Tag: trust (page 1 of 10)

How Authenticity Falls Short

Authenticity is a gigantic buzzword these days.

We are all trying to be authentic all the time, and we are all judging everyone else for how well they are doing at it. For some of us, authenticity comes naturally. For others, it is a learned skill, and one that we struggle to put into practice.

It is a worthwhile pursuit. Authenticity holds hands with vulnerability and walks us down the path towards our true selves.

But I wonder if it is enough.

We treat authenticity like we are pirates on a quest for treasure. Like the pursuit of finding it and spending it is ultimate purpose of our personhood.

I am coming to believe that authenticity is only one a portion of our longing. It is not the treasure, but the map. It is the thing that can lead us to what we are really searching for, deep down in the pit of our souls.

Intimacy.

There’s an important distinction between authenticity and intimacy. Authenticity is about me. Intimacy is about us.

authenticity and intimacy

They are connected, to be sure. True intimacy cannot come without authenticity. But intimacy also requires more than that.

Intimacy asks not only that I trust you with my authentic self, but that I provide space for you to trust me with your authentic self. Which means I will sometimes be the one put my stuff out for you to see, and other times, I will put out empty hands so I can hold onto your offering.

Intimacy requires not only authenticity, but also humility, love, and sacrifice.

Intimacy does not come easily. It is cultivated by energy over a long period of time. It involves failures and frustration as we engage in the messiness of life together.

Yet isn’t intimacy what love looks like? To know and be known? To lay down our lives for each other? To push away fear with compassion? To be truly with one another? To trust and forgive and encourage, over and over and over again?

People will fail us and we will get hurt. The cultivation of intimacy will not be easy. But let’s have the courage to try.

Giving Up… Control

Lent Series ButtonWhen I was in 5th grade, I brought the Chronicles of Narnia series with me on a road trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Lucy, Edmund, Peter, Susan, and Eustace were my companions as the South Dakota landscape traveled through my car window, and the sounds of New Kids on the Block traveled into my ears from my Walkman.

I read and reread the series many times in my childhood, adolescence, and even my adulthood. Their bindings are worn and falling apart from the years of keeping me company.

I have been on a journey this year of learning how to BE, my One Word 365. The way this word is embedding itself into my life and soul has been more difficult and more beautiful than I ever imagined. I have searched for metaphors and comparisons to describe it, and have come up short.

Until a friend compared me to Eustace.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace makes a choice that leads to him becoming a dragon. He had a bracelet on at the time, which is too small for his thick dragon arms. The arm ring cuts deep into his skin, and gets more and more painful over time.

Eustace is miserable. He was never meant to be a dragon.

One night, Aslan, the Lion, the Creator and Savior and Lover of Narnia, finds Eustace sitting in his pain. And leads him to a well, a clear and beautiful bath, which he knew could heal him.

But Eustace couldn’t get in the pool until he got his dragon skin off.

He scratched and some scales came off, then he scratched again and a whole later came off, then he scratched again and another fell to the ground. But it was never enough.

Eustace tried and tried and tried, but he couldn’t take off his dragon skin on his own.

If he wanted to become himself again, he needed help.

He needed Aslan.

“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…

He peeled the beastly stuff right off- just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me- I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on- and threw me into the water.”

This is the picture of the painful grace of my life right now. My heart is sore from the merciful peeling God has been doing to my heart. But the sting is absolutely and completely worth it.

I have always been an achiever. So for years I have been trying hard to be different. Striving to be authentic. Working to be vulnerable.

I know these characteristics are important. And I really, really want them to be true of me.

So I have been scratching and pulling and working to peel back the layers and find my true self underneath.

But the solution isn’t to try harder. The solution is to give up.

I needed to learn to give up control.

Only Aslan has the power to clear the dragon skin from my heart. But it is so so scary, to lay down, back to the ground, in full trust of whatever He needs to do to make that happen.

But I am learning to give up my fear, give up my control, and lean into the trust that my God loves me, my God is with me, and my God is leading me to the wellspring of healing.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

Giving Up… My Worry

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I was in a conversation with my small group when I first realized it.

We were taking turns sharing our stories with one another, using an entire night for each person to talk and be asked questions. It was my turn.

My tears were flowing at a similar pace to my words, when I admitted, “I just worry that everything is two steps away from the bottom dropping out.”

It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I realized how pervasive this worry really was. I spoke about it that night and have continued to ponder it since then.

———-

Our lives are full of unpredictable events. I have talked to person after person after person who have had wonderful jobs, amazing families, marvelous friendships, and rock-solid faith, until suddenly, they didn’t.

Why would I assume that wouldn’t be me? Why shouldn’t I hedge my bets?

I have made choice after choice to do what I can to control the future. I try hard and work even harder to be the best at everything I can. If there is anything I can do to prevent failure, I will do it. At the same time, I assume that none of it is going to work. That inevitably I will fail or someone will let me down. That way, when it does happen, at least I’m not surprised.

I assume the sting won’t hurt as much if I expect it.

Because I don’t live with the physical sensation of anxiety, I spent years oblivious to the fact that worry was controlling me.

I’ve heard faith defined as placing our confidence in something. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can be confident about is that at some point, all of our lives will hit bottom.

