by Dr. Mike Lawson
First Baptist Church of Sherman, Texas
Many years ago, while making my way back to North Texas after spending the Thanksgiving holidays with my family, I decided to stop at a mall in Tyler to buy some Christmas gifts. Entering through the Sears store, I happened upon an interesting scene.
A small group of people had gathered around a mannequin modeling clothing. The mannequin was amazingly lifelike, and it was clear that the people in the crowd were trying to determine whether the model was indeed human or artificial. A little girl approached the figure, reached out, and touched it. The little girl’s eyes brightened, her smile widened, and she turned to her mother. “She’s real! Mommy, she’s real! I know she is real because I touched her and she is real!” Even the human “mannequin” could not suppress a smile. Clearly this model had mastered the art of artificiality. She was excellent at appearing to be different than she really was.
When religion in daily life is addressed, the issue of authenticity vs. artificiality must be also addressed. Many people incorrectly believe that the practice of religion has little to do with real life. In a world that desperately longs for almost anything real, those who have discovered in their faith strength stronger than themselves ought to be the most real.
The amazing discovery that we are actually created in the image of God should generate a desire for the person of faith to become nothing other than the very person he is created to be. Anything other than that is artificial.
What does it mean to be real? Being real means being exactly who God intends us to be. It requires putting off unwarranted expectations heaped upon us by society and well-meaning people who want to recreate us in an image they have designed. It means that elements and aspects of our lives that are really not us are stripped away. It means that we examine our actions and desires and reconcile them with who we are at the core of our being. It means that we allow ourselves to be shaped by our biblically informed understanding of who we are, rather than by the twisted and tainted perspectives of those around us.
How invigorating to finally realize how uniquely special every individual really is, specifically because they are God’s handiwork. It is so clearly right then to search relentlessly for that person that God Himself had in mind when He brought us into existence.
Our society is not a friendly place for authenticity. There is a seduction of minds and hearts aimed at conforming every person to some popular image. When this occurs, at best the real person is hidden and his uniqueness is unclear. At worst, life has little meaning or fulfillment. How wonderful it is when individuals are so comfortable and confident in their own skins that there is no longer any need to master the art of artificiality.
There is that chasm between knowing and doing, or in this case being. Realizing there is no advantage in artificiality is the first major step in obtaining authenticity. This is where religion in daily life really does matter.
As we pursue the life for which we were created with deep, daily reliance on the one who in fact made us, what is meant by being real comes into focus. The desire to become anything other than who He intends us to be loses its luster. For the weekend religionist, there is little help. He must find his own way absent the help of the one who created him.
There is a song that came out a while back entitled, “Let Me be Myself.” The lyrics essentially voice a plea for renewed authenticity. It is always easier to be yourself than to attempt to be someone else. And in fact, in trying to be anyone other than yourself, failure is certain.
As we pursue life by faith and are connected with our creator, we genuinely learn what it means to be real. It is not enough to just be yourself. We all need the help and guidance of God if we are to be the person He had in mind when He created us. It is our faith in Him that informs and then forms us into the authentic individuals we are meant to be. May we never stop until we become exactly the person God intends, with freedom to shun the art of artificiality.
First Baptist Church of Sherman
400 S. Travis St
Sherman TX 75090
Publisher’s Note: This is one in a series of Guest Editorials on the subject of “Religion in Daily Life,” authored by members of the Texoma clergy. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Living! Magazine or its management.