A Struggle for Authenticity

So in case you haven’t noticed, I’m continuing to write very sporadically. I think it’s because right now I’m in something of a spiritual wasteland in which God feels quiet and distant and I feel very disconnected from my spiritual life. Several times now, I’ve sat at my computer and started at an empty blog draft screen for minutes before realizing I just don’t care to write about my meager and sputtering faith right now.

This past weekend, I went on a retreat with my young adult group. We spent an evening, a whole day, and a morning at a cabin in the woods, having fun and chatting and kayaking in between listening to a speaker from our church and discussing his sessions.

I felt as though everyone there grew, and learned, and found a gold mine of truth there. I did, too, in a way…a non-spiritual way. I enjoyed laughing and having fun conversations and spending a whole day kayaking on a lake. I learned how much I value relationships.

And if you had been at the retreat, I bet I could have convinced you that I had just as much a good time during the spiritual talks and the discussions we had about them afterward. I offered well-thought out input in the form of carefully worded responses, and I listened attentively during the sessions (though I admit  I may have scoffed my displeasure at a few things he said. Real mature, I know.).

But inside, I spent this past weekend coming to a terrible realization: I feel as though I’ve been living out a farce. That whole time we spent talking about the Bible and how to live as Christians, that whole time we spent sharing testimonies and exchanging Bible verses…that whole time, I feel as though so little of what I said was truly the genuine expression of my heart.

I realized for the first time how much of my life I spend in fear of judgment, in fear of how others will perceive me if I’m honest about where I am in my spiritual journey. Behind closed doors, inside the recesses of my heart, I hold all these convictions that I earnestly believe reflect the heart and will of God. Be radically inclusive; don’t alienate people. It’s okay if you don’t have the answers to life’s hardest questions; the Bible teaches us, but it is not the direct Word of God himself, and it is certainly not a simple, cut-and-dry road map. Gay people can love God and have faith that is as genuine as  a pastor’s.

These are the things I was thinking, the things I feared to say aloud. And I realized: authenticity is one of the scariest things imaginable. To lay yourself bare, to express the truth as you best understand it, is freaking hard.

So I stayed silent while the speaker spoke. I stayed silent while he talked about Sodom and Gomorrah and how homosexuality is one of the few sins God says he especially hates. I stayed silent while he talked about how the mark of a “solid” Christian is that you read you’ve said the Sinner’s Prayer, you read your Bible daily, and you witness to nonbelievers.

I stayed silent through this, and a lot of other teaching that I have found to be life-draining and oversimplified and alienating of other human beings. And I realized that I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to craft careful answers that I know won’t raise red flags, for the sake of convincing others that I’m right on the same page as everyone else. I don’t want to hide my beliefs about homosexuality, about the Bible, about the way that I often struggle with doubt.

I want to be real. I want to be truthful.

But the next question is: do I have the guts? Because if I don’t, I fear leaving church may be the only way I will ever acquire authenticity in my life. And I know that running is just never the answer.

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Posted on June 29, 2014, in Belief, Church, Culture, Film. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nooo! Noooo! Nooo! Don’t leave! Dare to be authentic! Dare to share your heart! Your church needs you… your friends need you as do many folks you have never met that are feeling alienated from God’s family. Yes! Even God needs you to be honest and real and brave! You are not alone! I stand with you as do other Christians who have dared to read the Bible with their own eyes and listen to the voice of the Living God of Love over a pastor or a preacher who simply may be all wrong.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the rawness and real-ness of this post! I felt disconnected from church for a long time until I realized part if the issue was that I was disconnected from God. I placed the pastor’s words and others interpretations of the Bible above what God was speaking directly to my heart!

    Do you want to get your spiritual fire lit? Do you want to begin the most exciting phase of your spiritual journey? Fearlessly love and speak up for those who need our love. God is depending on us and the rewards are immense!

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing from your heart! I’m so pleased to be on this journey with you! ❤️Ann

    • Hey Ann, thank you SO much for your words of encouragement! I think sometimes it is easy to forget that there is a whole crowd of believers in Christ out there who understand what you go through when deconstructing conservative Christianity as I have been doing over the last few years. So this means a lot. 🙂 And you’re so right: true growth in Christ can only come when you are honest with God and with others about where you are in your walk. Thanks a ton for sharing such wisdom!!

      • Thank you for sharing your heart! So many folks are living in shame and fear when we don’t need to be! Freeing to treated will empower others to become liberated in Christ too!

  2. Tiffani, I think you have done a brave thing to reveal yourself in this way, while at the same time being concerned about what others might think of you. It is distressing to hide things that are so important to us, and it is distressing to face judgment and condemnation.

    The purpose of my blog is to provide a safe place for those who are questioning their traditional religious beliefs, to support them, and to provide a resource for dealing with their questions. But the fact is–it was difficult for me to become authentic and go public about how my fundamentalist thinking had changed on many important beliefs–including homosexuality.

    You said it so well:

    Be radically inclusive; don’t alienate people. It’s okay if you don’t have the answers to life’s hardest questions; the Bible teaches us, but it is not the direct Word of God himself, and it is certainly not a simple, cut-and-dry road map. Gay people can love God and have faith that is as genuine as a pastor’s.

    You seem to be in good shape to me.

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