Summary: Authenticity before God begins with self-examination, proceeds to self-disclosure, and involves trusted advisors.
National Baptist Memorial Church, Washington, DC March 13, 2005
The issue is not an academic discussion as to whether there is a God. Relatively few doubt or debate that. The issue is not whether God is real, but whether we know how to get real with God.
Let me play out a little scene with you. Picture a home in which there is a parent and a teenager. They live in the same house, they inhabit the same space, they sometimes even eat at the same table. They are family. But listen to their conversation:
Hi, how was school today? Okay.
Any grades to report? Anything special going on? No, nothin’ happened.
Well, do you have any homework? Do you need my help tonight? No, I’ll be okay.
Are you sure nothing special happened today? Not really.
Then what’s this I see on the evening news about the kids over at your school tearing up the place? Why is your principal screaming at the TV camera, and isn’t that you standing over there?!
If we can live in the some house and not connect, if we can be at the same dinner table and treat one another as if we didn’t exist, maybe it is no surprise that we treat God the same way! Maybe it is no surprise that we barely even acknowledge that God is around. We need to get real with God. God is real; that’s not at issue. It’s time that we got real before God; and when we do, we will find that everything is changed.
Jesus was the most authentic person who ever lived, for Jesus knew how to get real with God. Jesus not only believed in His mind that God was real; Jesus actually treated God as a living reality. Jesus played no games, but brought His full self before God. And the results were spectacular! You and I can learn from Jesus how to get real with God.
First, notice that Jesus got real with God by admitting His true feelings, even though they were not pretty. Jesus got real with God by acknowledging exactly how He felt, without varnishing anything over. Jesus trusted God with what He really felt. He said, boldly, “I am deeply grieved, even to death.”
Now that’s real. “I am deeply grieved.” That’s a genuine feeling. Jesus didn’t have to say that. He could have done what many of us do. We put on a front, we come to church dressed in our Sunday best, but with all kinds of pain inside, and make up our minds that come what may, we are not going to open up to anybody, any time, and least of all to God. We hide our true feelings.
A friend of mine told me about she hid your feelings. She was living with an abusive, alcoholic husband. Not only did he hurt her physically, but more profoundly, he injured her emotionally. She told me how she had grown a garden of beautiful flowers in front of their house, so spectacular that when people passed by they stopped and marveled at the color. She wanted some joy in her life. But, she said, when people admired her flowers it just drove her deeper and deeper into despair, because inside that house and inside that heart, there was no color, no beauty, no joy. There was only pain and anger. And she couldn’t tell anybody what she felt. She said, “I was unreal ... unreal.”
Do you have a hard time doing what Jesus did? Jesus admitted His true feelings and acknowledged His pain. “I am deeply grieved,” He said. “Even to death”. Don’t miss the depth of what Jesus is saying, “I’m suffocating here. I can hardly breathe. This thing that is hanging over my head – it is so awesome that I feel I’m about to die”.
Have you ever heard someone speak about being nearly ready to die, about just wishing it were all over? We need to hear that. We need to take that seriously. Sometimes others will say, “Ah, don’t listen to her. She just wants attention. She’s just a drama queen.” But I have to say, no, when somebody speaks about how she feels stifled and cramped, when somebody says his life is bolted down and oppressive, I want to listen. I want to take that seriously. I believe God wants to take that seriously. Brothers and sisters, if you feel you are on the edge, say it! Get it out! You do no one any favors – not your family, not your friends, not yourself, and not your God – if you do not admit what you feel, however painful it may be. Getting real with God begins with telling God what you really feel, even if it isn’t pretty.