Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Raw, Real, and Authentic

I’ve come to this point in my life when I am just really getting tired of all the crap. While not yet 40, I don’t know that I can blame it on a mid-life crisis, but if this is the worst way that it manifests itself in me, some sort of crisis, than I think I’m doing pretty good.

Growing up, I was not really the rebellious type. I was the questioning type, always wanting, no, demanding answers. Things needed to make sense to me and if they didn’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask the questions that everyone was thinking but no one really had the courage to ask themselves. In adulthood, this has manifested itself through my strengths and their union together. With my core strengths, I have been labeled a stabilizer/de-stabilizer, which is really fitting. I wear the label proudly, no shame whatsoever. After all, the world needs to be destabilized now and again.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum in this blog, 2011 has been an atrocious year for me. I’ve almost grown tired of saying it because I feel like a broken record. At the same time, I feel the need to continue to write about it because I could never have scripted it, that’s how unbelievable some of the moments have been. But I know that it has not been just my year that has sucked, it’s been lots of people’s experience this year.

A friend of mine, a friend whose marriage I performed, recently got a divorce. In this age of technology, I knew something was wrong simply based on Facebook alone well before I knew the details. News travels fast, whether good or bad, and when I found out about everything that was happening my heart just dropped. There was the selfish part of me that thought about my track record as a pastor, having only performed a few weddings, just one divorce brought my average down considerably. But I really got over that in a hurry, I instead began to feel it so deeply, almost as if it was me going through it.

Recently, a friend of this friend began a blog. It seems that she had recently been divorced as well. She is in her early thirties and had been married nearly 10 years. Her husband had an affair with someone nearly a decade his junior and the marriage was going to end. She started this blog and titled it “The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce.” Within her blog, she is raw and honest, genuine and authentic. She is not afraid to allow her emotions to be exposed in all of their rawness, as profane as they may come across. I am sure that people reading it have been shocked. How on earth can a Christian express themselves in so raw of a manner?

As I have grown older, I have had a harder time reconciling the way that some in the Church try to separate the sacred and the secular. It always seemed strange to me. I fully understand that we serve a holy God and that he is perfect. God disdains sin so much that he turned his back on his own son when his son became sin for our sake, for the redemption of humanity. The idea of separating sacred and secular seems as if we are still living under temple law rather than the new law of Christ.

I might not be expressing it properly. What I guess it is that irks me is that we claim that Christ changes people, transforms people, and yet we want them to come join us but leave their crap behind. Check it at the door because there’s no place for it when we worship the Lord. The problem that I see with that is twofold. First of all, if people leave it at the door, they never have the opportunity to bring it before the One who has the power to transform it and bring redemption. The other problem that I see is that if we are careful to restrict what comes in, not allowing people to be real and honest, if they check their “stuff” at the door, should we really be expecting that they will take any of the Truth of God that they might have gained within the walls with them when they leave? I think there might be an even exchange at the door, check it when you come in and then check it when you go out. Leave with what you had and leave what you gained behind.

The Christian world is ready to receive another Christian film that sanitizes reality and conveys it in a white-washed presentation. While I understand the importance of making “family friendly” films, there is certain subject matter that lends itself to that genre. When certain other subject matter is attempted to fit within that genre, it comes across as veiled, contrived, forced, and inauthentic. If you have ever spent any time with policemen, firemen, or football coaches, you know that they can hardly be considered to be among the most sanitized within society. No offense to anyone who might fall within these categories, but many things go on, particularly with language, that can hardly be considered to be “family friendly.”

I recall reading Stephen King’s book On Writing a few years ago and being struck by something he said in regards to character development. I am paraphrasing from memory, but the gist of what I got from what he had written was that writers need to be true to their characters, let the characters tell you where they are going rather than you telling the characters where they are going. Writers need to let their characters act as those characters would really act, not confining them to certain boxes in order for them to fit a specific genre.

This struck me for the same reason that I was struck at the thought of us leaving our “stuff” at the door of the Church, leaving a part of who we are without the opportunity for redemption, untouched by the grace of Jesus. While I wouldn’t condone Christians walking around talking like sailors, I wonder if checking it at the door is the most redemptive way of dealing with it. When we find ourselves in difficult situations, like this Christian woman betrayed by her husband’s infidelity, do we really say, “Well, doggone it, this really stinks, I can’t believe that he would be so unkind to me?” Hardly! I think we might pepper the phrase with words that could hardly be considered family friendly. And it’s not as if God doesn’t know what we’re thinking. Do we honestly think that we are fooling him by disguising our outward words?

There is a deep need within the Church for us to be raw, real, and authentic. I’m pretty sure that God can handle it. To be anything less is to be dishonest. As we begin to share our stories with each other, allowing even the most uncomfortable details to emerge, there is freedom for others in knowing that they are not the only broken ones in the world. Broken people need a place where they can share their brokenness, not hide it. Hiding our brokenness from each other probably means that we’re trying to hide it from God as well. If we’re trying to hide it from him, how can we expect that anything will happen to it?


  1. if you read something called "the Bible" you'd realize that God is pretty raw and honest with us. He didn't sugarcoat and He certainly didn't hide the gritty grim reality of the human experience. I'm not sure where we get the idea that we should.

  2. I love being raw and honest and authentic, but other people don't. I appreciate your honesty Jon. Please keep me posted on your dad. I made a DVD for you of Sept 11th in Darien for your Mom. I want to send it to you. Can you please send me your address. My email is lorraineduncan@footpathbizcoaching.com