Authentic Fake

Authenticity. It is something that appeals to me in other people and something that I would like to think that I possess. So is humility. But, authenticity and humility, I don’t think, are really character traits that I have as much as they are destinations that I hope I can arrive at sometime down the road. I can’t remember who it was (perhaps Brennan Manning or C.S. Lewis) who basically said that humility doesn’t necessarily mean being meek, mild, and passive, but, it is knowing who you are and living out of that knowledge. By this definition, I cannot be humble because of the the fact that I can’t seem to keep a steady eye on just who it is that I really am.

Just as a photograph never captures the true essence of what a person actually looks like, I can’t seem to hold an objective perspective on my own identity for more than a fleeting moment. When the real and unspun me does make an appearance he comes unannounced and leaves before I’ve been able to brew a pot of coffee to share during the conversation that I’d like to have with him.

My wife and anyone else who routinely spends time with me will tell you that I am fairly scatter-brained. I always misplace things. I often forget to do things that I was asked to do. And then when I do things that I was asked to do, I tend to forget exactly how I was supposed to do it and end up not doing it correctly.
This pattern seems to affect my sense of who I am, too. My self-diagnosed neurotic tendencies, my fascination with aesthetic aspects of life, my persistent desire for easy-access instant gratification, my introspective tilt, competitiveness, concern for what others think, and the slew of insecurities that I have all combine to form a bubbling brew of sludge that easily sways, tips, and sometimes spills.

Tact and propriety don’t seem to come naturally for me while truly loving others and placing their needs and desires on an even keel with my own seems, most often, to be nothing more than a pipe dream that never materializes. And thats just what is often most frustrating to me. The fact that I can often spill my innermost thoughts through a blog or a poem without hesitancy would be quite convenient if there was something truly worth sharing with someone else, but, the lack of consistency in my personal and spiritual walk makes my words nothing more than a floating, unlit buoy off the coast in the thick of a foggy morning.

The truth is that I recognize the negative effects of so many of my tendencies, idolatries, and activities. My lack of discipline when it comes to prayer and focusing on that which is sound and true, as opposed to that which is shallow and fleeting, consistently keeps me at least at arms-length away from coming into contact with the real me that God intended whenever it was that He first thought of my life and His purpose for it. I recognize the trend of my own futility, but, I never end up moving on that recognition in order to adjust my course and learn from my mistakes. I’m inclined toward truth and authenticity, but, too lazy and distracted to grab it.

It is the struggle between physical comfort and spiritual wisdom. The tension between light and dark. It is the overriding presence of my imposter that is burying Abba’s Beloved. Yet, its as if I am sitting here comfortably in my living room chair, engrossed in a movie playing on the television screen, while I’m also, somehow, simultaneously shoveling dirt on my own head.

I am authentic in the sense that I know that I’m screwed up and that I deserve nothing of good consequence. By God’s unmerited favor alone will I be seen as humble, knowing my true self and living as a result of that knowledge.

A Posture of Transparency

A friend of mine is a police officer and, due to odd circumstances, I happened to be present as he spoke with two men who claimed to be victims of an armed robbery. The interesting part of their story is that they claimed to have been robbed by someone that they owed money to for marijuana. Both of the men were rather large in stature and I knew, based on past conversation, that at least one of them had a long history with the local police department for various reasons and that both of them have served significant jail time.

Throughout the course of the discussion, both men alternately got up from the steps they were seated on and paced around in the corner of the parking lot where the discussion was taking place. As an observer I noticed that each time one of them got up, my friend adjusted his posture in relation to their positions and movement. When discussing this later he noted that he was intentionally moving in a manner to keep the gun he had on his side positioned away from the men he was questioning.

Nothing abnormal happened during or as a result of the interaction between the two men and my friend, but, based on the potential risk of a situation in which the character and intentions of those involved were not clear, a defensive and alert posture on the part of the police officer was justified for his protection.

As a Christian, I’ve developed an authentic appreciation for people who interact with me in a sincere, authentic, and transparent manner. Likewise, I have grown to recognize the value of transparency as a meaningful virtue to strive for in my own life. Ultimately I would love to be completely free from the multiple postures, poses, and masks that I don depending on the situation. The person that I present to students when I’m at school is different from the person that I present to my long-time friends when I visit my hometown. The man that I embody as a father to my daughter is different from the man that I am when I yell at the driver in front of me for going to slow.

Unfortunately, the part of me that seems apt to come to the surface in any given situation is the one who, due to stress or anxiety, sacrifices adherence to the main laws that Jesus mandated (love God above all and others as yourself) by lashing out with a terse comment or scolding.

It is this volatile, ever-shifting balance of emotions, desires, focus, and personal impostors that rule my daily life and the impressions that others have of me. It is only when, by some grace of God, that I actually commit myself to, showing up in quiet open-eared prayer in the dark and when all is silent. Then, in humble repentance, I rest and, for just a few moments in the course of a day that is spent continually adjusting my posture to adapt to circumstances, I become transparent. It is only during those moments were all of who I am synchronizes into one and, while God knows who I am at all times, I become reminded of who I am regardless of the circumstances that cause me to assume various postures throughout a day.

My prayer today and for the foreseeable future will be to find balance between my personal responsibility to function in the various roles that I have taken on in life (e.g., father, husband, teacher, friend), protecting the interest of those who depend on me, and a sincere and humble transparency that allows others to see not only my need for God’s direction, but, also true acceptance of His grace.

“Most of man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked…We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.”
C.S. Lewis