What is Authenticity?

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I follow this page on Facebook called The Dirty Christian. It’s run by a guy named Drew Koehler who found God after serving in the US Navy. This guy has a story. He also has a blog that you should check out to find out more about him. Click that link and then come back here and listen to me talk.

Koehler’s philosophy is that Christianity is supposed to be offensive. It’s not supposed to be soft and cute, full of Joyce Meyers and  “type Amen if you agree.” Real truth is disruptive. It’s not a book that we keep on the shelf and pull out only when we’re feeling sad.

And you know what Christianity also isn’t? Authenticity.

What the heck is Authenticity anyway?

Search me.

I’ve been messing around with this word in my head for a long time, pretty much ever since I stepped into the Christian college scene. “Authenticity” gets thrown around a lot in these circles. Authentic Christianity, authentic worship…you name it.

And looking around on a college campus like this, you’d probably think you’re seeing a lot of authentic Christians. These are people who lift their hands and fall to their knees in “real,” raw worship. These are people who strum hymns on their guitar while sitting in the grass. These are people who post verses and encouraging words on their Instagram photos –

Hey, wait a second. That’s not authenticity.

I just Googled the word “authentic,” and the computer bots gave me this answer:

“Of undisputed origin; genuine.”

Do all Christians come from the “undisputed origin” of Christ? I’d wager a yes.

Are all Christians authentic? …it depends.

I think that in Western Christianity, we have a great need to hide ourselves. And sometimes the place we hide is not in the shadow of our Savior’s wings. I’m talking about me too, here. I think sometimes we’re afraid of disruptive love and truth, so we hide further in our darkness while putting on a masquerade of light.

We say that we’ll pray for someone, but our prayers remain selfish.

We search for answers, but we don’t search for them in Scripture.

We pray that our bad habits will be replaced, but we make no effort to replace them.

Because we don’t want our lives to be disrupted.

C.S. Lewis had a lot to say about nice people. Nice people are nice all on their own, it seems. They’re not super amazing people or super “bad” people. They’re just…nice. There are a lot of just “nice” people in the world. And, unfortunately, those “nice” people don’t feel the need for that disruptive love that is offered to them, whether they realize it or not.

A lot of us are “nice.” Nice people with hearts full of tar.

We’re all “dirty Christians.” There’s a reason John Calvin called it “total depravity.”

I think our problem is we think we can get by on our own merits. No surprise there – that’s been a constant struggle for religious folks since the Pharisees. Everyone wants to look good to other people, right? So we try to be especially spiritual. We talk about Jesus with authority even though we haven’t cracked open our Bibles in months, we lift our hands in praise when our hearts are from it, we hide the muck of our souls from people by using the fake gild of Authenticity.

I said it.

Authenticity is a disguise.

For every Christian.

An authentic Christian is one who knows he’s addicted to alcohol and needs help. An authentic Christian is one who opens her Bible every day, not in public, but in her living room at 5:30am with a cup of coffee. An authentic Christian is one who knows he sins daily, hourly – but clings to the healing and disruptive love of God.

An authentic Christian is one who invites the love of God to disrupt every corner of his soul.

I’ll be honest with you, friends. I’m not there yet either. If anything, this entire post is me calling myself out. There are corners of my heart that I don’t want anyone to see – not even my Savior. Most days, I don’t love Jesus as much as I should. I sail by on my own merits, existing as a “nice” person.

So here’s my punchline: What is authenticity? It’s vulnerability. It’s bearing your soul fully and completely. It’s that whole-hearted knowledge that you 100% can’t do it on your own. That the only true shelter you will find is in the shadow of His wings.

No amount of hand-raising, hymn-humming, Hebrew-tattooing, or Bible-memorizing will make us anymore authentic. Our authenticity comes from our wholehearted identity in Christ.

Only then will we be seen as branches of the true Vine.

 

 

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What if We’re Not Actually Busy?

There are five other things I could be doing right now, but instead I’m writing this.

That’s a predicament we find ourselves in often, isn’t it? We have a laundry list of things to do, but we don’t do them. We find something else to do that is much more trivial. Netflix, for example. (Or blogging…)

But we still manage to let people know more than once a day that we are “soooo busy.” Sometimes it becomes a competition. “I have three papers and a text this week!” “Oh yeah? Well I have FOUR papers and THREE tests this week, plus I have to walk to Canada and back WHILE studying for my THREE tests! Beat that!”

Hang on a second.

What if we’re not actually busy?

What if we just like telling people we’re busy?

There’s a kind of badge of honor that comes with being “busy.” It means we’re important. People need us. We have deadlines because we hold important positions. We whisk ourselves away from one thing to another, wearing our “Hello, my name is busy” name tag with pride.

