Tag Archives: Real I

Authenticity: The “Real I” and the “Real Thou”

 

At fourteen, a few days before I turned fifteen, I had a crash-bang encounter with the Real Thou…and He spoke directly to the Real I.  Having been chosen at the last moment to replace someone on our Youth For Christ Bible quiz team, I had crammed for a week, trying to memorize scripture that we would cover in quizzes against other teams from our North Atlantic District.   We were going to represent our group at a large convention in Ocean City, New Jersey. This was a big deal…and I was scared.  By the time we got to Ocean City, I was not feeling well.  I got worse as the week went on.  Except for the evening services, the quizzes were about the only part of the conference that I could attend during the day.  Other than that I was in my hotel room, sick.  .  My only real memory of that week was sitting with the other 2,000 young people listening to Torrey Johnson bring to conclusion his sermon.  No words from that sermon remain in my memory.  What I remember is that the crowd faded away and I saw Jesus hanging on the cross…and it was for me.  The depth of His love touched my very soul.  And it was His love for me, that little girl who had some knowledge of who He was and a very little knowledge of who she was.  He intimately knew and loved that young woman who was ready to give up pursuing hope; the one who had lost her sense of the adventure of life.

He knew me and He loved me, the real me, with unfailing and undying love.  Never again would I have to flounder on my own, never again would I need to search for an identity.  He knew who I was and He would reveal that to me in a loving, unfolding way the rest of my life.    That knowledge changed my life.  I was forever devoted to Him.

I am continuing to learn how that authenticity works.  In much of C. S. Lewis’ work, he emphasizes the importance of the “real me” in relationship with “the real Thou.”  I am learning about my Creator/Savior as I read His word, as I talk to Him, as I listen for Him, as I watch his creation, especially his creatures.  I am getting to know more and more the “real” Thou.  And slowly I am becoming the “real” me.

Yes, I am ME.  I am the one God created to live out this life in all of its surprises, conundrums, joys, sorrows.  Inside this skin.  Within the boundaries of my family of origin, with all of the handicaps and giftedness that may entail.  In Kansas!  On a farm!  With my husband (that gift from a God who never changes).  With the children and grandchildren God has given.  I must take every day as a gift from Him.  And then I must live it as the person God created me to be and continues to form me to be.  That life will not look like anyone else’s life.  It will be uniquely mine.  And in that uniqueness, I will be bringing glory to God that only I can bring.  I will be uncovering something about the mystery of God that only I can uncover.  I am becoming authentic.

The gift of authenticity. The farm gave us as a family a platform where we could practice being authentic, and where we could offer an authentic experience to others.

Authenticity: From “Me” to “Who?”

 

Children don’t know anything but transparency and authenticity. Their freedom to be themselves is quite compelling.  It is only later that they begin to adapt to the social pressures in this fallen world.

I remember in my wise four-year-old mind becoming aware that the thoughts coming in the form of ideas or conversation with others were actually coming from me.  I remember the awe I would feel when I would whisper to myself, “I am Me.”  Allowing the thought to reach into my very soul, I was overwhelmed with a sense of my own identity, and I marveled at this reality.

But when a child is slowly growing through those formative years, identity can become very confusing, and authenticity becomes less and less automatic.  Little by little I began to lose that ownership of my identity.  In the next half a dozen years, we moved. A lot!  We were always the new kids in the neighborhood, the new students in the classroom.  In one of my first grade classrooms (I think I went to three first grade class rooms in three different states that year) the teacher had given us the wonderful privilege of writing on the chalkboard during the lunch hour.

One noon, I had finished my lunch early and had taken my place beside another little girl who was writing on the chalk board.  I quietly drew some figures on the board, but out of the corner of my eye I was watching this very sophisticated little girl, this  One-who- belonged, write her name.  She not only knew how to write her name, she knew how to write it in cursive!  Surreptitiously I watched and, hiding my work behind my left hand, I wrote it just like she wrote it, Betty.  I went back to my desk that day and continued to practice that special word, Betty.  Throughout my school years and into adult hood, any time I doodled, in the midst of the doodling one word was sure to appear. . . Betty.  In some ways, this was to mirror the loss of that sense of identity that I had grasped so innocently in my preschool years.  I did not consciously adopt someone else’s identity, but I became less and less sure of who was existing at my core, who God had intended me to be.

