For the past couple of years, probably mostly since writing the post of my unmasking, God has been teaching me what it means to be real, and to love in a real way. As someone who has always hated small talk and strives for the deeper things in life, you would think that becoming real would be an easy feat for me. But it's not. Don't ask me where it came from, but I have a tendency to keep my personal struggles close to my chest, and vulnerability does not come easily for me; even with my best friends. Sharing my deepest thoughts and experiences with people is akin to removing a splinter buried in one's foot with a pair of tweezers - agonizing reluctance. Though I'm generally open with my thoughts and opinions, life experiences and soul struggles are things I much more unwilling to disclose. Perhaps because it proves my humanness far too obviously; I'm not really sure. However if that were the case, why would it be such a surprise for others to find out I'm human? Aren't we all?
I'm sure I am not alone in my fears of vulnerability. For some reason, baring oneself to another fallen human whose opinion you care deeply about takes more courage than throwing yourself out of a plane with no parachute, or abseiling off a cliff without a harness. You have no assurance of a safe landing, and no rope to keep you from certain death. The fact that others are no less perfect than we are never seems to alleviate our fears. Whilst we certainly believe that we shouldn't judge someone for sinning differently to we do, somehow we don't expect the same treatment in return. So we tend to be as real as we possibly can without offending people; we compromise our true self to the point where we think we will be accepted by society. There are three problems with this:
One, it's wrong. As Christians we are meant to shine as bright lights in a world of darkness, not blend into the murk. So even if we are hated for who we are, we should not stop being true to who God created us to be.
Two, we end up isolating ourselves and others, which compounds loneliness and creates the myth that no one has ever felt what we have. In reality, we are always far less alone than we think we are, and if we were more vulnerable with each other, then more people would realize there are more people out there that have shared the same experience.
And three, the focus is us. Whilst ever we are focused on ourselves, we can be guaranteed life will be a lot harder to live. We become selfish and me-centered which in turn looks out for only our own needs and ignores the world of hurt reaching out to us.
So just where should our focus be when we are striving to become real? In this process of learning what it means to be truly authentic, I kept coming back to this passage in Philippians:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
If we were busy looking to the needs and interests of others more so than our own, wouldn't our own wants shrink in the light of serving others? Doesn't showing Christ's love to others mean more than protecting our own hearts? Isn't being vulnerable with someone a greater sign of trust in God and a desire to love than hiding it deep inside? Since when was loving like Jesus loved a 'safe' thing?Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. - Phil. 2:3-4 KJV
It was at this point I began thinking - what exactly does it mean to be "real"? When is it a good thing to be vulnerable? How honest should I be with how human I am, and in what context? To whom and how should I bare my heart? It was in my pondering these things that I came up with a meaning and also an acronym for what "real" is:
Everything we do should be in order to show love to people. All we think, say, and do should be embodied by the love of Christ. So how can we do that unless we are being real? I believe that being real is to reach people with an authentic love; a love that loves in spite of hurt, betrayal, and hate. A love that is willing to be vulnerable in order to give another person the opportunity to love a fellow fallen human. A love that doesn't mind baring its heart to someone to show them that they are not alone in their dark struggles. A love that isn't afraid to love. How can love be real if we are fake?ReachingEveryone withAuthenticLove
Over the years I bought into the lie that I could love people without opening up to them. I could love without baring my heart, or being vulnerable. I could hug people from arm's length. I could listen, comfort and encourage without investing any of my soul in them. But that simply isn't true. The kingdom of God is all about investing ourselves in people through His love wholeheartedly. God hates a half-hearted sacrifice. In my desire to protect myself, what I was really doing was doubting God's ability to uphold me should I give of myself to people who could hurt me. I was keeping back part of the sacrifice just as Saul did.
“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”
But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:Ouch. God wants my full obedience when it comes to loving. If Jesus could love even His own betrayer, and give Himself completely over to death and the pain of loving and forgiving those who killed Him, who am I to withhold being real out of a desire to protect myself?
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! To obey is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king." - 1 Sam. 15:20-23 NLT
So to answer the question, "when should I be real?", it's found in the word. Reaching Everyone with Authentic Love. Wherever you are given the opportunity to love someone in an authentic way, be real. Wherever you can show Christ's love in the face of the bitterest hurts, backstabbings, or broken trusts, be real. It is obedience to the greatest command of all.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. - Jn. 13:34-35 NKJV
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 Jn. 4:11 NKJVIt is obedience, and it is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice to obey the command of love in a real way. You sacrifice your comfort, your safety, your certainty. It's daring and it's scary, but you have a God bigger than your capacity to give and greater than your capacity to love. To love authentically takes great faith in God, but it reaps precious rewards. One of the most amazing rewards being that, the more love you give, the more love of God you see extended to you. And who doesn't want to see more of the glory of God's own love for them?
So love. Be brave. Be real. Dare to be you, by reaching everyone with authentic love. Don't settle for the façade. Choose to give the real thing - Christ's undying love in you.
“the way to love someone is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul until you find a crack, and then gently pour your love into that crack.” - Keith Miller
Related reading: Boycotting the Masquerade