Thursday, February 8, 2007

Authenticity

We’ve all experienced it at one time or another: that uncomfortable moment in Bible Study when someone dares to tell the whole truth. “My uncle molested me as a kid,” or “I had my driver’s license taken away for drinking and driving,” or “I had an abortion when I was fifteen.” Personally, these revelations scare the heck out of me. What am I supposed to say? I start sweating and feel slightly nauseous. Are other people going to start telling their secrets too? And—the real reason for my discomfort—will people expect me to share MY secrets? It’s socially inappropriate, this sharing, but in the context of Christian community, IS it inappropriate? And in the small group setting, isn’t it strangely preferable to praying for someone’s Cousin Susie’s nose job?

I was reading in Mark 5 today, and the first twenty verses detail the account of a man who was demon possessed. I find the story interesting on many different levels—I mean, the guy was DEMON POSESSED. He was thrashing around uncontrollably. His life was a disaster. Jesus sent the demons living in this guy into a herd of 2,000 pigs, who proceed to drown themselves in a nearby river. Can you even imagine? Anyway, here’s the part that really interests me. In verse 18, it says, “When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go, too. But Jesus said, ‘No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been’” (Mark 5:18-19).

How much easier would it have been for this guy to climb into the boat with his savior and begin a whole new life? How much more difficult to go home, to the people who knew him, and start over? I mean, think about it. This guy has some serious baggage. But Jesus tells him to go home and tell his friends about God’s mercy.

The question that’s nagging at me is this: can we truly share the wonderful things God has done for us without sharing the details of how desperate we were when Christ found us? Am I so concerned about being appropriate that I miss opportunities to share God’s love? And am I really concerned with being appropriate, or am I just trying to protect myself and whatever “image” I may have constructed for myself?

What does it mean to be authentic in the context of Christian community? And, more importantly, what does God require of us?

10 comments:

For now... said...

I think too often when a person shares their "secrets" it is all about the issues, rather than about God's mercy. I have experienced that all too often. They want to tell their story. They want others to see how much they've been through. More time is spent on the tragedy rather than what God did in the midst of that. That is when it gets uncomfortable for me. When it is all about the issue and not about God. There is a way to share these intimate details of your life and not make others uncomfortable. It has to be about God and His working in you, what He taught, how He got you through, those are the details I want to hear. Those are the details that God wants us to share. Our purpose here is to bring glory to Him, which means we have to share what He is doing in us and through us.

Charity Singleton said...

Such good questions.

I've had some of the same experiences as FOR NOW in hearing other peoples' stories. It seems to be all about them or the issues.

Recently, I looked at all the different ways the Apostle Paul shared his testimony with others. It was interesting to see how he emphasized different points with different audiences. That was instructive to me in how sensitive I need to be to God's leading as I share with others about my life.

Llama Momma said...

For Now - Yes. That's the thing, isn't it? Focusing on Jesus and His work. Focusing on LIFE, not the death that sin ultimately brings.

Charity - Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Now you've got me digging out my bible to read about Paul! I've been so caught up with Jesus lately, and how he responded to people. Especially miracles - so often when he healed people, he told them to "go and tell." Which is what got me thinking...cause I do more hiding than telling!

And in the interest of full disclosure, FOR NOW and I were in a small group together years ago. Neither of us shared. Anything. It was kind of a small group survivor experience...

L.L. Barkat said...

I have always squirmed in such situations too. And, I must say, the hardest part of doing memoir as part of my manuscript has been this terrible sense that I am telling the world my secrets (well, I guess that's why the book is currently called Secrets in Stone!)... this has turned out to be harder than I expected. But, that vision of the secrets, combined with God's own secrets of Love and Healing, maybe bringing someone else closer to God... well, that makes it more possible.

(so, yes, as For Now noted, it's important to shift the focus to God... otherwise it's a strange exercise in self-glorification)

clc said...

i hear what you guys are saying, no one wants to feel like they are in group therapy. however, do we overcompensate for that by being stoic and "fine" and never sharing anything real, raw and transparent. and i'm not talking about your "testimony" or all the things god has delivered you from in the last 15 years. i'm talking about today. when we meet together, are we being honest with each other about what god is doing today, or what i'm doing today for that matter. i think praying for other people's sicknesses twice removed is a convenient shield from having to deal with the fact that maybe we're sick, maybe we're broken, maybe we're in need of mercy and grace in some area of our life. again, not in a group therapy way but in an authentic community kind of way.

if i've been delivered from a food disorder or a an anger problem or a drinking problem, i want to testify about it like the demonized guy was instructed to. i want people to know that god is good...today, not just the day of my salvation. and if i'm not there, i want to be released from the darkness and the isolation of my sin and have my brother's and sister's pray with me that the he would increase and in would decrease.

i think the main reason we are uncomfortable when people share is that we've have created rules in our little christian worlds. rule #1-look like you have it together.

to me, that brings us no change and god no glory.

Llama Momma said...

LL -- When I think of books that have impacted my life the most, often it's the writers who were willing to be honest and vulnerable that have initiated real change in my heart and life. I think of Jan Coleman's "After the Locusts," and I thank God for her vulnerability! I pray God uses your book in a powerful way to bring people closer to Himself.

CLC -- yes. You're articulating exactly what I was trying to get at. We all sit around perfectly "FINE." We've learned how to be good Christians, but are we really following Jesus when we do this? This is a scary question to ask. None of us want to be the "Needy Nellie" of the group, so we keep our mouths shut, and never give God the opportunity to work -- in us or someone else.

While sharing can be self-focused, NOT sharing can be equally self-focused.

For now... said...

I think part of it is finding a real group of people, they are out there. Just like finding true friends, it takes time. I don't think we should walk around wearing our hearts on our sleeves. There is an appropriate time and place for sharing deep "issues". Also the question is - Do we stop from sharing our real "issues" because of our own pride? How will sharing this make me look to these people? Will they think I am a freak? Is it our own pride that stops us from being authentic?

For now... said...

oops one more thing!!

People who can share authentically and people who can accept authentic sharing have learned the art of humility.

. . . . . . . said...

Rule Number Three applies here: You can only have responsible relationships with responsible people. I have learned that relationships are like concentric circles: as people build trust, they are let in to the inner circles of our lives, but not until then. I think sometimes when we have been hurt deeply by those we allowed in close it's hard to let anyone in again. Jesus lived three years with Judas. I wonder if knew He would be betrayed by him and didn't write him off? Makes me wonder if He had hope until the end for his friend, and makes me wonder if I can do the same with my friends who have hurt me deeply.

Anonymous said...

"What does it mean to be authentic in the context of Christian community? And, more importantly, what does God require of us?"
_____________________________________
"He has shown thee oh man what is good - and what does the Lord require of thee - but to DO justly, to LOVE mercy, to WALK humbly with Thy God."
We DO, we LOVE, we Walk. Justly, loving, humbly.
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God - have mercy on me a sinner." mom