Carolyn Arends is a recording artist, author
and director of education for Renovaré.
www.carolynarends.com. Find more of these
columns at www.faithtoday.ca/Go WithGod.
When I was21, Isigned a Nashville publish- ing deal. As a shy teenager I had discovered songwriting as a form of
prayer, therapy and self-expression.
Now, given the opportunity to turn
my introspective hobby into a career writing material for other recording artists, I figured I’d better
make my songs less intensely personal. I began writing lyrics on
more generic topics, hoping any
vocalist could relate to them.
I soon got a call from my pub-
lisher. “Why,” she asked, “are you
suddenly writing terrible songs?”
That was the day I learned, as a
general rule, the more personal
something is, the more power it
possesses. Any contribution we
wish to make holds much greater
potential if it’s an authentic expres-
sion of who we are.
“Authenticity” has become,
rightly, a buzzword. We crave it in
culture, relationships, churches
Something is authentic when
whatever claims it makes for itself
are consistent with its own interior
reality. Songs are authentic when
they express something their writer
actually feels. Mexican food is authentic when the ingredients and recipes used to make it really do come
from Mexico. People are authentic
when their hidden motivations
match the things they actually say
It’s the inner condition of a person that determines whether his or
her authenticity is a good thing.
The man who leaves his family to
be true to himself is being authen-
tic, but not good. Conversely, most
of us know someone who is genu-
inely himself – unmasked and
transparent –in ways that are very
good indeed. When a person’s inner
and outer realities are both healthy
and aligned, she becomes a pro-
foundly powerful presence.
Lately I’ve noticed a trend regarding authenticity in some of our
churches. We’ve rightly rejected an
emphasis on an outer appearance
of holiness if it doesn’t match the
real state of a person’s heart. Instead, we honestly acknowledge
our brokenness. A lot.
It’s good to get real about the
truth of our condition. But what
would happen if we focused less on
downgrading our exterior emphasis
on holiness, and more on upgrading
the interior possibility of it?
What if we were to not only unveil our faces, but “with unveiled
faces contemplate the Lord’s glory”
until we discover that through
Jesus we “are being transformed
into His image with ever-increasing
glory, which comes from the Lord”
( 2 Corinthians 3: 18)?
If we are intentional about allowing Jesus to gradually transform
us into His image, I suspect two
radical things will happen.
First, we’ll actually grow in holiness. We’ll begin to authentically
want to do and be what we might
have previously been tempted to
fake. This won’t make us pretentious. The more we are transformed, the clearer we will see our
The Apostle Paul, the man who
called himself the “foremost sinner” (1 Timothy 1: 16) was also sure
enough of the transforming work
of Jesus that he could confidently
tell others, “Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ”
(1 Corinthians 11:1). We can expect
to become authentically humble
and genuinely holy at the same time.
Second, we’ll discover, in the
words of C. S. Lewis, “The more we
let God take us over, the more truly
ourselves we become.”
I used to read John the Baptist’s
cry – “He must increase, but I must
decrease!” (John 3: 30, KJV) – and
imagine my own personality reced-
ing into a generic state of Christ-
likeness. But John only became
more completely his confronta-
tional, unshaven, locust-eating
self in Jesus’ presence – holy, but in
an authentically John the Baptist
sort of way.
Holiness is, among other things,
a wholeness given to us by God. We
should expect to become more
wholly ourselves as God works
I’m writing these words fresh
from a funeral for a woman named
Heather. A sudden illness took her
from us, and we mourned the awful
rupture of her departure. But we
also laughed as we celebrated Heather’s wonderful peculiarities.
She was a five-foot-nothing dynamo, a neat freak known for
pulling out a Swiffer at red lights to
clean her car’s dashboard, a woodworking genius who asked her
husband for wrenches rather than
roses. Her pastor told us this: “
Heather,” he promised, “is more Heather now than she ever has been.”
For the disciple of Jesus, authenticity is not so much a buzzword
– it is a destiny. /FT
What would happen if we focused less
on downgrading our exterior emphasis
on holiness, and more on upgrading the
interior possibility of it?
The more we become like Jesus, the more we become ourselves
REAL OR GENUINE,
NOT COPIED OR FALSE
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