Recently, I had an incredibly opportunity to spend the weekend with a group of teenagers learning about it means to be an authentic Christian.
We spent the entire weekend digging into Scripture where Jesus defines what is means to follow Him and what it means to be authentic.
The whole entire time, I kept thinking about one thing: It is important to be authentic with others but if we're honest, how authentic are we with God?
Throughout most of my life, religion has taught me that there were only certain things that I could say to God and there were things that I was NEVER to say to God.
I was only to completely worship Him in my prayers.
I had to mask the way I felt and be happy in my prayers even though my day stunk.
I could NEVER ask God why.
I could NEVER be frustrated with God.
Then I threw away "religion" and got to know on a personal and deep level the God that I spent all that time constructing "pretty" prayers for. And I realized something: God already knew. He already knew how I felt and knew how angry and frustrated and confused I was. He knew it and still loved me. So why could I not say it to Him?
That's just the problem. Religion gives us rules and guidelines to follow in our following of Christ that limit the depth of our experience when we follow Jesus. Relationship with Christ gives us only two rules to follow:
"He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
(Luke 10:27 NIV)
When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, there are no rules as to how we should pray to Him or how we should worship Him.
GASP! No rules?!
Our only requirements are to love Him with all that we are and love each other. I don't know about you but when I truly love and trust someone, I tell them everything. I have been blessed to have a bestest friend since kindergarten and I tell her EVERYTHING. She has known me at my very best and has stuck with me at my worst. And I know she would say the same about me. I love her and she loves me.
THIS is the relationship that God wants to have with us. He knows us at our worst and celebrates with us when we're at our best. If He already knows this, why would we not tell Him everything? Jesus IS our best friend and He is also our God. We should honor and respect Him but we can also trust Him with our deepest secrets and our heart's desires. We can tell Him how badly our day was and how mad and frustrated we are at Him and our current situation.
When I think about us being completely honest with God and how we feel, I think of one person in particular that was completely honest with God: David.
David was a man after God's own heart and He was just as human as the rest of us. He had some really amazing highs and some pretty gut-wrenching lows. But throughout the mess-ups and the craziness, David never lost his faith and trust in God. He kept his eyes on the redemptive grace of God and lived his life with the intent to bring glory to God. His life is written out for us in the Psalms and I always feel like I'm ready his diary when I'm going through them but I feel that because of his vulnerability is what makes them so special. They're authentic feelings; not sugar-coated or filter but HONEST.
Let's look at some examples:
When he's frustrated with his job: "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? ...Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling." Psalm 2:1,10-11 NIV
When he's afraid: "Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him!' But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from His holy mountain." Psalm 3:1-4 NIV
When he's hurt or doesn't feel heard: "Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer." Psalm 4:1 NIV
When he feels ashamed: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:1-2,10-12 NIV
But also as you go through the Psalms, you see David consistently praising God even though there was a lot of stinky stuff going on in His life. You also can see the yearning of David to be someone that God can use and you can feel his desire to see his God. His love and faith and trust in God was evident and this is what God has called us to be as Christians. Authentic. Honest. Genuine. Real, raw, and flawed.
From my own personal experience, I have found that if you expose your heart before God, He'll reveal Himself to you - He'll show you His heart and reveal Himself to you in ways you've never imagined. When you allow Him into the deepest, ickiest parts of your heart that you want no one to see or know about, you'll see His heart and His character: loving, merciful, trustworthy, honorable, and KING.
I want to challenge you all to be real, raw, and flawed with God and just see how He begins to move in your life. Remove your filters from your relationship with Him and hold on tight because He will take your places that you never would've imagined you were capable of going.
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.