One thing remained constant, though, in my growing years.  The God who lived up there in those beautiful skies, grew to be my companion.  In so many ways He showed me His beauty, His kindness, His creativity, His protection.  However, He spoke to me most clearly through His creatures. They became His sketch book of every day lessons.  “Look dear child at the beauty of the many colors in that rooster’s tail.  Watch the tenderness with which that momma cow licks and washes her tiny calf; see the devoted look in those beautiful cocker eyes of your faithful dog Winky as she watches to see what you will do next.”  In each creature, I saw characteristics that had been placed by a loving Creator.  But there was more! Each creature seemed to be secure in who/what it was.  God had created it to be a dog, a cow, a horse, a sheep, and it found satisfaction in being, just in being.  True authenticity!  I have watched those creatures almost in awe.  They are content, unassuming, and real!  None of the socialization, none of the pressure that we as humans have experienced in order to fit in, to pretend, to perform.

My natural instinct has been, even as a child, to turn to those creatures that also seemed to accept me just as I was.  At the age of four, I would slip out to the dairy barn after the cows had been milked and had  settled for the night.  In that long old barn, I had birthday parties; I had prayer meetings.  With a little grain in my hand, I would walk from stanchion to stanchion, preaching, singing, and entertaining.  And they accepted me.  They were my adoring audience. I could be free to be me.  Later, after we moved from the dairy farm and began the saga of continual moving, my cocker spaniel, Winkie, was the receptor of my tales of longing, my companion on walks, and my nighttime buddy.  She loved me unabashedly and uncompromisingly.

By my teenage years, I was becoming more and more a creator of my own self.  With deep feelings of not belonging in this world, of watching it as an outsider, I was becoming a young adult.  Unlike that little four year old who was thrilled with the “me-ness of me,” the person I was becoming did not like the me I was.  I did not like the body I had been given, nor did I not like my history.  Instead of accepting my identity, I became adept at covering it, of masquerading it, of working hard to become what I thought I should be.

 

No Pretension

 

Authenticity.  Reality.  I think that was what drew us to our farm.  Yes, it was badly run down. The farm had seen a lot of living.  It had been used to raise chickens and pigs, to grow crops, to supply milk, to allow a tiny family of three with little outside income to live comfortably for years.  The eighty-five year old farmer had told us when we noticed the huge stacks of firewood around the house, “In the winter I stay snug as a bug in a rug.” The tiny house had been a shelter, a place of love, heartache, joy, loss.  No pretense, no desire to impress, just living out life in a simple, authentic way.  We stepped into that history and attempted to continue the story.

On an instructor’s income, we had no money to spare.  Most of what was done was by family (the boys were in Jr. High; Sara was six), and wonderful, incredible young college students.  Sara and I fed the crew sandwiches, chili, and hot chocolate in those cold months; and in the summer lots of lemonade, ice cream, pie, and more sandwiches. We worked evenings and weekends. We cleaned out the top of the barn that had been filled to the very ceiling with hay bales..  Slowly, those who had bought the hay at auction had come to claim their hay. What was left after the bales had been claimed was mounds of loose hay full of mementos: old horse harnesses, buckets, mice, snakes, etc.. Meanwhile, Kansas State University’s InterVarsity had used what bales were there as seating for their “barn party.” Hundreds of students were to pass through that old and unadorned barn in the future.

The crew tore down sheds that were too decrepit to restore, cut brush, created paths and gates, built steps with large rocks from the pasture.  The process of reclaiming and refocusing the use of the farm was a team-building experience because we did it together, in a simple and unpretentious way.

The open and natural expanse of land also beckoned my soul.  As I walked in the pastures and through the forests, I sensed the presence of the God who knew my innermost being, the One with whom I had no need of pretension.  He knew me better than I knew myself.  Up on the top pasture or down in the woods I was free to be myself … to sing, walk, pray, worship,  knowing I was loved and at home in His presence.  I had been on a journey for years learning to be open and  not self-conscious around others;  but alone with God as my companion, I had always been totally at home.                                      (to be continued)