I took a class my sophomore year called creativity, innovations, and problem-solving. It’s a requirement for everyone at my school. And you guessed it – creativity was the key talking point. Many people think they’re not creative, but really they’re just not giving themselves enough time to be creative. Some people use the excuse that they “just don’t have time.”

You know what my professor said to that? “When students say they don’t have enough time, I offer to go through their schedules and find time for them. They never take me up on that offer…because they know I’ll find time somewhere.”

It’s our best excuse. “I just don’t have time.”

But what if we actually do?

Take a minute to take inventory of your time. You don’t need to be excessive. Just think through an average day for you. I’ll give you my example. I wake up at 7:15am. I hit a button on my coffee maker so it can do its job, and I sit down with breakfast until 8, when I get ready. During this time, I’m usually on my phone. I have classes in the morning, then a lunch break at 12. Sometimes I’ll do homework, other times I’ll be on my phone…again. Then I have class and work until 4, then about an hour til my evening activities, which will go til either 6 or 9 depending on the day. Then I’m in bed my 11.

It might look busy, but I can pinpoint places where I actually have time – my hour-and-a-half lunch break, the half hour I have between class and work, the hour I have before dinner and evening activities. You might have less time than this, but I can still guarantee you that somewhere, you have time.

I’m not going to be the grumpy “get off your dang phone!” mom-ish person, but – sometimes you gotta get off your dang phone. I think sometimes we feel like we’re busier because when we’re not busy, we’re keeping up with everyone else’s busyness. Then all of the sudden – gasp! Off to the next thing!

That’s not the point of this post, though. I’m not saying we all *think* we’re busy because of our phones.

I think it’s because we’re supposed to be busy.

This is America. (Probably, unless you’re reading this somewhere else.) Everything is time-based, schedule-based. Our phones ding when we have an appointment. We have color-coded planners. We have to-go food. Because we’re always going. We’re looking ahead on our planners to see what’s coming next. When we’re not actually doing things, we’re looking at what’s coming next. 

What if you just stopped for a second? Record-scratch, freeze-frame style?

e.e. cummings wrote a fantastic little poem called “little man in a hurry.” Take a look:

“little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax

wait

(little child
who have tried
who have failed
who have cried)
lie bravely down

sleep

big rain
big snow
big sun
big moon
(enter

us)”

(Source)

Since it’s cummings, it’s a little bit hard to interpret and remains somewhat ambiguous. But I think you can get the gist of it. Halt. Stop. Relax. But even his “little man” is stopping and halting breathlessly, as indicated by no punctuation – “halt stop forget relax” like it’s a to-do-list in and of itself.

Relaxing isn’t just another thing to check off your to-do list. It’s necessary to your mental and physical survival. 

And if you do decide to relax, you’re not being lazy. 

What “important worry” are you carrying around? Is it really that important? Can you “halt – stop – relax” for just a moment? I think you can. Because sometimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor.

I’ll make the moral of this post short and sweet. To quote Elizabeth Schuyler from the immortal musical Hamilton:

“Take a break!”

In Defense of Private School Education

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“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

We are all shaped by our experiences. That’s nothing new in the handbook of life. You kind of get a sense of that even at a young age and usually don’t even know it until you’re older. On your first day of school, you sit down and have lunch with the other kindergartners and find out that not every kid in the world eats peanut butter and jelly for lunch – but you have almost every day for most of your life so far. Some kids can’t even eat peanut butter (gasp.) When you get a little older in elementary school, you find out that not everyone has brothers and sisters, or even a father and mother. Wait…not everyone has a dog?!

So you get a little older and you’re in middle school. You start to learn more about the world, and decide for yourself what it is you believe in. Then you find out that some people don’t believe the same things you do. You’re thirteen years old, in the school band, have braces, and come home to a family every night. There are other thirteen year olds who go home to fighting parents, who skip school regularly, who don’t believe in anything. They might go to your school, they might live in your neighborhood, they might ride your bus. They’re in their own worlds, worlds that collide in public.

Some people might call this a “bubble.” Actually, a lot of people would call this a bubble. A bubble might be called the sheltered, exclusive environment that you are raised in with its own unique set of characteristics that differentiate it from the rest of the world. That’s a narrow definition. You won’t find it in Merriam Webster, but kids these days know what’s up. But I still think that definition is too narrow.

You grow up in a bubble, essentially. Your home is a bubble, wherever your home is. When you go to school, you enter into your school bubble. You also might have a church bubble, or a camp bubble, or friendship/relationship bubble. Exclusive bubbles.

People like to throw this term around in higher ed, though, more often than not. The College Bubble. Just imagine Stephen King’s dome but it’s around your college, and everything that goes on inside it is exclusive to your college. If you think about it, your life is a series of bubbles that you traverse through as you transition from one place to another.

