I am greeted once again with silence.
A teenage girl has been dragged to my office by her momma and is sitting across from me with no words to say. No emotion to be found. Eye rolls in abundance.
As a full-time girls minister at a church, I find myself often in this situation. In the presence of teenage girls who are broken, lonely, confused, calloused—and silent.
Most of the time I ask every mom to share her heart in the presence of her girl, and then I will ask if I can talk with the daughter for a few minutes one on one.
Nine times out of ten, the moment the door closes the silence turns to the subtle sound of weeping.
The dam breaks and words flow and the heart opens up.
Why is that?
Why do many of these girls carry themselves as statues?
Why do they feel that they cannot express the contents of their hearts?
What I have found is that these girls are experts at what is fake and avoid all that is authentic.
Not because they are shallow or dense.
Not because they aren’t capable and lacking emotion.
But because the world has taught them that who they truly are and how they truly feel isn’t okay. Authenticity is exchanged for filters and fake Instagrams and tucking real emotions away.
So what does that leave us with? Teenage girls dealing with real world issues that are trying to be okay and confused mommas with broken hearts because they feel like they don’t know how to get through to “their girl” anymore.
We find ourselves here, with a generation of young women that we are called to grow into kingdom warriors, and we are struggling to get through their tough, beautifully filtered exteriors to the heart of who they truly are.
Where do we begin?
Go First in Authenticity
Step one: Look in the mirror.
We just met but I am about to get all into your business.
I’m going to ask you to take a little walk with me to the parts of your life and your heart that you may keep hidden. Unlock that closet where you keep all your junk.
Sister, before we can sit before our daughters or the young women that God has placed in our view and ask them to be real and vulnerable we must first be willing to be real ourselves.
I may not have a fake Instagram, but I certainly filter my own life so that only the prettiest and most admirable parts of my world are on display. I didn’t want anyone to see me when I pulled into the bank parking lot to have a meltdown about a heartbreak I was facing. I don’t want anyone to know that I had to go a size up in my jeans. I don’t want to give the world a front row seat to see that my marriage isn’t perfect.
I want to hide it. I want to filter it.
I want people to see pretty tulips and my perfectly placed candle/journal/coffee situation. I want them to see something other than me.
And in the moments that I have among my peers to open up about my struggles and the dark places of my heart I often respond with silence . . . no words . . . sound familiar?
. . . and all of a sudden I see that these girls are only modeling their authenticity—or lack thereof—after me.
Have you ever seen The Hunger Games?
Picture with me for a moment . . . The Capital.
A glamorous, beautiful, shiny place.
And what is it filled with?
Broken, sad, trapped and very well-dressed people.
It was impressive. It was pleasing to the masses. And it was totally fake.
Does the mention of this set in a movie city bring a biblical metropolis to your mind?
Oh, beautiful Babylon!
A wonder to the eyes.
Breathtaking in its beauty and grandeur.
Impressive and easy to delight in.
But filled with broken people under the reign of a tyrant king who cared only of what things appeared to be and not of what they truly were.
Authenticity Is Risky
What King Nebuchadnezzar required of his followers is interestingly similar to the standards that our world asks us to live up to today:
Youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace (Daniel 1:4).
As many of you know, a young man named Daniel found himself living in this beautiful city. Time and time again, he was given a choice.
Be the real man that God created him to be—no matter the cost.
Or, eat the food . . . bow to the idols . . . look like everyone else . . . put on the Babylon filter.
Check out the following passages with just a few of the examples of how Daniel and his friends choose to be who God called them to be no matter how it made him look or how severe the consequences were.
Daniel 1:8–16—Daniel resolved not to be defiled by eating the king’s food.
Daniel 2:17–24—Daniel risked his life to interpret the king’s dream.
Daniel 3—Daniel refused to worship the king’s golden statue.
The point that I’m praying you see in these passages is that authenticity—to be who we truly are—is risky and comes often with a worldly cost.
For Daniel and his friends—it meant being seen as odd or different, and thrown into a furnace or made roommates with a lion.
For us—it might mean that our friends, our daughters, our girls might see our struggles, our sin, and the cracks in our armor.
Authenticity Points Young Women to Jesus
But, sister, that also means that every blemish and stain that they see in us is an opportunity for you to point them to Jesus.
To let them see how your brokenness met God’s goodness.
To allow them to hear you acknowledge sin and then point to a God who breaks every chain.
To show them that you are not perfect, but that God is good, and that is enough.
I am in tears because I know what I am asking.
But if I close my eyes I can also see walls being torn down and hearts being softened at the point where we—the women who are seasons ahead of these girls—show them what it means to be just who God created us to be. In all its messy glory.
Imagine the light in their eyes when they hear you say . . .
“Sweet girl, me too.”
“I have walked that road.”
“I struggle with that right now!”
Filters will fall.
And God’s glory will shine.
Not because we are telling them they are perfect.
But because we are ensuring them that they are not, but they’re not alone and God’s grace is great.
Imperfect women with a perfect, infallible, Holy Creator.
I often sit with my girls and they tell me they feel lonely and broken.
And I look in their eyes and tell them that I feel that way a lot too.
Authenticity leads to honesty. Honesty leads to the truth of who I am and who God is.
And all of those things are way better than a fake, perfect picture of any other world that I might be tempted to create for myself.
Sisters, let’s model authenticity to the young women in our lives and pray that God will use the mess that they might see in us to magnify just how mighty He is.
Authenticity begins with us.