These days people toss around the words “authentic” and “vulnerable” as if they were brand new ideas. As if no one had ever experienced them before. As if they weren’t already there for the taking.
These statements sound strange to me when all along, I’ve been quietly receiving the benefits of authentic community and vulnerable relationships – and in the Church no less, a place people often complain they can’t find any community. And to further confound stereotypes, I’ve found this type of friendship even as a ministry wife.
I don’t think we need special buzzwords to validate our experiences. I’ve been inviting people into my home and into my heart for nigh unto 16 years. I’ve been developing real, honest, gritty relationships as long as I’ve been of age — as did my husband’s parents before me. And that was back in the 80’s and 90’s, before people began being vulnerable and authentic with each other (or at least before the words were trendy).
They invited people into their messy home to talk about their messy pasts and their messy relationships and their messy eating disorders. No one needed to validate them. No one needed to approve them. No one needed to give them permission. They simply lived, and they simply did fellowship the way believers have been doing it for thousands of years: open, honest, and real. In community. Before community was “buzzing.”
God designed us to have these kinds of relationships, and His people have been tasting of them for thousands of years. We need only look to Ruth & Naomi or David & Jonathan to realize this.
So when you develop relationships that are authentic and vulnerable, don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re doing something new or novel. Rather, tell yourself that you’re doing something holy and good, something God created you to do, and something that brings Him pleasure.
May you remember that you stand on holy ground when you partake of the ancient practice of community. May you honor the memory of friends who have walked with you into authenticity and vulnerability in the past. May you lift your hands to heaven in thanksgiving for the friends who are currently walking with you through the storms of life. And if through some tragedy you have never had your own safe and secure people, may the wind of the Holy Spirit blow some your way.
And because I’ve been feeling extra sentimental lately, here’s one of my favorite songs on fellowship, from the dark ages of the 1990’s and sung by the group Acappella.
Other posts in the Church series:
On Not Being the Casserole Lady
8 thoughts on “Authenticity is Not New”
It’s true that sometimes we want to see everything in the light of new discoveries. They may be new discoveries to us, but that doesn’t mean they are new to the world. I’m a big fan of history, andI think it’s important that we know our history.
“New to us, but not new to the world.” Good point Anna!
I agree with you, the call and responsibility to be vulnerable is not new. I have also experienced it for a while, in and out of the church. I do think that there were times where authenticity was not encouraged, perhaps in my mind the 50’s and leave it to Beaver pop in my head. Obviously I was not alive during this era but I get the feeling that people were more idealistic. I could be totally off base.
I tend to be a spill it, accept me or don’t type of person. I like to air out my flaws and messiness, and my husband (who is the total opposite according to Meyer’s Briggs) is cautious. I don’t feel either is a problem. I do feel like I have to be my “Sunday Best” when I attend church. It is hard to say where that line needs to be drawn. It should not be all rainbows and roses yet we don’t need to know everyone’s dirty laundry. I probably took this to a different place than you meant it to be. I am just thinking about the post 😉 This is one of my favorite videos on the topic of messiness in church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydf4gqjapBE
You didn’t take it to a different place than I meant it at all! It’s part of the same conversation 🙂 The balance of dirty laundry and rainbows and roses is a thorny one, and something I’ve had to navigate even more carefully in the last few years. Because some things ARE private, and only your very closest friends should know. But we can’t be completely rainbows and roses, because not only is that untrue, it’s also annoying to people in their own muddy places. Your husband is wise in being cautious, and you are wise in knowing people need to accept all of you. Both are important 🙂 And I think you’re right, there are time periods and/or groups that DON’T value authenticity. So it can take some patience to find safe, well-fitting community. Thank you for these great thoughts here!
And P.S. I LOVE the video you shared. I saw it a few years back, but it was just as good today when I rewatched it!
Great post, Elizabeth! I am guilty of using these buzzwords, and I love, love the way you have grounded them in ancient practice.
Thanks Kimberly 🙂
YES! So glad you wrote this! I think my experience has been more like yours, maybe, it seems that I’ve always been in the midst of the messy with people, that’s just how it is – and then I feel a little bewildered when I hear others talk about authenticity and vulnerability as something new – or talk about lack of community…but maybe that’s because of being in a position where people know we’re there to minister and help, and so we get right into the…deep end…pretty quickly?
Yes! So glad you understand this and that I’m not crazy for thinking this way! I suppose that being easily and quickly in the deep end with people, we might be tempted not to be vulnerable ourselves, but I think it is when we ARE vulnerable that we minister most effectively, and then of course we receive the benefits of true, mutual fellowship. Then “our” ministry goes both ways: it goes forth, AND it returns to us. And I love that. 🙂