It’s time to be REAL…

 “…I have — found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal, and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it would shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.” (Carl Rogers)

Music has always been a big part of my life. As the daughter of a pastor and wife who were both musically inclined, our house was always filled with all kinds of music. Jazz, Motown, classical, Gospel, CCM (Christian Contemporary), and many other genres filled the house on any given day. I grew up listening to anything from Stevie Wonder to Take 6 to DC Talk and everything in between. Everyone understands that music is an incredible medium of communication. It is indeed a universal language that touches everyone in a unique and personal way. But why is that? It’s because of the authenticity that good music exudes. Music, much like any other art form, is birthed out of the raw material of the human experience. Songwriters use this method of expression to share their deepest emotions and work through their pain and struggles. Some use it as a platform to expose the dysfunction of the society in which we live. That’s how hip hop was born. Still others use music to express the deepest of human emotions – love, heartache, and heartbreak. In short, music is often the most accurate reflection of the human condition. For artists who have been around for a while, you can follow their journey of self-discovery through the music they make. You can figure out what they are most passionate about, what is of utmost importance to them, and even what is the greatest source of their pain. Good music draws you in; great music makes you think and feel and relive the most vivid parts of your life journey, good, bad, and ugly. For me, music was a way to escape all the phonies that surrounded me and connect to the most human part of me that was often denied or dismissed by the people who were supposed to protect it – the church.

The Christian community could learn a lot from the art community about authenticity. Granted, both circles have their flaws, that’s for sure. But the earnest endeavor by a select group in the music community to share a piece that is authentic and relatable is something that we as believers could learn more about. Often the case is that we are so focused on being religious, that we forget that we are also very much human. And denying your humanity only makes your relationship with your Creator that much harder. It is because you are human that you need to remain connected to your Creator.  No one is walking this earth is perfect, nor will they attain perfection on this side of eternity. And yet there are people in religious circles who carry themselves in such a way that they believe, or want others to believe, that they are perfect and without sin. If that was the case, we have no need for salvation or Jesus. The current downfall of the church at large today is a fundamental lack of transparency and authenticity within the community of faith and beyond. This is the challenge of reaching the next generation — reclaiming the sense of community and working to be more honest and transparent. What many miss in an effort to protect your ego and your image is that people will have more respect for you as outsiders looking in if you are honest and open about your humanity. People cannot connect or relate to a perfect being. And that’s part of the reason God sent Jesus in human form, so that he would be able to identify the struggle of being human and living on this side of eternity. If God can make the extra effort to understand and share in our experiences, we should not be running from our humanity. We, instead, ought to embrace our humanity and, with God’s help and guidance, work through the weak places in our humanity. And, by doing that and sharing our experiences and growing lessons with one another, we can help each other move forward.

What I appreciate most about the music artists that I listen to and follow on a regular basis is that I learn something and draw strength from identifying with their struggles and how they made it through. They embrace their humanity, pain and all, and they share openly and honestly, through music notes and lyrics, where they are and how they are working through that place in life. They share the lessons they have learned and how they have grown, and then they encourage others to keeping moving forward. This is something that is not missing altogether from the Christian community, but it is certainly hard to find. My challenge to my dear brothers and sisters in the faith is to embrace your humanity. You are not perfect, and you are not going to be right all the time. The people you have been sent to minister to and reach with the Gospel of Jesus will be more apt to listen to what you have to share if you make the effort to connect with them by being honest and transparent about where you are in your faith journey, and what obstacles you have faced along the way. It’s time we decided to be REAL.

[Col 3:12-17 ESV] Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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