Authentic Authenticity

During our normal weekly time set aside to process life, hold each other accountable, share the good and the bad, and memorize scripture, my mentor-friend asked how my time with God was that week. I said it was average, didn’t get me excited, that I just kind of went through the motions with prayer and Bible-reading. And she said, “So… you were faithful.” … Excuse me? What she said is not what we’re used to hearing. Some friends would counsel me to stop if I don’t feel like doing something. Others would say to figure out how to rekindle the passion, but for-goodness-sake don’t stay in that nothing zone where all your passion is gone and you don’t feel like doing what you’re doing. We love to have passion for what we’re doing. And we hate doing things we don’t feel like doing. But frequently, that’s the definition of faithfulness – doing what we have committed to do, doing what’s right, and doing what’s good, even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes “going through the motions” is actually faithfulness and is the best, and only, thing you can do when emotions are running low. Buuut we love doing what we feel like, and we’ve started calling it authenticity.

Somewhere along the line we have equated being authentic with following along with our emotions. We have the attitude of: “If I feel it, I do it, and that’s the authentic me. And If I’m acting differently from what I really feel inside, then that’s hypocrisy, high treason to myself.” We’ve gotten into our heads the “idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy, but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what i believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what i believe, in spite of what i feel, isn’t hypocrisy, it’s integrity” (Thoennes). For those of us who follow Jesus and are pursuing our true selves that are only found in who God created us to be, Brett McCracken accurately says that, “Sanctification involves living in a way that often conflicts with what feels authentic.” Really, we’ve got two natures warring inside of us every day, but our “authentic selves” are not always the desires we feel on the daily. God is bringing us (as individuals and as humanity) back to our true authentic selves. McCracken continues “Hard as it may be to believe in the midst of our sinful thoughts and fleshly struggles, we were made to be perfect. Brokenness may feel more natural, but holiness is actually the more human state.”

We are covered not only by grace, but also by a call to obedience and holiness. Jonathan Lunde says, “Though always established in grace, each biblical covenant also includes demands of righteousness from those who trust in God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenantal promises. This means that covenantal grace never diminishes the covenant demand of righteousness – righteousness that flows out of covenantal faith. As a result, faith and works of obedience will always be found in God’s true covenantal partners.” So we are to pursue “authenticity” but not the “what you feel like is what is authentically you” brand of authenticity that our culture loves. We are to pursue an authentic-holiness and authentic-obedience and as we do, we pursue our authentic identity in Christ. As we do, we are being faithful. Just like my mentor-friend’s point that my less-than-enthusiastic faithfulness to God during that dull week was just that – faithfulness to God, and exactly what I needed to be doing.

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I can’t wrap my mind around what’s happening in my own country. The hatred and the rage and confusion puts cracks in my heart. It hurts to see your country nursing collective wounds. I don’t understand the terror in Barcelona, Spain. Someone intended for that blood to be on the streets. It’s frightening to listen to the video messages that promise more attacks on Spanish soil. There’s pain all around us. I feel the hardships of those I love and work through my own issues and hurts – the brokenness I see inside myself. My brokenness that breaks other people. And the broken people around me who break other people. It all hurts me and angers me.

“That hurt and anger you feel in a fallen world? It’s not because something is wrong with you. It’s because something is right with you.” – Timothy Keller

Feel the hurt over brokenness and the anger at injustice. If we add the weight of the brokenness and hurt in our own hearts to the pain we see everywhere we turn? My friend was right when she told me “That’s a lot for a heart to carry.” We all have a lot to carry in our hearts. There’s a physical weight in our chest. What can I do with it? Run it out, sweat it out, pray it out, cry it out. Then let love and a clear head drive my actions. I just want to sit in brokenhearted prayer before I do anything else. “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection” (Psalm 91:4).

Because of Psalm 92, I’ve been trying to get into two habits: every morning meditating on and reminding myself of the Lord’s love, and every night meditating on and recounting to myself his faithfulness.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
Psalm 92:1-2

A morning reminder of his steadfast love is my armor for the day – it reminds me of my identity and sends me out as a beloved daughter, sure of where my identity, peace, and joy come from. There is no need to armor myself with hardness toward the world or a “you can’t touch me” attitude just to make it through the day. If I belong to Christ, I am among “those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12). The surety of his love can carry me through the day and can be my constant throughout the unexpected ups and downs.

A nighttime recounting of his faithfulness is my peace and stability for the night – after the day is done, my mind may be full of thoughts and anxiety and my shoulders might carry the stress of the day. By reminding myself of God’s previous faithfulness in my life, in the lives of those around me, and as recorded in the Bible, I can rest and entrust myself and every concern I have to his proven character. After good days, I remember his faithfulness and thank him for the gifts. After bad days, I remember his faithfulness and trust him with what’s to come. He is faithful and he does not change.