Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.
They don’t toil, neither do they spin.
~ Matthew 6:28
Yesterday I spent time with a diverse group of people from all walks of life, but for two hours, we all assembled together for one common cause. I walked away realizing that the greatest message I can take away from the gathering is that we are called to be authentic.
It's interesting how many people that I meet that are "trying" to be something that they are not. Years ago I would tell the youth group that I worked with to, "Remember who you are."
In the gospel of Matthew, we are reminded to, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil, nor do they spin." (Matthew 6:28) Matthew is telling us they know who they are. The lilies do not try to be something that they are not, nor do they waste the day trying to be a rose.
The happiest I have ever been is when I have been my authentic self.
One of the things that I ask people when I meet them is, "What do you do for a living?" Often it is the identifier of what role the person has taken in life, but also says a lot about who the person is. I then ask, "Do you like it?" Sometimes the answer catches me by surprise. It is amazing the things that we will do, or try to be, in order to satisfy some role, but at the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, "Did it allow for us to be authentic with who we are and allow others to see us for who we are as well?"
The moments when you realize that you are "trying to be something you are not," can be a source of anxiety, and for some, complete disappointment. I can remember doing things as a child because I knew it made my parents or grandparents happy. I think that there is a sense of wanting to please others in everything we do, but actually we should ask ourselves, "Did this make me happy, and was this the best use of who God created me to be?"
The writer of Corinthians reminds me, "When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Being our authentic self is something that God wants us to be. After all, we were created in the image of God. With that knowledge, we have a source to begin with, and only we know what that means for us.
Being authentic means that we also know who we are.
There are some things that I realize about myself that are unique to me. I have an intense fear of not being able to see the bottom of where I am swimming. For that very reason, I know that I will never swim out into the ocean. I had to take Calculus twice in college and managed to squeak by with a D. I know I will never be a math teacher or tutor! I love to sing loudly in the car with the radio, but I know that I will never sing at Carnegie Hall (well, you never know!)
Don't get me wrong, we are all allowed to have ambitions and dreams, but being authentic means that we don't obsess on things so much that we fail to realize the blessing that are already before us.
Being an authentic person also means that you can honestly answer, "I understand," when someone has experienced the same pain that you have experienced. It's being able to love others, and admitting that sometimes, "I struggle to love others," when you have been hurt by someone.
I remember spending time in the emergency room with someone who was like a person I knew growing up as a teen. I struggled to be supportive in the person's time of need because I kept thinking about the person from my childhood. Afterwards, I spent time with my supervisor sharing how hard it was to be present with the person because the man was so much like the person I had an experience with thirty years earlier.
First and foremost, God knows who we are. We don't serve a God who creates us, and then leaves us to figure everything out about us. Granted, there are some things that I know about myself now as a man in my fifties that I wish I would have known in my twenties, but the time and the experiences have also helped me to be who I am now. We are not guaranteed anything in this world, but knowing who we are is something that we can always explore and learn from.
"Remember who you are!"
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.