Authenticity: Being and becoming

By The Rev. Jeremy Myers

I was a big fan of professional wrestling growing up.

By God’s good grace, I experienced the golden age of what was then known as the World Wrestling Federation. Many of the personalities in the WWF at that time were able to parlay their popularity in the ring into more mainstream entertainment opportunities. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and the Macho Man Randy Savage all became extremely recognizable characters in the real world, which actually came as quite a surprise to my younger self.

At some point, I realized what I was seeing on television wasn’t real. These people were simply actors who were playing characters they had created in staged dramas. I was horrified at the dishonesty of it all.

Not too long ago, I got into a conversation about those old-school wrestlers with some folks here in Seymour. One of the gentlemen mentioned he actually knew a former roommate of the Macho Man Randy Savage and had the chance to meet and spend some time with him several years ago.

He revealed the Macho Man was always the Macho Man. He never broke character. Whether he was snapping it to a Slim Jim, body slamming the Ultimate Warrior or chilling with the homies, he was always the same guy.

It is reasonable to question how healthy it is to so totally adopt a created persona, particularly one as intense as the Macho Man. At the same time, you have to respect the dedication and determination to be the same person in all places and at all times, regardless of what anyone else might think.

Authenticity has become the king of all virtues in modern culture. We have come to believe there is nothing more important than unapologetically and consistently being our true and full selves. We go to great lengths to make space for people to be who they are without fear of condescension or condemnation.

It is a trend that has rightly been adopted by many churches. I’m sure we can all think of one church that has advertised itself as a church where people can “come as you are.”

As a pierced, tattooed Baptist pastor, I strongly value personal identity and believe it’s vital, particularly in the church, to encourage and allow people to be honest about who they are in as many ways as possible. There is without question beauty in our differences, and we are better off when we create space for those differences to shine through.

But I wonder are we truly encouraging authenticity? Or are we in many ways giving people permission to present a character they’ve created?

True authenticity is a process that’s lived out, not a destination at which we arrive. Authenticity doesn’t just reveal the best and most beautiful parts of who we are. It reveals the ugly and unacceptable, as well.

The real value in authenticity is the potential it has to open avenues to develop character by revealing the truth of the characters we present to others. Part of the benefit of being open and honest about who we truly are is it allows us and those around us to celebrate and encourage areas of strength while opening avenues to address and overcome areas of weakness.

Who we are is not static. We are in a constant process of growth and development. Who we are is not who we are becoming, at least it shouldn’t be. Authenticity reveals who we are while paving the way to who we are becoming.

I absolutely believe in the need to be our authentic selves, to be open and honest about who and what we are with ourselves and others. I believe God loves us as we are and that the call of Christ is immediate, meaning it is an invitation to the person we are at the moment.

But I also believe that God loves us too much to allow us to stay as we are. In fact, while Jesus died for us while we were sinners, he did so in order that we might become more. The gospel doesn’t give us the option of being content in the person we are or the person we have been. The Bible tells us that through faith in Christ, we become new creations, leaving behind the old, unhelpful ways of being behind as we continue to be transformed and molded into his image and likeness.

To continue living as the person I used to be then is to choose to continue to propagate a character of my own creation that is less than Christ has called me to be. Being my true, authentic self, as a follower of Jesus, involves understanding who I am with a consistent eye and effort toward who Christ is helping me become.

We should be our authentic selves today with the understanding and expectation that our authenticity will lead to genuine growth and change, leading to us becoming who God created us to be.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].