Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heroic Authenticity

By Rachel Hansen

I love a good superhero story, a twofold tale. On one side, the main character is an invincible hero, a superhuman with great strength and special power. On the other, a man or woman behind the costume who looks much more like you and I.

Often I am more intrigued by the ordinary, the humble subplot of the humanity within the hero than the extraordinary strength and power that come with the title.

I have tried playing superwoman. Every room in my home holds books that teach me how to be like her. You would think by now I’d be a master chef like Rachael Ray, a home expert like Martha Stewart or perhaps would have uncovered the many secrets to living Real Simple. Instead publications sit on my shelves unfinished—as am I. Conversations with other women center on achieving more while finding balance. In the pursuit of doing it all, I grow weary (and so I also own books on beating fatigue!). Through it all, I continually push forward in search of the right answers.

But I have also experienced enjoyment in being me—no more, no less. I set striving aside and appreciate all I have done and learned thus far. I celebrate where I am in life while humbly recognizing I still have far to go. I embrace the reality that I am not invincible and I turn to God regularly. In the process, I’ve learned to take off the mask and genuinely share myself with others; it is satisfying, inspiring and real.

In a world searching for superpower, authenticity – being genuine, open and available to others – builds influence.

My influence shifted greatly when I chose to lead with authenticity. No fancy fa├žade. I stripped off the polished exterior of my superwoman costume to expose the soft, unrefined parts inside. I offered gritty honesty about my personal life and work. Unfiltered, I shared about the battles I lost, won and what I learned.

Every season God brings women into my path that are hungry for authenticity in a world dominated by superficiality. Getting to know the woman I am behind closed doors, they see there is no better option (for me or them) than choosing to live by faith. In Christ, we are more than conquerors because of God’s love, grace and empowerment.

While many of us aspire to do great things, I have found my greatest influence comes from being myself – an ordinary woman serving an extraordinary God. As women of faith and as leaders, often the best thing we can offer others is authenticity. Sometimes being ourselves is the only thing required because if we only show what is possible through man, we fall short in our influence. But if we share openly about what God has done through our lives, we have supernatural power to change the world. Maybe in the end, it will make us all heroines.

Rachel Hansen has been active in a variety of ministries, currently championing the prayer ministry with her husband at New Life Community Church in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and serving on the Women of the Word Midwest Steering Committee. She is a freelance writer who plans to complete her first book for women of faith in 2012.

5 comments:

  1. Oh thank you, thank you for this! I just spent a week with two young girls I'm mentoring and nearly all of their questions revolved around how they were looking, how others would perceive their outfit or hair style and - of course, inevitable - boys. Amazing how that type of superficiality and insecurity rubs off in close quarters!
    I wish you and I could sit down after all of that for some authentic conversation. But today, this blog is enough.

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  2. Rachel, I needed to hear your words in my heart as I read them. I have always been trying to be bigger, better, always pushing to be all things for all people, in an ever busier world. As a MOPS mentor mom, I need to be more genuine with my moms, to show them that I too have difficult days even now as a retired grandma, and that I still slip and fall as a Christian. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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  3. Thanks for the solid word, Rachel. my thinking changed when I turned 40. In my 20s and 30s, I felt like I was competing with the women around me: decorating my house, raising my kids, volunteering, etc. I was quite capable, but I never felt like I measured up.

    Then I decided to be happy with my strengths and ask for help in my weak areas. I'm not artsy AT ALL, but I have good technical skills. I learned to be content with the person God created me to be, and stopped comparing myself to other women.

    Now that I'm on the heels of 50, I cringe at all the time I wasted striving to be somebody I wasn't. Praise God for the truth of Ps 18:19,

    He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.

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  4. Perfect timing. I just shared some very "real" stuff with my woman's Sunday school class yesterday. Today, I was wondering if I should have. (Worrying - do they think less of me now?) I am normally pretty honest, open and vulnerable in leading - but for some reason I was feeling insecure after yesterday's class. Your article was a word of affirmation from God to keep being real - not just sharing victories, but struggles and defeats as well... cause that's real life! Thank you.

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  5. Oh my goodness Rachel...I wanted to laugh and cry after I read this. Laugh because I have all of those very same books and magazines in my house!!! How to be a better housekeeper, mother, wife, writer, professional...how to balance it ALL and feel peaceful in the midst...

    sigh...none of it seems to work...How quickly we think we are the only ones feeling this way!

    I totally agree... we need to strip off the facade...be genuine...it's what I try to do in my own blogging, writing and fellowshipping...it's definitely a work in progress...

    All those books and magazines often do is make us feel like we can do it all ourselves...a wonderful mom stood up at my MOPS group and talked yesterday, she started out by saying..."I feel as if I have nothing to say to you, because I am truly nothing without God.."

    wow. not if that isn't the truth!

    Thanks for your words.

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