By Kimberly Nash Alexander
I often see the most beautiful flowers, and I instinctively reach out to touch them or get close enough to smell them to see if they are real. Sometimes they are silk or plastic, and I realize that, despite how pretty they look, they are artificial. This explains why they look so perfect. It is not until I get up close and experience the flower that I discover whether it is authentic.
It is the same with us. From a distance, things can look perfect. It is when we are in relationship—when we are up close and personal—that we begin to see each other’s flaws. We often put up barriers or wear masks to keep people at a distance because if they come too close they may discover that what they thought was real from afar is not. We often lack the texture and the aroma of being real. We are careful not to get so close that people can reach out and touch us.
As a pastor’s wife, one of the biggest challenges is not developing relationships but having authentic relationships. The challenge of being transparent or being genuine is monumental. There is an amount of risk when we choose to remove the mask and allow others to “see” us. We become vulnerable. Brené Brown, in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, talks about vulnerability:
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing vulnerabilities can be risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.
We cheat ourselves out of the fullness of real connection when we do not reveal our true selves. Somehow the fear of sharing who we really are gets in the way of allowing ourselves to have the full relationships we desire. Shattering the perception that we think people have of us actually allows them to relate to us rather than to observe us. The joy of vulnerability is the ability to release the pressure of thinking we have to get it right. Admitting that there are flaws and areas of insufficiency make us “real” and allow us to remove the mask to reveal our true selves.
Kierkegaard notes, "The great task of becoming an authentic self requires the overthrow of the illusory and sensate self that was forged in the personal and social milieu of youth." Have you put away childish things? Are you more concerned about acceptance than you are about authenticity? Do you know your real identity? Do you struggle to allow others to get to know the real you? Are you able to see past people’s flaws to appreciate their gifts? Can you lower your shield and share what is really on your heart with anyone?
When we behave as Christians, we allow others to see the real us and understand the meaning of God’s grace, mercy, and love. Kenneth Boa says, “God has chosen to use imperfect people as agents and mediators of His grace, and the paradoxical tension is that we cannot become authentic selves without being embedded in community”. God's Word says, "What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense” (Ephesians 4:25a, MSG).
I believe that it is possible to live in real relationship with those who are mature and non-judgmental, those who would love, pray, and support pastors’ wives wherever it is possible. I believe that when pastors’ wives, who are sometimes vulnerable, move out into their congregations, they will find that God sends people to bless them in real, honest relationships, allowing them to be their authentic selves.
“Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we are all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself" (Ephesians 4:25, MSG). I challenge you to find one or two people that you are comfortable with and have a real conversation about your fears and doubts. I submit that more are won to Christ by our transparent moments than by our heroic deeds.” Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it” (Romans 12:9, MSG).
Kimberly Alexander D.Phil., a native Charlottean, is the “Leading Lady” of The Park Church and serves as the leader for the Women’s Ministry: Daughters of Divine Destiny. She received her BS in Speech Language Pathology at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from George Washington University in Washington, DC, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford Graduate School. She is married to Bishop Claude R. Alexander Jr., and they have two children—Camryn Rene Alexander and Carsyn Richelle Alexander.
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