Be real! Be authentic! Be honest! More and more Christ-followers are embracing the idea of transparency and authenticity in life and ministry. None of us a perfect; no one ever has been, except for Christ. The unchurched and dechurched world hates the plastic version of church and Christ-following, and, uh, so does God.
In the bible, Jacob walked with a limp; Moses shuddered, Peter struggled with his tempter, Elijah struggled with depression, Thomas doubted, Paul had a thorn in his flesh; John was banished to an island, abandoned and alone.
We connect with these types of biblical characters because we’ve all felt the plight of stumbling in our walk, dealing with pain, and feeling alone, and insecure. The shame of brokenness does not turn us away from these biblical characters but, in fact, draws us near. Fragile vulnerability exposes humanity.
Some people place a high value on being authentic or “real,” but others view vulnerability as nothing more than weakness. To some vulnerability seems unmanageable, and even dangerous. They would say that vulnerability leaves people open to physical harm and emotional attack because it exposed the fear and anxiety of never being enough; not being smart enough, strong enough, educated enough, not being tall enough, cool enough, beautiful enough… the shame of not ever being enough.
If we are honest, we can never really be “enough”, can we? The needs and challenges are always greater. Actually, it takes stupidity, short-sightedness, naivety, denial, or just plain ol’down home arrogance to think that we can ever truly match up to all that life is going to throw at us. Scripture says, “we all fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). We just can’t match up.
Fear and insecurity permeates so many lives. We become afraid to talk about being afraid… which actually, works to only strengthen the hold fear and insecurity has on our lives. It is a vicious cycle. We become afraid of public opinion and criticism. We become afraid of failing, of losing our identity, of being viewed as the dumb, or poor. We become too afraid to follow our dreams and passions. We become afraid that one day “everyone” will find out that we have no clue how we got to where we are in life.
Fear and vulnerability both play a part in authenticity. According to sociological research, fear is the proponent that will keep us from vulnerability. As beings hard-wired for connection and acceptance, our relationship with others is threatened by exposing our fear or shame. But it is the deconstructing of our shame and acknowledging our fear that connects us on deeper levels, allowing those in our community to sort through redemption, acceptance, and find the beauty in brokenness.
Being authentic without feeling the fear of shame, the embarrassment of failure, or the fragility of vulnerability is impossible. Here is the key to working through the fear of vulnerability, and moving toward true authenticity; without Christ, I am nothing, and can do nothing of lasting value. I have failed, and will fail. But because of Christ, I am loved, accepted, and filled with hope.