This month’s theme is AUTHENTICITY. Oof. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I probably had a momentarily lapse in judgment, or maybe I read it wrong, and…well, either way, here we are. I joke (mostly), but I don’t think it’s any secret that, even though it seems completely antithetical, authenticity is pretty easy to fake. Living in America, in this day and age, with all its instant gratification and flagellation, has made it way too easy to focus on what we PROJECT to the world, not with who we actually ARE. We love to think we have it all together. Now more than ever, because of our isolation and social seclusion, we can share with people only the parts of ourselves that look shiny and polished and tidy. Why do we do this??? Why will I STILL do this, even after I JUST. CALLED. ALL. OF. US. OUT? Why does the power of projection hold such weight?
I watch a lot of TV in general, but my love of the medium has grown during this pandemic and my tastes have expanded. What am I watching, you ask? No, not home improvement shows. Nope, not cooking shows. No, not Nailed It! on Netflix (well, actually, YES a LOT of Nailed It! but we’ll talk about that some other time, stick with me…). I’ve been watching a TON of shows taking the viewer behind the scenes at zoos around the world. There are shows on Discovery+ highlighting the San Diego Zoo, Bronx Zoo, and the Chester Zoo in England. I’ve watched them all. There’s also a show about the aquarium in Atlanta, but I get bummed for all those “keepers” who must wreak of seafood not to mention being constantly damp, so it’s not my fave. Neither is the show about the zoo system in Victoria, Australia because those Aussies are WAY. TOO. DRAMATIC. Goodness. Just watch an episode, you’ll know what I mean. (Wow, two digressions in the same PARAGRAPH. Pull it together, Curry. You’re better than this.)
As a kid, I used to love all the zoo showstoppers, the main attractions: elephants, giraffes, gorillas, etc. My allegiance has changed. I’m now a big hoofstock guy (think: four-legged, grazing herd animals.) Giraffes fit into this category, but I’m thinking more zebras, antelope, ibex. I love seeing them interact, tussle and make up, and rally around raising and protecting the young. Hoofstock herds remind me of human communities in this way.
The thing I find most relatable is the behavior of the sick or weak animals. I didn’t know how hard it is to diagnose a zebra with any illness or ailment until it’s too late. I also didn’t know WHY. It isn’t usually because the sickness is sudden onset or anything like that. Nope. It’s mainly because pack animals mask their illnesses and symptoms as long as possible because they will usually be kicked out of the group or left behind to fend for themselves at the slightest sign of weakness. They are passed over for breeding. Their standing in the pecking order is challenged. The weak make it easier for prey to infiltrate and ravage a herd.
In short, they become a liability.
So, as a gazelle or wildebeest, if you’re sick, if you’re hurt, you pretend everything is ok. As long as you can. And this seems to be mainly so you can remain in community. Meanwhile, you’re literally dying inside. But what choice do you have?
See where I’m going with this?
When I inquired as to what was actually meant when Discovery settled on authenticity as one of its eight pillars, I was told it meant doing life together. In community. So, how do we do this? How do we live as authentically as possible without the fear of the whispers, the pity, the dismissal? What should we be able to expect from our pack?
Lucky for us, I’ve selected a super challenging and confrontational passage to wade through for the next four weeks! Colossians 3:1-17, in fact.
Here it is in its entirety:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Great stuff. Also…doesn't this seem like a lot? I read this and feel inspired, yes, but also deeply convicted. I know how far I am from this. I know how far I still have to go before I don’t even momentarily look down on someone struggling. I know the journey that lies before me in opening myself up to all the criticism and shame that comes with sharing your struggles openly and honestly. I’ve been there before, and I’ve been burned. But if I believe God is who He says He is, then if I’m open to all the hurt, I’m also open to a rush of love from my Savior, and flood of power from the Holy Spirit. But I don’t get ANY OF THAT unless I risk openness; unless I risk authenticity. And how in the world am I supposed to do all this “one another” and “each other” and “one body” stuff if I don’t take these risks? God is calling me deeper into relationship with Himself, but ALSO into deeper relationship with all of you…and with myself. Whoo boy. Talk about a journey.
As we share with you this month, I pray that you are gentle with us. I pray that you are inspired to open up and explore true authenticity along with us. I pray that you are moved to check on those friends of yours who seem like they have it all together. Lord knows I will be. And hoping those who love me will return the favor.
I don’t WANT to talk about authenticity, I NEED to talk about authenticity. And maybe you do, too.