead us to believe their lives are a beautiful fairy tale, it usually leaves us feeling badly as if something were wrong with us. This is when we may run for cover and hide behind false masks.
Instead of feeling inferior for not having it altogether, what if we embraced our messy, imperfect lives? What if we went to our workplace, mom's group, church, or family gathering and gave ourselves permission to be transparent? To openly admit we are real women with real issues in which we face real temptations, frustrations, and pain? Let's take it one step further. What if we transparently shared that we have moments when we doubt God, question His purpose for our lives, and find ourselves thinking more about our problems rather than pray?
An author named Mike Yaconelli who was a pastor, church leader, theologian, and co-founder of Youth Specialties, was an incredibly authentic man with a deep desire to love God and people. He sums up our challenges on being real by saying, “What if genuine faith begins with admitting we will never have our act completely together? Maybe messy disciples are exactly the kind of imperfect people Jesus came to earth for and whose company he actually enjoyed–and still enjoys.”
When we choose authenticity, we no longer need to stress over trying to be someone we are not. Don't let the fear of what others think hold you back from being real. If they ridicule or reject you, they have no business being a part of your life. Surround yourself around those who will appreciate, respect, and encourage you for being who you truly are. Today, release the burden of living up to the world's standards by stepping into your authentic self. Empower yourself by freely walking toward the beautiful, authentic woman that God created you to be.
INDIVIDUAL & GROUP QUESTIONS TO TRANSFORM:
- Do you feel as if you must have it altogether? What kind of daily pressure does this add to your life, relationships, and how you feel about yourself?
- Do you relate to any of the "Christianese" phrases? Perhaps, someone had said something similar to you? If so, how did you respond?
- What specific part of your life to you find yourself wearing a false mask?
- How can you be more authentic in being exactly who you are?
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
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