By Linnette Bachman
“I can’t say I forgive her if that’s not truly how I feel.”
“I can’t pray authentically if I don’t feel close to God.”
“I have to be true to myself.”
Being authentic seems to be the highest value of many of my student friends. Clearly communicating the depths of how they truly feel is of utmost importance. It trumps all else. Being that Southern culture lends to being polite to someone’s face and then vicious behind a person’s back, speaking authentically is counter-cultural. I appreciate authenticity.
I think the Lord appreciates it, too. We see over and over again in the Scriptures that the Lord does not desire a sacrifice if our heart is not in it (Psalm 40, Hosea 6, Matthew 9 & 12, Hebrews 10). He wants our authentic worship, not simply an outward going through the motions.
I think there’s great value in becoming aware of our inner worlds and being able to name what we are feeling. Dave and I often ask each other at the end of a day, What are two emotions you’ve felt today? We don’t coach each other through what the other is feeling; we simply listen. This has been really helpful for processing and giving space to connect to what we are really feeling and share that with one another. I’m trying to help my kids learn to recognize and identify their feelings, too.
Yet, I believe there is a higher value we need to embrace as Christians.
Higher than our emotions or our authenticity is our value to honor Christ. We want to honor Him in every part of our lives first and foremost. Because He is Lord of our lives, when honoring Him is in conflict with our authentic selves, we need to take a time out and surrender our emotions and our full selves to Him. In a moment of conflict, lashing out simply because we authentically are feeling it may be lauded by our culture, but I don’t think it honors Christ. He calls us to tame our tongue, to have self-control, to trust in Him. In those moments when we don’t feel close to God, and perhaps praying could feel inauthentic, crying to Him for help, turning to Him in repentance, even speaking aloud a desire for closeness or a belief that His Word and character are true– these honor Christ. And in the moment when“being true to myself” conflicts with the Word of God, we must turn and offer our full selves to Him–this honors Christ.
I see this in my own life when I get to the end of my rope– the kids are fussy or disobedient, there are dishes for the third or fourth time of the day, the floor I just swept has crumbs on it yet again, I’m tired and have a headache, and what I am authentically feeling is thwarted, frustrated, angry, wanting a break yet feeling like I can’t take one. The truth that I am a securely beloved daughter, accepted not based on anything I do or don’t do, but based on Christ– that truth doesn’t feel that true or compelling in that moment. I could authentically explode, letting my whole family know how their crumbs and dishes and bickering are just too much. Or I can take a moment, head to my bedroom, pray for help, text a friend for prayer, and remember some truth. Which will honor Christ? Which will bring about the fruit I desire?
1 John 3:20 says, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” God knows us even more authentically than we can know ourselves, and He is greater than our hearts.
Let us help our children, our student friends, and even each other be in tune with what we are feeling. Let us be honest with how we are doing and what we really think. But let us seek to honor Christ first and foremost in our lives.
Linnette and her husband Dave began their marriage and Nav staff career in 2005 (EDGE and SIT at Colorado State) and currently lead the NavCity and collegiate work in Nashville. They have 5 children: Kate (10), Kylie (9), McKenzie (7), Daniel (6), and Andrew (2). Linnette and Dave are passionate about the shared mission of raising up disciple-makers and raising up their kids.