Am I Afraid to be Real?
Conquering fear is epic. There's nothing like the feeling you get after climbing the unscalable mountain, slaying the immortal dragon, defeating the life-long monster, real or imagined, who roars in the dungeon of your life. Conquering our fears are the deeds that make us heroes—the moments of greatness-we-didn’t-expect that give us the power to take on the next foe, or the bigger one. It’s an instinct now—a long acquired trait of being human, and a God-given trait that keeps us humans moving forward—away from mediocrity, striving for greatnes
And so I was rattled the other day when the thought hit me: “When was the last time you were afraid?”
It was one of those questions—the kind you can’t forget even in the intensity of a work-day or when you’re following the tail lights home on the evening commute. I can't remember being genuinely afraid of anything—or anyone—for quite a while: no mountains, no dragons, no monsters in the basement. The answer—“I can’t remember the last time I was afraid”—was at one and the same time both reassuring and troubling. Had I actually conquered every fear, with nothing left to fight or overcome?
Suddenly, it was there—written across the windshield of my mind on the long commute home: “Am I afraid of being real?”
Being real—being authentic, candid, truly honest about oneself—means becoming fully human. Humans aren't perfect—and won’t be anytime soon, according to both hard data and the Word of God. As much as I could wish that the little collection of dreams and aspirations, goals and achievements in my life has been a perfect picture of success, reality—measured by both other human beings and the viewpoint of God—says otherwise. Truth is— I’ve failed, lots of times—in fact, too many times to count. The truth is also that I’ll fail again—repeatedly—because of my fallen human nature. No well-meaning friends with their “Hey, nobody’s perfect” encouragement will change the reality of my mistake-prone, fallen, failing life.
When I scrutinize someone else's shortcomings, I'm typically sending myself a message to hide: hide before others see how imperfect I actually am.”
But don’t make me tell the world: I don't want to look bad. Maybe it's the way I look at others. Perhaps it's the way I judge what others do and how they do it—how I look down on other people who are also less than perfect. When I scrutinize someone else's shortcomings, I'm typically sending myself a message to hide: hide before others see how imperfect I actually am.
“When I scrutinize someone else's shortcomings, I'm typically sending myself a message to hide: hide before others see how imperfect I actually am.”
Several years ago, ago I made a decision to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My entire world turned inside out: almost everything about my identity changed in a watery instant. Thinking back, I suppose I expected things would be different inside the Church: I thought Christians would be less critical of each other since we're all “on the same team,” working as the “body of Christ”. The reality, however, has been sadly different.
Why is it that membership among those saved by grace has too often become a license to be even more judgmental of others, even less understanding of shortcomings, and even less supportive of the human growth experience? Truth be told, I've seen more “fake” humans in the church than I've seen anywhere else in the world—and it brings me no joy to say so. Worst of all, gradually—almost imperceptibly—I see how I've fallen into the same category: A Christian who's afraid to be an authentic, candid person for fear of inciting still more criticism among the remnant.
I’m not gifted with extraordinary courage, but I want to live an unusually honest life. The first step in conquering fear is acknowledging my place among the fearful—and seeking the support of others similarly struggling to rise above fear in the name—and power—of the One who has called us.
I want to live in a place—I want to be part of a movement—where Christians aren't afraid to be real.