I used to spend a good part of my days searching for the principles and the ways to implicate the definitions of humility, selflessness, love, grace, forgiveness, openness, and the list goes on and on. But, I could never get there. No matter which road I followed or what tree I chose to climb or what animal track I determined to pursue, I could never get there. I was stuck living a life where I would walk out into the world wearing my shroud of politeness, firmness, and understanding. My chest would rise as I took that deep breath before walking into the door with my smile that I hoped would last me for as long as I needed it. I was valued, thought highly off, and sought after. But, still, something was missing, something big. I was missing me. They were chasing the woman I wanted to be, just as I was. I was chasing authenticity; a heart that backed up every smile, word, and gesture; a hand that moved to help, nurture, and cultivate automatically; a mouth to speak words of comfort, grace, and forgiveness within a moment's notice; a head that filled with pure, praise-filled, and truthful thoughts; a life that simply, yet amazingly, lived only in the pursuit of Christ and nothing else.
I walk down the street and I see a business woman frantically fidgeting with her phone, trying to schedule her meetings within an impossible time frame. She throws me a pasted on smile, one I have seen so many times, and hustles to the next street corner. With that one look, she tells the world that she's not here because she wants to be but because she needs to be. I turn the corner into a local coffee shop and see a young man serving coffee as fast as he can get it in the cup and on the counter. My turn comes and he barely catches my eyes, avoids any conversation, and frowns the entire time he's taking my order. His gestures tell me that I am taking up his time and that this is not where he desires to be but where he told to be. Finally, I make my trip down to the nearest flower shop and there stands a woman, elderly in age, joyfully and agilely choosing the perfect flowers and arranging them gladly while singing her favorite song. Upon the ring of the bell, her head turns and a glint just shines from her eyes as she greets and converses with me out of her own doing. I ask why she would still be working here when it is clear that she need not be, and she just grins and says "But, honey, what else am I supposed to do all day? How am I serving people and living as a light in their lives when I'm stuck all alone in my home?" All I could think when I left that shop was "That's what I want to be."
Living a life of authenticity has absolutely nothing to do with where you work or what your talents are. It does not thrive on the money you make or the people you meet. It does not build a foundation on the conversations in which you display just how well you are connected to hotshots in this world. Your life is about you and God. Your life is about what you make of what you got. You can work the most dead end job in the world and still work it with a joy in your heart and gestures that cannot be matched! I look outside and I see birds that just spend their days chirping away. But, as I listen more closely, I realize that every chirp is a bit different than the next. Yet, they never cease. Their job is to provide song to the world and to liven the world with joy. And they do just that, day in and day out! I can go to church and people are singing loudly and out of tune around me with arms upraised, not because they have to be but because they want to be.
Authenticity does not grow out of some effort of ourselves to achieve the heart of perfection or live a life that cannot be critiqued. Authenticity is developing a character that cannot be denied because it is so real, so graspable, so moving, that it points directly to the Lord. It is developing a heart that cannot be shifted from being in the flow of the spirit. It is values that can be poked at from every direction and be found still standing and firm. It is a life the puts the Lord first and builds everything around it. It is a mind that longs to think on the praises of the Lord and hands the long to move in ways that joyfully display our servitude to Him. This life is not about building a reputation that needs to be kept constantly intact so that people can honor you more. No! This life is about letting God build a deeply set character that not a single person can claim is fake or guarded. It is about God shaping our hearts to become so amazingly real and touchable that we cannot help but be a light for Him.
One of our pastors said something that I will never forget. "I don't know about you, but at my funeral, whenever that may be, I don't want people just talking about how I was a character nearly as much as I want people talking about my character." I feel the same weight on my heart. I do not want to leave a mark on this world that simply says "I was here." I want to leave a mark on this world that says "I am still here." Because, an authentic person, a person who is entirely true to their being and lives out that trueness, giving to all others, does not leave this world all together. That person leaves fingerprints all over the people they touched in their lives, the work they completed in His name, and the places they walked through during their lives. That person shined so completely for Christ that their seeds continue to be cultivated by the Lord for years to come. It is not about what you bring into this world; it is about what you leave behind. And I challenge you, each and every single one of you, to live a life of authenticity. A life that is so real and so touching and so much of Him that your funeral will be a place of blessing. A life that cannot be contradicted or degraded because there was no end to your transparency and willingness to grow within that transparency. Let this life be lived for Christ with such boldness and openness that we become the very definitions of authenticity.