authenticity, be authentic

I write the truth. I have written a lot of words over the course of my 32 years on this planet and I find one element that binds them to those who stumble onto them. One string runs down the middle of my ramblings and (to God’s glory), that string can be a lifeline to people who feel alone.

Authenticity.

I didn’t know what I started to be about, as a writer. I write about faith and parenting, marriage and illness, the bizarre and ironic and frustrating and beautiful. I write whatever is on my heart, and sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason. I write humor. I write darkness. I write about laundry piles. I write life, in its massive depth and shallow table crumbs. And word by word, story by story, I’ve connected with pastor’s wives and atheists, total strangers and good friends and random readers who later realize we went to high school together.

I love words. I love their capacity to reach across miles and through experiences and connect, challenge, inspire. I love that the written word invites us to open our minds and challenge our perceptions and mostly, that it’s a forum for authenticity.

Our world fights against authenticity, much of the time. We are inundated with messages about what we have to have, who we should be, what we ought to wear, buy, drive, eat, or worship. For me, writing is an invitation to get  real and tell the truth, even when it’s ugly.

And perhaps this is what I love most about the blog world—the fact that I see souls split clean open when they read the words of a brave and honest soul. When we admit our weaknesses, our struggles, our fears and doubts and pains, we build a bridge and invite people to cross it with us. Isn’t this what community is about?

But there are different schools of thought here. I attended an absolutely amazing Christian blogging conference last year where I soaked up wisdom by the bucket load. Unfortunately, though I left filled and inspired and surrounded by the arms of community, I also left a little wounded. I heard a blogging expert tell writers that when their story is particularly painful or graphic it probably doesn’t need to be told, that we should focus on the positive and the beautiful and not sit in the dark places or else we’re not doing anyone any good. I think the speaker meant well, but I also think it’s a lie of the Enemy that we have to put our best faces forward to witness for Christ.

The message we get so often is this: If you were abused at the hands of someone else, if someone else hurt you, if you risk wounding someone else with your words or shedding light on the taboo places, then keep them to yourself.

I {sort of} agree.

Telling your story does not mean you have to ridicule, humiliate, embarrass, or hurt others and it is not an excuse to do this. But there are still ways to tell your story without throwing anyone else under the bus. I would argue, if God has called you to write, you have to tell the truth as you know it, or you’re leaving out the part that helps someone else in the process. You are undermining your ministry by cleaning up the truth as it happened.

Don’t believe the lie that the story has to have clean edges to be powerful…life is messy, and real life is what we all need to discover here.

This, too, is where I think the church fails most (and I am right along in here along with the rest of us, so this is not a judgment but a reality check). We encourage and support and smile and love, but so much of the time, we can’t show the scars that we have received in this fallen world. Faith is about new life. It is. But nothing makes us long for new life like the realization that there is someone who has walked first through death and darkness.

Our stories don’t always have a happy ending…yet. Tell the truth, even if it’s in progress. We all are, after all…in progress.

If you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t be shamed into believing that it is your job as a Christian to glorify all people. It is your job to glorify God. I hope you will do that with discretion and honor and dignity and grace, but the redemption story is hollow when we don’t know what has been redeemed.

Isn’t this what the cross was all about? Isn’t this the miracle in the ugliness of His suffering and the beauty of the resurrection?

Tell your story, friend. Tell the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tell the parts that connect humanity in a fallen world that aches for life on the other side of this divide. Open the wounds wide, when you can, so the love of community can fall inside, so we can walk across bridges together.

For the love of God, be authentic.

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A wife, mom, foster parent, writer, and Jesus girl, trying to live out loud with as much grace and gusto as I can. Visit me at WhimsySmitten.com

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