Thursday, March 1, 2012

Are You For Real?

Authenticity. It has been on my mind lately. For reasons that you probably could give a rat's hairy hind end about, I have been consumed by it of late. So, in true "it's all about me" fashion, I have decided to rant write about it.

The Man and I have been watching old episodes of Pawn Stars. Fun show. It chronicles the transactions of a Vegas pawn shop and the random stuff that crosses that counter is extremely entertaining. I realize that having a blog post about authenticity and referencing a show that is obviously scripted (at times) is hypocritical and confusing, but stick with me - I'm getting there.

The thing about Pawn Stars that hit me as I struggled to start this post is simple: Authenticity gives things value. You can have a beautiful replica of something very valuable, never been out of its replicated packaging, but if it is a replica and not an original it is darned near worthless. Watching episode after episode it was evident that if the trinket, weapon or artifact turned out to be a fake, these savvy shop owners weren't going to make much of an offer, if anything. They pissed some folks off, letting their dreams of found millions explode into the dust from whence it came. It didn't matter. They told the truth of what they saw and let it guide their offers or non-offers. They couldn't let the little old lady's saddened face or the irate man's tirade sway what they found, it just was. It was either authentic, or it wasn't.

Because it is all about me, I look inward, again. (I see that eye roll...) I fought having just one blog for a long time. The reasons aren't as ethereal as you might hope. They were selfish and fear filled. I didn't want someone who was reading my blog for Christian inspiration to run across my posts about Vodka and discount what God was saying through me. Or read my posts about "things that piss me off make me crazy" and judge whether I was being Christian enough. I was separating my lives and frankly, I was being inauthentic. I was trying to put a face to my writing that didn't make sense to me anymore so I took a deep breath and chucked it.

It was a scary thing to do, but I realized (with some Heavenly help, of course) that being me is what being a Christian is all about. It's messy and confusing, funny and irreverent. Being me is more valuable to Christ than pretending to be something I am not. And I am not perfect, straight laced, a hymnal singer or ever without copious amounts of alcohol to choose from in my home bar. It is who I am. It does not diminish me or God's influence through me, in fact it widens your search for reality in the Christian world. It makes you more likely to seek out God than to stand on the sidelines and repeat over and over again, "I could never be good enough." None of us will ever be good enough! That's the whole point of grace, right?

Before you go off and think that this was an easy choice for me and all went off without a hitch, I have to warn you. Making the decision to be authentically me had its issues. I knew there would be some who would quit reading. I understood those that didn't already know my Christian walk might be turned off because of they thought they knew me and I definitely didn't look or sound like any Christian they knew... I knew also that I might gain some things that were unexpected because I was being more honest about the reality of being Christian-me. Stepping out in faith was hard and I had to trust that God was going to lead the way and not leave me hanging.

The fact is, it will change things, and you may not like some of the changes. You may alienate some of your closest friends with your authenticity. You may find that your being the real you has consequences that you didn't count on. It might hurt. There will be people who feel as though they don't know who you are now. That's a toughie... It isn't easy to reveal things about ourselves that we have been keeping under wraps. It makes us look like we were lying about who we really are, and at first blush it may be true.

I am reminded of Paul and who he started out to be in the Bible. Before Christ changed his name (think: Biblical Witness Protection Program), Saul as he was known to his Pharisee friends, was the biggest persecutor of the Christian church. He was a zealot to say the least, some would say he was fanatical. They would be right. He had been known for his ruthless persecution of those that followed the carpenter from Nazareth. He was a violent and cold hearted individual who had but one goal in mind: stamp out Christianity at all costs and kill those who would follow though they face death.

Paul underwent a change, a transformation of his very being and he became an authentic Christian follower on the road to Damascus. It was a dramatic scene and one that leaves Paul ultimately blind for a time. He left behind the ways of his Pharisee counterparts. He confused them beyond understanding. In an instant, his whole life changed. He lost his job as a Pharisee-prosecutor. He forfeited his comfortable routine and his home. He lost friends over it. Thing drastically changed for Paul and some of that change had to be painful. Not only did he lose his old friends, he had a hard time making new ones because of his violent past. For a while there, Paul was very much alone.

Making a decision to be more authentically us is going to have consequences. When it is just a tweaking of who we have already been, that is one thing. More often, we are called to radically change who we have been presenting to the world, and those changes are bound to cause us angst. We like our routines. We like our friends. We want to change, sure! But we want things to stay comfortable too. We don't want to lose...

Here's the thing: God doesn't take half way. He sees your heart and He knows when you are faking it. You simply cannot fool HIm. God knows our need for companionship and He understands how loneliness can affect us. He will provide the right kind of encouragement and the blessings that will confirm we have made the best choice when we prayerfully seek Him out. God wants us to be authentic. God values us as we are. He made each and every one of us and He calls that a good thing.

Don't hide your light under a basket of who you think you should be, shine it out! You never know who you might influence to do the same thing... And that is what God finds valuable.