There’s also the “Christian bubble.” The impenetrable Jericho-style barrier between being in the world and of the world. At least, that’s how some people see it. The fine line between legalistic, conservative “mama-raised-me-right” living and “the outside world” of secular community and sin.

Others see it as a membrane, where select individuals can travel in and out, but there’s still always outliers. In my opinion, it’s neither of these extremes, but we’ll get to that later.

Then why is being in a “bubble” a bad thing?

The title of this post involves school, so I might as well focus on school – private school, in particular. First things first: I honestly don’t care how you feel about private school. I want you to hear me out. I have my own biases about private school, and you might have some that are different than mine. That’s fine. But hear me out, and then maybe we can find some common ground. People like to think they’re radically different from one another, but really, we’re fundamentally the same, and sometimes go our entire lives without realizing that.

I grew up in private school. If you’re thinking white, suburban, Christian, and sheltered, you’re absolutely right. That was my upbringing. I don’t know why those words have gotten bad connotations. I didn’t feel suffocated. My suburban upbringing wasn’t just a glossy, gilded exterior with a nightmare underneath. Of course we had our troubles, but it wasn’t American BeautyIt was pretty happy and normal, “happy” and “normal” being relative terms, here. I can’t believe I’m even trying to defend myself here, because I can hear some of you through the screen saying, “Audrey, my upbringing was a living hell so you have no right to this and that and the other thing. You don’t know what life is actually like.”

I don’t know what your life is like, that’s true. Nobody does. I don’t pretend to know. But hear me out.

I am the product of private Christian schooling. And it was great. I was exposed to Christianity at a young age and was blessed enough to accept Jesus into my heart while in my single digits. I have two hardworking parents who made a lot of sacrifices for me and my brother to go to Christian school, and I am never going to take that for granted. They both forged their own faiths for themselves, having both grown up in relatively turbulent and godless homes. They wanted better for their children, and they gave it to us.

Therein lies my first point. I think some people go off about private school without taking into account the sacrifices made on their behalf. “But kids should be able to decide for themselves!” some may say. Okay, then sit down with your four year old and ask her if she wants to go to Christian school or public school. She probably doesn’t even know what those words mean yet.

My parents worked hard to make sure my brother and I got a Christian education (which is a lot of money, if you didn’t know that already.) Looking back, I feel horrible about the times I’d come home from school complaining. I was complaining to my parents after they’d had a long day getting the paycheck that funded my education. They never mentioned it or used it to guilt me, but looking back, I realize it now and it hurts to know that I did that.

Also, do you know how much Christian school educators get paid? Not much. Not much at all. But they show up every day because they believe in it. All teachers do.

I don’t want to sound like I think I’m better because I went to private school. I’m not. But I’m not less, either. My opinion isn’t any less valid because of my upbringing, because I went to a school that believed in something that’s radically different than what the rest of the world believes.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a conversation with some of my college friends who also went to private school. It seemed as though they didn’t have anything good to say about them. It seems like no one has anything good to say about private school these days, given recent events and the concerns regarding the current administration. I won’t get political here, but I don’t think either of these things discredit private schooling.

“I’m not going to raise my kids as Christians,” one of my friends said. “I’m going to let them decide for themselves.”

“I don’t think private school gives kids enough opportunity,” another one said, “like with the arts and stuff like that. And it doesn’t give them enough opportunity to talk to people who are different than they are.”

“There’s really no difference between public school and private school. Kids are just as bad in private school.”

“I just think it’s a bubble.”

Allow me to assert the radical notion that if we are Christians, it is our obligation to raise our children as Christian. I’m not saying you’re a bad parent if you send your kids to public school (I’m not a parent at all so there are a lot of things I don’t understand.)

I’m just asking you to give private school a chance. Work through the biases you might have about it, try to understand where those biases come from. Was it one private school kid you knew a long time ago? Was it one headline you saw in the news? Was it one bad experience you had at your own private school?

I understand that private school is a privilege that not all people can afford. But if you think about it, education is priceless, no matter where you get it from. That might be kind of a canned phrase, but it’s true. It’s a privilege to live in the US and get an education here. We should never lose sight of that. It just so happens that the government pays for some school more than others, because the people who formed this country a long time ago thought that was a good idea. And it was, and it is.

If you went to a private school and hated it, I’m sorry. But that doesn’t mean that private school is fundamentally bad or not worthwhile. It doesn’t mean that private school is a “bubble,” at least not anymore than a public school or a church or a home is. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a handicap. It’s a school.

All education is worth it, and I would encourage you to see private school and public school as two sides of the same coin, not two unequal coins.

Whatever education you’ve had or are getting, don’t take it for granted.

That’s all I got for now, kids.