Monday, July 12, 2010

Authentic Living in the 'Burbs - Live Oak Value #3

It is pretty easy in our suburban culture to think that you are the only one who doesn't have it all together, but believe me - everyone has their own stuff to deal with that doesn't smell like roses.

It doesn't matter that the Smith's next door have children who are always clean and well behaved, a lawn that is free of weeds and an immaculate house - Mr. and Mrs. Smith have stuff that is just as troubling to them as your stuff is troubling to you. They just hide it - just like you hide yours.

No one is perfect. No one has it all together. Most of us have deep griefs as well as deep joys that we long to share with one another instead of mindlessly chatting about the weather or our kid's latest soccer game.

It seems socially unacceptable, however, to speak of anything that might imply you are anything less than 'great' publicly. It has somehow become a personal failure or a character flaw for someone to be having a difficult time with their job, their kids, their marriage, whatever. Even people who have recently been bereaved are expected to answer that they are doing 'fine' within a week of the funeral.

When we encounter people who are not hiding their 'issues' we tend to not want to be with them. I sometimes wonder if it is because we worry that it is catching: if we hang around people who are not holding it together, we might fall apart, too. Is it any wonder that the number of Americans who take antidepressants has doubled in the past decade?

Jesus, however, does not want us to live this way. Jesus wants us to share our burdens and troubles with each other because we are called by Him to help each other. We are not to be people living isolated within a community. We are to be people who live together in true community.

Live Oak church wants to be a place where people can form this kind of community. A community where each one of us is allowed to be authentic and still feel lovable and loved.

Being authentic is not any easier than being unauthentic. Just as it takes a tremendous amount of effort to create a facade that shows everything is great, it also take effort to be authentic. The pay-off for being authentic however, is being known and loved for who you truly are, not for who you pretend to be. Personally, I think that pay-off is worth the effort.

Authenticity allows for emotions and brokeness to be seen and shared by others. It pushes us to respect how others differ from us because we can't simply pretend we don't see those differences. It moves us out of our comfort zone to engage with our own and other's struggles involving things like grief, broken relationships, illness, or addiction.

We are all broken people living in a broken world. Pretending anything else is exhausting and depressing. There is a freedom that comes when we are able to admit that we all have problems and flaws and that it is okay to not be perfect. We should all have a place where we can be authentic, truly known, and accepted by others. A place where when someone asks, "How are you?", they really want to know and you really want to tell them.

I hope that Live Oak will be that place for you.


"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer." - Acts 2:42