Scrolling through Instagram, I see picture after picture with the hashtag “no filter”. I love it, but it always makes me laugh. Instagram was first known for its filters, apparently making already beautiful photos even more beautiful. But, since its inception, it seems we now look not for the pictures that are filtered but for the ones that are fully real, authentic, and without anything extra added on. These days, it seems we are desperately searching out authenticity in all that we see. Too often we are surrounded by media that is completely photoshopped or pictures that are so staged it can't possibly be the norm, that we have started to really question what is real and what is just a show. It makes me wonder how many of us have mastered the art of portraying the perfect picture of our lives, but have yet to learn how to portray our true selves with no filter.
From the moment we were born up to this very moment, the Lord has spoken words of life, value, and identity into our very souls. We often times don’t hear it, though, because our own criticisms tend to be louder. We filter His words through our regrets, fears, and failures. Shame begins to dwell within us; something that seemed so small at first but eventually grows to become a filter through which we share who we are. In Donald Miller’s book, Scary Close, he talks about this concept of a true self. This true self is the identity we were born with, completely untouched and unaltered by the world around us. It is what we show outwardly until shame gets a hold of us. Shame tells us we can’t be who we are because that person is too hard to love and causes us to create a filtered self we feel better about showing people. The problem with this is how exhausting it is to keep up a persona that you hardly know yourself. It becomes easy to forget who we were before shame stepped in. We forget the way we accepted love. We forget what it felt like to live without fear. We forget what it felt like to not have secrets.
This past spring, when I was home for a couple months after my discipleship training school, I was talking to a friend of mine about some of the issues of my past that the Lord had worked through when I suddenly realized she actually knew nothing about those past issues at all. I had focused so much on creating and portraying this filtered self that this friend, whom I considered to be one of my closest friends, knew nothing about the hurting true self I was hiding. The look she was giving me, one of total confusion, gave me such pain. Someone I knew would love me, regardless of what I did in my past, still didn’t know who I was. I decided that day to see her in the next few days and give her a run down of the life I was hiding.
When that day finally came, my voice trembled as I told her everything - going all the way back to the days of junior high. At the end of it all, with tears rolling down my face because of the pain it caused simply bringing everything to light, she looks at me and says, “Tara, thank you for showing me who you really are. You know what? I love you even more now than I did before.” I sat there dumbfounded by her response. It felt like I had just lifted a mask off that I swore would be permanent, especially in front of my friends and family back home. And then it hit me: this is what the love of Christ is like; He delights in the removal of our masks of shame and the embracing of our true selves.
As human beings, we crave intimacy and connectedness but, in order to have that, we must truly be known and, the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. Through Christ, we are able to be the real, authentic people the world is looking for because He has forgiven us to the point where shame no longer filter the way we live. Our stories are living testimonies, works in progress, that the Lord promises to redeem. We no longer need to hide. Trust me when I say I am still not perfect at this. I still have many people to take my mask off in front of. But, while it can be scary, He tenderly tells us to come out of hiding. He promises to love us no matter what we do because He’s our dad. He’s proud of who He created you to be and He’s proud to be your dad. He doesn’t love us out of obligation but of choice. For we were chosen, created, and spoken into life on purpose to simply be loved by Him.
So, why are we hiding behind this filter? Why are we letting our shame keep us from sharing who we truly are to the world around us? Since we are already fully known, fully accepted, and fully loved by the One who’s opinion and love matters most, we can be honest, open, and authentic with the people in our lives. God works in amazing ways. You never know the kind of impact you can have by sharing your true self to the world. You may even inspire others to do the same and help them step into the true self God created in them too.
By Tara Hebert