Being Authentic in an Inauthentic World
My wife is on a constant mission to improve the appearance of our home, relentlessly redecorating and coming up with new projects. That is the point where I generally come in. One recent objective of hers has been the kitchen. We had what I thought to be not unattractive light oak-stained kitchen cabinets. How was I to know that stained wood cabinets were no longer “in”? They needed to be painted and done so in a certain way with a technique to make them appear older and in some distress. She wanted them to appear to be something they were not.
We then turned “our” attention to the countertops, which were a nondescript but functional laminate. But, in her mind, granite was no longer in style, and marble was beyond our budget, and, and, and more and. She finally settled on a process that would change the appearance of our countertops into a look she desired. Like the cabinets, they would remain functionally the same; it was their appearance we were changing. I told her we were making stage props. The results left her feeling less than satisfied.
In 1599, William Shakespeare wrote in his play As You Like It, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Ours is a plastic world, populated by mannequins who pose to appear to be one thing when they are in fact another. There is so much deception, so much inauthenticity, it is difficult, if not impossible, to discern what is real. Our culture is increasingly being morphed into something that appears to be different by the forces of media: Hollywood, late-night comedians, those posing as journalists, and all of those fake people who pop up on social media and “reality” shows. Even our churches are becoming more and more fake. “Come to our church and learn how we can make you happy and more prosperous. Oh, and put your tithes here.”
In the midst of all this fakery, God’s Holy Word has taught us that the source of joy is authenticity; being that person God created us to be. In a fallen, corrupt, and inauthentic world, that is a rather tall order. In fact, I do not possess the capacity in and of myself to be completely authentic and to make my joy complete.
Encapsulated within the Hebrew word shalom is the construct that authenticity is the source of joy. Shalom is generally translated as “peace”. Hebrew words often go beyond their spoken pronunciation to convey feeling, intent, and emotion. Shalom is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, wellbeing, and harmony. It is a feeling and condition of joy.
According to Strong's Concordance, shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Does that sound like joy to you?
Consider the condition of David’s shalom as he penned Psalm 13. You remember, “How long, oh Lord”. We do not know David’s specific plight, but we can easily understand his heart is in deep distress. “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2). Here, David is clearly being authentic – he is in real distress. But, in his authenticity is a complete lack of joy, of shalom. David’s lament is that it appears to him that God has neglected him and turned away from him. David feels at a loss, cast adrift and alone. He fears death in this condition, believing his enemies will consider his death to be the consequence of his God’s withdrawal from him (verses 3 and 4). As he sings his lament and fears, hope and joy are restored to David, and he recalls God’s loyal love (chesed) and His provision. David’s joy, in the midst of his trial, is restored (verses 5 and 6). How much greater, having withstood not just the assault of his enemies but his perceived abandonment by his God, is David’s joy? His joy was being tested, being refined by fire, to be returned to him stronger and more complete than ever.
It becomes evident that David’s joy was seemingly absent when he believed God was absent from him. Once David realized that God would never leave him and had always provided for him, David's joy returned. It was when David saw his authentic situation – he was in a very tough spot, but God had always been with him – that joy came back into his heart.
The source of joy is authenticity. The source of authenticity in this plastic, fake, inauthentic, fallen and corrupted world is our Creator God.
Now, I have a four-hour drive ahead of me to pick up a load of reclaimed lumber for her latest project -- butcher-block countertops.