You're Amazing (Paperback)
Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is perverse in his ways will fall into a pit. —Proverbs 28:18
How do you define being “real”? What is a real person? The way I look at it, a real person is always genuine and authentic, and is all around a person of integrity—he is who he is, no matter where he is. This person has nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and nothing to lose. A real person is at peace and remains joyful no matter what life’s circumstances bring. As the old hymn exclaims, “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that refuge clinging, since Christ is Lord of Heaven and earth how can I keep from singing?” A real person knows that as long as she is real about who she is, who God is, and how that relationship is growing, nothing can shake her. That is reason for hope; that is a recipe for fulfillment. But does the idea of such “realness” seem impossible or intimidating to you? Many of us balk at it in today’s world, because we have an image we still feel the need to cling to. Others of us may be on board (hey, it kind of sounds like a trendy cleanse), only to lose our nerve when anxiety sets in. Perhaps we will accidentally become too real. It is natural to resist feeling vulnerable, open to societal judgment, and permanently out of one’s comfort zone—essentially, being spiritually and emotionally naked.
Well, here is the naked truth: I discovered that if a person decides to hand his or her life over to God—and I mean completely—then that person is an example of what it means to be real. I don’t know if you have made that decision, but if you have, you have a good shot at living an amazing life, because being real is step one. As we go through these five life-changing steps, we will discover just how to hand our lives over to God. But don’t make your decision just yet—start by being real; it can’t kill you!
“Realness” in front of God is the ultimate confidence. There is no shame in nakedness when we are naked in front of our Creator—he knows us better than we know ourselves anyway. We never have to be afraid when we allow God to take charge. He is our rock: “He is my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me” (Psalm 18:2). Here’s how being real helped some of my friends become fully confident in who they are and compassionate toward others.
In our apostolate, Hard as Nails, we are on a mission to awaken the world to the power of God’s love. During one of our events I met a young man named Todd. I was speaking at a family conference in 2010, and my first impression of him was that he just seemed to have it all together. People enjoyed spending time with Todd; they gravitated toward his magnetic personality. He was a straight-A student who had never taken drugs or engaged in underage drinking or had sex before marriage. He came from a wonderful, loving family. Here’s the thing, though: Families and kids perceived as perfect and wonderful are not exempt from suffering.
During my talk that day, I asked a simple question: “Would anyone like to share their story?” Todd was the very last person to step up to the mic. I had a feeling he had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to be real about the challenges he had been facing. This was it.
When he got up in front of the group, Todd shared that he habitually cut himself—a devastating addiction many teens succumb to. He opened up his beautiful heart and talked about the anxiety he faced on a daily basis. With some timidity, yet with powerful conviction, Todd told the crowd that he needed God to help him overcome his addiction to cutting; he knew he couldn’t do it on his own. Because he was willing to be real in admitting his need for God, Todd had been set free and found a deeper sense of purpose in his life that day.
“I’m Randy. Thanks for helping my son,” Todd’s father said later that day, offering me a firm handshake. With tears in his kind eyes, he expressed his deep appreciation for my helping Todd speak up about his pain. Having had no idea what Todd was going through, Randy experienced real angst after hearing his son’s poignant confession.
As I got to know Randy at that weeklong conference, I asked him what challenges he was facing in life. He deflected, “Oh, you know, my son . . . I just want to help my son.” I wanted to know what his personal challenges were, not what his son was facing—I already knew about that. Randy and I became friends that week, and he made a commitment to be real—not only with his family and those around him, but first and foremost with himself.
I kept in touch with Todd, and he shared with me that he was going through so much more than he had initially let on. He was cutting more than just his wrists. He was mutilating his legs too. His cutting had really become a severe addiction. The details he shared with me were just gruesome.
I encouraged him to share these intimacies with his parents. After some pushback he agreed, and he ended up talking with his mom and dad for more than forty-five minutes about the specific challenges he was facing. Persistence paid off—after a little extra prodding and digging, Todd was willing to be totally honest about his addiction, and thankfully his parents listened with their whole hearts. Although it was a tough conversation, it was the beginning of a new chapter for Todd and his parents.
You see, being real doesn’t mean taking the easy path; instead, it often means taking a very difficult one. But it is the outcome of going through the discomfort and vulnerability of being real that makes us fulfilled. Being real was the beginning of Todd’s and Randy’s healing, wholeness, and freedom, and it can be the beginning for you too.
It’s one thing to be real with yourself, but to be real with others is an equally important component. Sharing your personal story, your suffering, your battles, your humanness, however ugly or embarrassing you think they are, is what enables you to advance ever closer toward a life of peace with yourself, others, and God.
Being this level of real isn’t easy today; our world sometimes seems like one grand masquerade party. Everyone’s photos are filtered to gain more likes on Instagram; males and females alike go so far as to edit images of themselves with Photoshop or whatever the latest trend is until they are nearly unrecognizable.
You see it everywhere you turn: politicians, celebrities, cliques at school or work. We are insecure and more self-involved than ever. Maybe we aren’t intentionally hiding our brokenness, but we are flaunting our assets in order to garner attention, which is equally fraudulent on the “levels of fakeness” spectrum. We dance the dance because we want to build a following—a fan base centered around us. We want to be adored. We want to be celebrated. Whether or not we realize it, what we want is artificial gratification, which will only leave us empty in the end. Isn’t it sad that many of us have been told that our worth and beauty are dependent on the way we portray ourselves to the (cyber) world? Isn’t it a shame that we think we need add-ons and filters so that others will love us? But if we want to be content with who we are, we can’t give in to the false affirmations offered on social media when we flaunt our exterior life. We need to be ourselves inside and out if we want to be fulfilled and satisfied with our lives.
The fakeness at this point has become so prevalent. For those of us who choose to be real and transparent, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but don’t let your spirit be dampened by the overwhelming odds. I challenge you to take off your own masks and get “naked.” If you are real with others, they are more likely to let you in, and if you pursue them with authentic love and keep digging deeper, they might even ask you to help them discard their masks.
Quote to Remember:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” —Steve Jobs
Time for God:
Get a notebook or a journal or open the notes app on your phone. Ask God to help you gain deeper fulfillment by revealing to you the areas in your life where you need to “get naked.” Make a list of three things you want to get real about, and pray for God to give you the grace and strength to confront these areas.
Make It Count:
Consider finding a mentor or spiritual director you can meet with regularly. Read this book and share with him or her your experiences as you walk through it together. If you cannot find a mentor or spiritual director, find a companion to walk through it with you. Amazing things will happen when you go two by two.