And so I place my faith in that worry. I am confident that something dreadful will come to pass in the near future. And the more I am confident in that, the less it feels like anxiety and the more it feels like truth. The worry fools me into a false sense of security.

But security is not the same thing as peace. Peace is what Christ came to offer me.

———-

I’ve been encouraged to lean into two spiritual practices lately: the welcoming prayer and the breath prayer.

The welcoming prayer consciously invites all the things we want to hide, the feelings we are embarrassed about, into the center of our prayer life. Not to confess them, or feel shame about them, but to lift them up as a reality God already sees.

God searches us and knows us. It is often we who do not know ourselves.

For me, this has meant welcoming my fears and worries and stress into the center of my prayer life. And knowing that nothing about them changes God’s affection for me. God knows I have struggled with this worry. This revelation is not a surprise to Him. And He values me and loves me and accepts me right now, just as I am.

I end the welcoming prayer with the simple request of “Christ, shine Your light.”

The breath prayer acknowledges God’s presence with us in every moment of every day. It is a simple phrase memorized and repeated, so that it enters our thoughts rhythmically and repeatedly throughout the day, just as we breath. The original breath prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But I prayed about what I needed, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, wrote my own breath prayer for this season.

“Abba, hold my hand.”

It is so simple, yet so important to acknowledge. In every step and misstep, my Daddy is with me. He never stops loving me. He never stops holding me.

———-

I was talking to a mentor who asked me to lean into the worry. Who wondered out loud what would happen if the bottom actually did fall out from any or all of the pieces of my life that I worry so much about.

I pictured myself walking hand-in-hand with my God, when suddenly, the bottom disappeared from below me. But I didn’t fall. His hand was holding me up, gripping even tighter around my wrist than it had before.

My circumstances may fall apart. In fact, if life is true to form, parts of them will. And so I may always carry a bit of that fear with me. But the worry? The confidence in a future reality that makes me hedge my bets? I am giving that part up.

My confidence does not belong in my worry. My faith belongs in my Abba, who I am feeling in a new way, is right there beside me.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

Giving Up… My Filters

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Awhile back, I was at the science museum with my family. There was a station set up to learn about filtration systems. A guy was there with large pretend filters, one with large gaps, one with medium gaps, and one with small gaps. He was challenging kids to throw balls and try to make it through the holes. It was easy to see how each of the layers of the filter was important: one to catch large particles, one to catch medium, and one to catch small.

We all know what it’s like to be around someone with no filter. There can be a lot of unintentional relational damage from someone who always speaks their mind all the time.

Me? I veer too far in the other direction. I over-filter and over-edit myself. Even in writing this post, I have pressed the backspace button way too many times for the amount of words I have written.

Bear with me, for in the spirit of giving up this over-filtering, I’m going to write the rest of this post unedited. (Except for spelling mistakes. I will fix those. I don’t think I can take this “giving up” practice that far…)

I have had this awareness of myself before, but last night, I realized it in new ways. I had a difficult afternoon, and I called a friend to talk about it. While I was still crying. And I thought, “I don’t know if I’ve ever done this before.”

I talk pretty openly about my life, but not when I’m knee deep in the middle of things. I wait until it’s safe. I wait until I can edit and filter and present the version of myself that can handle it. That is ok. That trusts God in spite of life circumstances.

I edit the version of me I present to others.

And without realizing it, I also edit the version of myself I present to God.

Though I am the type of person who shouts from the rooftops about the importance of honesty in prayer, of coming to God as you are without concern for how you should be, about yelling your frustrations because after all, if he is God, he can handle it, I have only pretended to do that myself.

I have come honest, but only after pausing to edit my honesty first.

Yesterday, after this conversation, I prayed. And I prayed ugly. My words were more raw and messy and truthful than they have been for a long time. Maybe ever. And I realized how scared I really was to utter those things outloud, and how I had only faked rawness before that point.

I removed one layer, and thought that meant I was being raw. But  I wasn’t unfiltered, I was only less filtered.

It wasn’t intentional. I can think of only a few times I have hid on purpose. But with each layer that God pulls back, I am finally able to see the other layer that is behind it.

And I’m pushing my way through, one at a time.

It is a mix of discipline and trust to give up this editing practice. The discipline of saying: I’m going to write this without pressing backspace, I’m going to have this conversation when I can’t yet articulate what’s wrong, I’m going to pray my questions before they have answers. And the trust of saying: I can’t control this process, I believe I will still be loved regardless of how things sound, I understand that my mess is just as much the real me as my beauty.

The trusting part? That will take time and prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit more than anything else. But the discipline part? I can do something about that. I can push my way into things that are painful and uncomfortable and ugly and unedited knowing that it’s worth it.

Christ is sitting on the other side of my filters with his hand reached out. He longs for greater intimacy than I’ve allowed. He is already holding my hand, but he wants more of me than that. He is waiting to embrace the whole of who I am, once these things blocking the way are removed. He is patient.

It’s up to me to admit that I need to give up my filters. Christ won’t force it. But He also won’t judge me for how long it takes. He is with me, pouring his grace through any of the cracks that will let it get through.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

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