31-days-of-women-of-authenticity here is the link if you missed any of the 31 Days Series!
The topic of authenticity is in lots of conversations these days. It’s definitely been a theme in many Christian circles, but also in the secular world. Its been said that Millennials are looking for authenticity when looking for a church. As consumers, as church-goers, as students, as voters, this generation is looking for authenticity and marketers are capitalizing on that.
Does anyone really value inauthenticity? Surely not. No one is drawn to phoniness. No one values dishonesty in a relationship (I don’t think). At the root its because authenticity is not just a value, but a need.
Now, sometimes “authenticity” and “vulnerability” are used interchangeably. While they are in the same category, they have very different meanings as well as implications. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word authentic is defined as “real or genuine, not copied or false”, while vulnerable is defined as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” We should be authentic with everyone, but vulnerability can and should be reserved for those with whom we desire a relationship. In a way, one hinges on the other. You can be authentic without being vulnerable, but it’s pretty difficult to be vulnerable without being authentic.
How can you be authentic but not vulnerable? Think about the people who boast in their authenticity but are too fearful to let anyone get really close to them. I’ve seen Marilyn Monroe’s famous quote on lots of facebook walls. You know the one, “I'm selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as h@*l don't deserve me at my best.” She was being authentic but what I see under that thin veneer of confidence is fear- a fear of rejection.
Some people feel like the remedy for this fear and insecurity is to keep telling yourself, “You’re enough.” Enough for what? The world tells us that when we aren’t feeling good about ourselves, we should just think happy thoughts. So, we’re trying to hide our true selves from others while thinking happy thoughts. But, sadly, those happy thoughts don’t last very long so we try to numb the negative emotions with food, alcohol, shopping, medication, maybe even pornography. According to researcher Brene’ Brown, we are the most obese, addicted, in debt and over medicated generation in U.S. history. You can’t numb these negative emotions without also numbing the positive ones: like joy, peace, love and happiness. It’s a destructive cycle. It doesn’t work.
Again, the biggest hindrance to vulnerability is a fear of rejection, especially if you’ve experienced repeated rejection over the course of your life. We long to be known, really known, with all our weaknesses and failures, cellulite and wrinkles, and still be loved and accepted. No wonder we’ve been burned by rejection over and over again. What human can see us, and all of our “junk”, and still love us unconditionally? Very few. And the thing is, no other human, not even we, ourselves, sees all of us. But there is One who does. The One who made us. The One who sees all and knows all. He sees our hearts and like the oncologist who is about to give us the bad news that the cancer has metastasized to every part of our body, He says, “Dear One, its much worse than you think.”
We are much worse than we ever thought. Our selfishness runs deeper, our pride runs wider, our inadequacy is off the charts. We even have a difficult time looking at it and really accepting ourselves. God looks on it and says, “You are not enough.”……… What?! Why would God say that? He is supposed to believe in me. He is supposed to think I’m great. Really? He continues and says, “But My Son is enough. He has met all the standards. He has followed all the rules. He has resisted every temptation. He has remained perfectly adequate…. for your sake”. That’s why Jesus came. He didn’t come to save a healthy, clean perfect world of people. He came because of our severe need for help and redeeming. Jesus sees our hearts and He offers ultimate acceptance and love.
So, for the person who doesn’t have a relationship with the Creator of the World through faith in Jesus Christ, He is the answer to all your fears. You can be known and loved and accepted by the only One who really matters, the only One who gave you life and the only One who can take it from you. Look to Him, confess your need for Him, your sin against Him and ask Him to forgive you and replace your weakness with His strength, your failure with His perfection.
For the believer, the gospel has to speak into our need for vulnerability as well. To live in close, intimate gospel community with other believers, we have to remember that we have already received our identity and acceptance by our Father. We don’t have to fear not receiving it from our sister. Let’s stop accusing others of not being authentic enough. Let’s stop fearing that others will not accept us. Instead of being insecure and defensive, let’s rest in the love of Christ. Rather than demanding acceptance and grace from others, let’s give it freely. Our vulnerability invites others to be vulnerable and results in intimacy and true community. What am I afraid of? My brother or sister in Christ will be disappointed with me at some point, but what does that matter when El Shaddai is in love with me? What do I need to protect myself from? I am complete, I am whole, I am secure in the redeeming, all sufficient love of Christ. The assurance of His love brings freedom so that I can be vulnerable with others, loving and forgiving them freely as He has loved and forgiven me.
Jesus gives us the ultimate example of vulnerability. He didn’t just come into this world taking a risk that He might be physically and emotionally wounded. A risk implies that there is only a possibility in a negative outcome. Jesus came, with joy, knowing there would be rejection from those He loved, but He laid down His life in spite of it. He was freed to give of Himself without fear, without reserve because He had the ultimate love and approval from His Father.