When I think of the word authentic, I think real, vulnerable, honest. And that used to be terrifying to me, because I just wanted to hide. I wanted to hide behind the perfect persona that I had built around myself. It has taken me so many years, so much time, so many walls. Every once in awhile I would let someone in, but the second they hurt me, another wall went up, closing more people off. The walls got heavy and my heart grew colder. I remember seeing it happen toward my family and my friends; I stopped letting them in, even when they were not the ones hurting me. I wanted to be loved, to be found, for someone to heal this broken and damaged heart that I had deeply locked up. I didn’t want to be hurt anymore, so hiding felt safer.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
That is what my heart became: unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. I was a robot walking through life, making sure that my image was perfect. Tears were never shed in front of others, that was a sign of weakness. Flirting and friendships became an art, and I wanted to reel others in and hurt them as I had been hurt in the past. Because it’s true what they say, hurt people hurt people. I wouldn’t let them get to my heart. I accomplished all that I set out to do in school and life, to be the best of the best. If I wasn’t good at it, then I would stop doing it. I would make up some reason that I couldn’t, or make fun of it, so people would think I was too good for it. I had to be perfect and that meant not being hurt, not being broken.
One day there was someone who caught my attention. He promised so many things that I had desired for so long. Love, peace, joy, belonging, to be seen.
But that came with a price.
I had to give my life to him.
I had to abandon the life that I have been living and follow the path that he set before me, and it was all or nothing.
The walls had to come down.
He spoke truth to my heart and told me that through him, I could be redeemed.
What did this mean? I had to be vulnerable, I had to be honest, and I had to be real. I had to let him in. I had to let him into my heart. That was scary. The funny thing is though, he already knew everything. He knew the depths of my pain and sorrow in my heart. He knew the reason behind each wall and he wanted to help me tear them down. He wanted to show me that through him I could find all of the things that I was looking for, if I only trusted him.
It has been several years since I met him, since I made the choice to follow him, and to let him into my heart. Really though, I’ve still been making that choice each day.
It’s a process. Each day I wake up and I have to decide, am I going to be vulnerable today or am I going to hide away? Am I going to be honest with myself, or am I going to put on a mask and pretend that I am fine? I want to be real, vulnerable, honest, authentic. The walls are exhausting, it’s too much upkeep. But being authentic means I can be hurt.
Here’s the hard truth. C.S. Lewis got it right when he said that if you love something, your heart can be broken. That is the price that comes with vulnerability. But there is someone who wants to show you that it is all worth it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God allowed His heart to be wrung so that He could have ours.
He understands the pain and the suffering, but He also knows the beauty in authenticity. He sees the joy in true love, and the peace in being found. He wants that for you. He wants to see your true self so that you may live free of the walls that hold us down.
Being authentic means being free. It means that you will get hurt, but you will also get to love and be loved. Listen to The Oh Hello’s song “Hello My Old Heart” and pay attention to the bridge:
Nothing lasts forever
Some things aren’t meant to be
But you’ll never find the answer
Until you set your old heart free
Set your heart free and let yourself be the man or woman that God is calling you to be. Vulnerability and authenticity is scary, but it is so worth it. So, set your old heart free.