Weeks ago I was challenged to share authentically the ways in which God has shown His great faithfulness to me, without fear of the opinions of other people in order to bring God glory.
I have a confession to make… I can’t remember a time when I felt “ok” with quiet. When I find myself in a group setting, or even one-on-one and there is even a small bit of silence between us, my eyes get a little bigger, my mouth starts to tingle and there’s this incredible urge to say something… much like a salivating dog who knows he’s about to get to fetch the ball… I have this desire—No, this need to fill the silence. I’m not about to say that it’s the right way to do things, or the more mature way to handle the situation, it’s just my tendency.
There are many things about “sharing” that I like. I enjoy telling stories that bring people laughter or maybe even move them to tears. I like to give and receive verbal encouragements or statements of appreciation to and from other people. Lately, it’s been pretty easy to talk about my encounters with the Holy Spirit, and how He’s working on a grand scale in my life because He has been moving in some pretty obvious ways. Sometimes, however, sharing authentically is really hard for me because I worry about what other people think of what I say or what I do.
I’ve taken lots of personality quizzes, but one of my favorites is the 4-animal personality test, which was originally created by Dr. Gary Smalley. There are several versions of this personality tracker. In all of them the results are lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver. My answers vary slightly depending on my stage of life, feelings at test time and the version I’ve taken, but I’m usually about 50/50 lion and golden retriever. This isn’t too strange if you think about the animals themselves, but it is when you take a look at the personality types next to each other. Interpretations of this test generally suggest that the lion personality likes to take charge, conquer challenges, handle confrontation directly, solve problems and also has a hard time listening to others. The golden retriever personality likes to form and foster loyal relationships, enjoys routines, generally uses indirect communication and listens well to others.
What this means for me practically is that I love to be around people. I sometimes even get so giddy about making connections that I wonder if I really might have a golden retriever’s tail. Yet, I struggle sometimes to be authentic in the way that I approach people because I have a deep-set desire to be liked. I love to share my story and I also love to hear about others’ lives, yet sometimes I struggle to share too much and listen too little. I don’t love conflict, but I try to handle it head-on, to resolve it and make peace as soon as possible. If resolution is with a person, I want feelings to be “good” between us. If the confrontation is because of a life situation (grief and loss, for example) I generally want to charge ahead and face the hard parts until I’ve conquered it (and it makes me crazy when the thing seems un-conquerable). There is definitely a roaring inside me that happens when I see injustice or pain, especially on a personal level, especially when the victim of it is someone whom I love or to whom I am loyal or with whom I identify. And sometimes that roar seems a little too loud, and I’ve hurt people with my words or shamed myself because I was quicker to strike than to understand.
So sharing? Not really a problem for me. Sharing too much? Maybe a problem for me. Sharing authentically, without sugar coating or dampening truth to seem more appealing or pushing people with strong opinions? Often a problem for me.
Knowing this about myself sometimes causes me to shy away from being authentic. Because of my admitted desire to be liked, it seems better to me to be the one who laughs all the time, who isn’t so serious all the time or doesn’t “take herself too seriously”. It’s sometimes difficult for me to go ahead and tell strangers who I am because the people to whom I am connected are so much a part of me… the death of the husband who was my other half is an unavoidable topic, and as soon as I bring that up, the conversation gets understandably somber. And there’s usually plenty of silence. I don’t like that outward silence because inwardly my mind is racing, questioning everything… “Oh no, why did I have to ruin the light-hearted laughter we could have had?” “should I be super sad now or should I pretend like everything’s fine?” “How do I turn this into a conversation that feels better?” “I’m such a ‘Debbie Downer’” “Do I look like a widow” and “what does a widow even look like anyway?” But if I allow the silence, there’s usually a great opportunity to tell about God’s great faithfulness. And that is beautiful, that is authentic, because the honest, vulnerable, transparent, true me has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him.
The prayer we pray for salvation is a one-time-thing. God died once to pay the price for all sin – all of my sin, all of your sin, all of the sins in the world for all of time. It only takes one honest, true, repentant prayer to acknowledge that you have been and are sinful, to ask for forgiveness, believe and accept that Jesus’ one-time sacrifice of death and decent into Hell and then return to life covered all sin. And at that point, you are forever covered by the blood that Christ shed that day over 2,000 years ago. Boom. Forgiven. Forever. Nothing at all can ever separate you from that. It’s simple. (Romans 8).
However, the daily living of it is not so simple. Just like any relationship, there is daily work involved. That daily commitment is easier some days than others. I know that if I truly took to heart and believed, every single day, that Jesus’ blood had bought me, that I was worth it to Him then and I’m worthy now, that I am a precious, cherished and a beautiful daughter of the King, that He sees my tears and wants to extinguish my fears… if I truly accepted and lived like I believe that every day… my life would be different. Being authentic wouldn’t be difficult because I’d be secure in who I am and why I am that way and I’d probably share for God’s glory without hesitation, without fearing what people might think of me. When I sinned I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it, because that would be yet another opportunity to tell of God’s goodness in-spite of my depravity. I wouldn’t worry about pushing others away from Christ by telling of His life and love and one-way to Heaven, because the words that flowed from me would be coming directly from the Holy Spirit, full of grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).
So after all the questions swirl in my mind, when I ask the Lord to make silence happen inside my head in a way that leads to peace beyond understanding, when I open myself up honestly to His searching and refining, that’s when He reminds me of His promises, of my preciousness to Him and affirms my purpose. And in all of this, as I struggle to be authentic, He is faithful to catch me when I fall and smile like my father when his daughter makes Him proud.