“Give me three words to describe yourself,” my new counselor said to me many years ago, during my first marriage at its peak of difficulty.
Without missing a beat, I said, “Loyal, stubborn, authentic.”
“It’s interesting that you say you’re authentic, because your life is so full of secrets,” she responded.
I’m not easily stunned or moved to speechlessness, but she was able to do both with one sentence. She saw me…really saw me.
At that point in my life, I had been living in a difficult and fragile marriage for fifteen years. I could not predict that in three years’ time, it would be coming to its sad and harsh ending. I was a mother of two sweet children, I was an author and a speaker, I had just stepped down from a staff position at my church, I was about to head to Africa on a missions trip, I was completely in love with Jesus, and I was completely a mess on the inside.
I desperately wanted to be an authentic woman. But deep down, I felt the stakes were too high. The little voice that called the shots in my head had one major concern, What would people say if they really knew who you are? This one thought terrified me and paralyzed me for years. It encouraged me to keep people at a distance. I shared what was going on, but I’d give one friend a small piece or two, another friend a different piece, all so no one could put the puzzle together and figure out the truth. My fear encouraged me to play a part for years that didn’t fit. And it kept me from asking for the true help that I – and my marriage – desperately needed.
Until that day. Because when my counselor said those words I realized for the first time that simply wanting to be authentic (and encouraging other women to be authentic) and actually being authentic were two entirely different things. And I also realized for the first time, that there was a really good chance I was finally strong enough to try my hand at actually being authentic. It was one of the scariest days of my life, but I was ready.
Here’s how I began to make the emotional shift from wanting to be authentic to actually being authentic:
I told God. I begged him for the strength to help me become the woman I felt he wanted me to become, the strength to be true to myself and to others, and he helped me start peeling back the layers.
I told the counselor. Speaking my full truth was messy but freeing. I was heard, understood and validated. She spoke truth back into my life and pointed out patterns that I hadn’t been able to see for myself.
I told my inner circle. I chose women I could trust and bared my soul. Some were shocked but all were completely supportive. They loved me and walked me through my darkest season. They wanted me to be the real me as much as I did.
I told my church leadership. When it was pointed out that my situation was beyond the average hard, I asked for help from my church leadership until I got it. This was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done, but I’m beyond grateful for the way my church intervened and protected me.
God wants you to know yourself, to see your life for what it truly is, and to let him move and work in your heart. Remember, he created you. Ask him to do an authentic work in you, and then let him.
What one small step can you take today to become more of who you really are?
He pulled me out of the void in which I was drowning. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved – surprised to be loved! God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start. Now I’m alert to God’s ways and I don’t take God for granted. I feel put back together. God rewrote the text of my life When I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. –Psalm 18- (Msg)