“I've got a thing for genuine people.” – message on a crewmates’ door down the hall.
“Thank you for being real in this place.” –treasured words from a treasured friend.
gen•u•ine [jen-yoo-in] adj.
Possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real.
Of all the words in the world, this is one I love more than most… especially when it is used by others in description of me. In my life’s journey, there is no sweeter word; it is the cry of my heart, the longing of my soul, and I can think of no higher compliment.
It hasn't always been this way. Redemption is a beautiful thing. I am not who I once was; in various seasons long gone I would have been called anything but genuine. Manipulative, controlling, secretive… those insidious words were once accurate descriptors of me. I believed for so long there was just something inherently wrong with me, as a person, that I did everything I could to hide who I really was… begged God to change me into a different person, even tried to BE a different person. But God, in his infinite, compassionate grace, slowly and surely broke away those beliefs until I was, and am, left with the truth. Instead of changing me into a different person, God has been changing me into more of me, which in turn, is more of a reflection of Him. Genuine. Authentic. Real.
I just wish we could be REAL about this! I hear this phrase, or something like it, far too often. Why is this even a thing? Why can’t we be real, be genuine, always?
My dear friend Erin wrote this, concerning being real as it relates to Christmas:
“It’s like we know the Hallmark version of Christmas is actually quite fragile, but we want it to exist and nobody wants to be the one to shatter it. So we smile and play along, then berate ourselves for not having a better time.”
(read her blog here. You won’t regret it)
It resonated deeply with me at Christmas, but much beyond that, too.
Simply replace Christmas and you get the idea…
It’s like we know the dream version of the ship community is fragile, and no one wants to be the one to shatter it. So we smile and play along, then berate ourselves for not having a better time.
It’s like we came to the ship expecting it to be one big blissfully happy family: always encouraging and welcoming and loving; all giving and receiving and never disagreeing about anything; a community of like-minded individuals who immediately become family and we all come together every night and hold hands and sing kumbayah; of course we’ll be surrounded by people who couldn't possibly ever be hurtful or selfish or angry or distant, because Jesus isn't any of those things. And when that dream world doesn't turn out to be reality, we find ourselves curled up in our beds crying silent tears, gasping for breath, thinking to ourselves what is wrong with me? and wondering how is it possible I can be surrounded with people and yet feel so desperately lonely?
But the ship doesn't have the copyright on this shattering of reality.
It’s like we know the fairy tale version of marriage is fragile, and no one wants to be the one to shatter it. So we smile and play along, then berate ourselves for not being a good enough wife.
It’s like we know the June Cleaver version of family life is fragile, and no one wants to be the one to shatter it. So we smile and play along, then berate ourselves for not being a good enough mother.
The possibilities are endless.
It’s easy to write about being real. I read blogs like Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, or Sarah Bessey, or Rachel Held Evans, orParenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, and I applaud them for being the voice of reason in this or that, for being real in a world afraid to shatter the image of missionaries or motherhood or marriage.
But what I see each of them and all the others writing about, and hear from the mouths of my friends near and far, is that we all want to be real, we all cry out for others to be real… but when push comes to shove, when reality hits, when that new crewmember says hi or you walk through the doors of the sanctuary looking for a place to sit or you long for depth of conversation with someone… we aren't. We’re inherently fine when we clearly are not; we smile and play along, talking about the weather or the news or other equally safe topics; we gloss over hardship with a platitude of a promised prayer that never materializes or a coffee cup verse that just makes everything all better because after all, Jesus suffered a lot more than we are. So suck it up and smile and for goodness sake, don’t tarnish the image of (fill in the blank).
I don’t have a brilliant conclusion or a pretty bow to tie around and close out this post. I don’t have the answers; I don’t know why we can’t be or aren't always genuine, real, authentic. I think comparison has a lot to do with it, and comparison is the thief of joy. I think being genuine looks a lot like begin fully alive, and the enemy of our souls will do anything to keep that from happening. I know that I am not alone in this, and I think that all I can do is try to change this in myself and hope that it will spread; I will keep speaking life and truth and be genuine, shining light into darkness, and fighting for the hearts and souls and minds of the dear hearts I have the privilege and honor of walking with through this life and season.