About three years ago now, when I was interviewing with the Pastor Search Committee of Washington Plaza, I was asked: "What is one of the biggest mistakes you've made in your life?" (which is an interesting question by the way).
I'm sure I paused for a minute or two to answer (because who really wants to speak about failures at a job interview), but still remember what I said. And it was, "Times in my life when I have not been truthful to myself. When I have responded to situations in ways that were what others expected of me, or made decisions based on what was more of an acceptable choice, or held back part of myself in hopes that it might make others like me more. "
And, if someone were to ask me this same question today, I believe I'd respond in a similar way-- for when I think great errors in judgment have been made on my part, it usually goes back to a fear or inability to be ok with authenticity at a deep level. I've allowed myself to be beat down by things that people have said to me that are out of line with what I know God thinks of me. Or, I've allowed the puffed praise of others to led me to think more of myself and act in a way that shows I think I'm better than . . .
This week, I was having a conversation with a friend who I've been in relationship with for over 15 years. We've appeared in and out of each other's life stories though we've rarely resided in the same city. We were talking about what makes up the "good stuff" of conversations (at least from my perspective) . . . what makes us tick as people, what makes us deeply sad, and what we fears surround our lives that we rarely say aloud. And a consistent theme emerged: our deepest regret in our lives, even as my friend and I are generations a part in age, all goes back to authenticity.
We've both held parts of ourselves back in our friendships, our vocations and our marriages at different points when the fear that we just weren't good enough, or didn't have the right things to say (or in our case sometimes had too much to say), or even that if people found out what we really thought we wouldn't be accepted as readily.
And, the more I reflected on this conversation since, the more it has enlivened me and saddened me at the same time. Enlivened my spirit because through the sweet words of this kindred spirit friend, I've got some pep in my step again to keep moving in the direction of what I feel God has given me passion to do: to deeply encourage the hearts of discouraged that life in God's hands can be better than we ever imagined it to be. But, I was also saddened because I know both how few resources of encouragement there are to live life this way (as everything in our culture seeks to tell us we are not right and must be "fixed" by changing our mold from how our Creator designed us to be), and how constantly fear seeks to hold all of us back from living out of this most authentic place.
It's really, really hard, I know to live life from your core of believing so strongly in something about your vocation, your relationships or just your life in general or even if this truth you know will cause hurt feelings to others you care about, led to criticism or failure, and more sleepless nights of despair than you can count. But, I know for certain that as I see it in scripture, salvation is all about being made whole. So, if we say we are a people who are in the process of "being saved" then, we've got to get to the business of living life truthfully.
And by truth, I mean this: more than avoiding white lies to our bosses, more than admitting to our kids that we aren't supermen and women all of the time, and more than just trying to follow the 10 commandments, but taking the leap of abiding more honestly in this world as ourselves. Living with passion of who we were made to be and not thinking any greater or less of ourselves than God created us when the Lord said we were "made in the image of God."
Let's all stop making the mistake of forgetting and not acting on this great truth. In authentic living, I know there are sweet life moments just around the corner for all of us no matter in what circumstances we find ourselves in now.