be authentic, for the love of God.

authenticity, be authentic

Written by Cara Sexton

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

April 20, 2012

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.

12 Comments

  1. Nancy Franson

    Yes, yes, and amen! And you, my dear, are awfully darned good at being authentic. I’ve been asked to come to a local Christian school on career day to talk about writing/blogging. I may print out this post and share some of it. May I?

    Reply
    • Cara @ WhimsySmitten

      Of course Nancy, fine by me, so long as Dan doesn’t mind. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement and for reading. 

      Reply
  2. Cara @ WhimsySmitten

    And while we’re on the topic. Here’s a favorite quote:

    “But you can’t get to any of these truths by
    sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and
    grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have
    much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and
    woods and abysses that we were told not go in to. When we have gone in and
    looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then
    we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment.
    And that moment is home.” – Anne Lamott

    Reply
  3. KP

    Thanks for your thoughts. Powerful. Made me mysty eyed.

    Reply
  4. Emily Wierenga

    oh my goodness yes! this is exactly what i want imperfect prose on thursdays to be about. this:  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?. oh, so good cara. so good. thank you. (and dan, thank you as well… )

    Reply
  5. pastordt

    Oh, amen! Thank you for this clear call to open and authentic writing. And writing the messy stuff doesn’t mean throwing anyone under the bus – you are right. Except sometimes, I think some writers tend to throw themselves under the bus, do you know what I mean? It’s good to admit our foibles and failures – I encourage that. But. But – as one writer wrote in an essay I read several years ago: “Your sin is not the most important thing about you.” And so much of evangelical churchianity in recent years has put the accent first, last and always there. Some of it has to do with pretty heavy theological stuff – like our view of Incarnation and Atonement. But some of it is coming from an inability (and I wrestle with this, too – so no finger-pointing here) to fully embrace, accept, and live into the powerful truth that ALL OF THAT heavy-duty theological stuff finds its source in the deep reservoir of love God has for us human creatures. We just can’t quite believe that God loves us and comes to save us because he is good and loving and he wants to bolster/protect/encourage-to-flourish all that is good and loving in us, those parts of each of us that reflect the imago dei. So I’ll admit to some recoil when ‘authenticity’ leaves out the good stuff God put in us and accents only the broken/sinful stuff. Does that make any sense??

    Reply
  6. Kelli Woodford

    You have written my heart here.

    Perhaps it’s the sharing of our own fallings down, then finding strength to rise that most often encourages feeble arms and weak knees.

    Really blessed by this.  Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Eileen

     “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?” YES it is!  Loved reading your thoughts.

    Reply
  8. suzannah {the smitten word}

    wow, i wish i’d have sat in on that session!  how unfortunate for any christian to exhort anyone to bury Truth in gloss and lies.  there is far too much of that in the Church, questions and stories and community traded for pat answers and false perfection.

    thank you for writing another Way, fragrant with redemption.

    Reply
  9. lindseyfoj

    Reading this reminded me YET AGAIN why you and Annie and I just “clicked” at Relevant. That desire for TRUE, REAL, RAW, and sometimes BLOODY authenticity runs through each of us way down the core of who we are.

    You challenge me. 

    Here’s to sharing grace-filled YET walls-down, RAW stories!! II love you friend!

    Reply
  10. christinameyer

    Thank you for this, Cara!  I was just thinking about this very thing on my way into work today.  We are all a part of His story.  God has compassion on us because He knows every little detail of our lives and of our hearts.  We as human beings could never fully understand each other, but with the comfort we have received from Him we are then able to comfort one another.  He knew trouble would come in this life.  That is why we need His saving grace!  To leave out the full story in a sugar-coated way leaves out the reality of what He came to do, it leaves out the contrast of how He has overcome this world we live in.

    Through being redeemed, we are instruments in The Redeemer’s hands.  Helping bring hope and healing to one another through glorifying Him. 

    Those who are gifted with words have a great responsibility and honor to bring truth.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    (John 1:1 ESV)

    “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” -C.S. Lewis

    Reply

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  1. the 7 best READ posts of 2012 by Dan King - BibleDude.net - [...] Our stories don’t always have a happy ending…yet. Tell the truth, even if it’s in progress. We all are,…

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be authentic, for the love of God.

by Cara Sexton time to read: 4 min
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