Recently I was asked to explain what I meant when I spoke about being “real,” so I wrote this.
Of Christians and the Church, one of my heroes, Deitrich Bonhoeffer said:
We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Reckoning made at New Year 1943
An authentic life is a powerful life.
Too many people have bought into the lie, “If people really know you then they won’t really like you.” So they hide their pain, fear, doubts, and insecurities behind a façade and doom themselves to a shallow existence in which broken hearts are hidden, pain is ignored, and potential loved ones are kept at arm’s distance.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been unbelievably successful in healing people struggling with alcohol addiction by requiring authenticity. Each meeting starts with members confessing, “My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic.” “My name is Beth and I am an alcoholic.” “My name is . . . and I’m an alcoholic.” This is a difficult, but essential confession for anyone who truly wants to be healed.
For true healing to occur the mask must come off. The hypocrisy must end.
The problem cannot be healed until the problem is confessed.
As a minister I’ve dealt with hurting people on a weekly basis for many years. I anticipate our Sunday morning services for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for people to get real with each other and with God. But it happens every week despite our best intentions.
Each Sunday in our Church and in Churches around the world Christians wake up to the same serious problems that non-Christians have. Determined to persevere, they get ready, drive to Church, park their car, and resume the game. The “I don’t have a care in the world” mask goes on before they get out of the car, and as they walk through the doors of the church the game begins.
If I could, I would start each Sunday morning worship service by requiring each member to stand and get real.
“My name is Mike and I’m afraid of losing my job.”
“My name is Mary and I can’t pay my bills.”
“My name is Jennifer and I don’t understand why my teenaged daughter won’t talk to me.”
“My name is Adam and I’m afraid I’m going to die.”
“My name is Teresa and I don’t like myself.”
“My name is Javier and I have no idea of how to be a good father, because my dad left us when I was five.”
“My name is Lori and my heart is broken.”
“My name is Peter and I’m depressed.”
“My name is Rebecca and my husband just left me for another woman.”
“My name is Robert and I’m addicted to pornography.”
“My name is Arron and I want you to like me.”
Since we are imperfect humans living in a fallen world, we all eventually encounter pain, problems, failures, doubt, and fear. We can choose to deny life’s problems and hide them behind a forced smile, a wink, and empty words:
“I’m doing great. How ‘bout you?”
“Couldn’t be better!”
Or, we can get real and admit that since we are not God we could use some help and, in getting real—we will unleash a revival that will transform our lives, our churches, and our communities.