Trick or Treat’Choosing Authenticity

Dante Poole MA, NCC

Ask a kindergartener what they want to be when they grow up and most will give you an answer without hesitation. In the mind of a child the possibilities are endless as they are allowed the freedom to dream big dreams because they are children and well’the possibilities are endless. By middle school most early adolescents begin to exchange their big dreams for someone else’s small fantasy. The greatest heist occurs during these years as the enemy begins to seduce us through the influence of our peers, into believing that we need to be just like them. Using our need to belong and the threat of that need not being met, our dreams latent with the truth about who we were suppose to become, get tabled in exchange for cheap Halloween costumes that we accept as our new identity.

If you have ever worn one of those costumes you know how uncomfortable they can be.

As a child my parents allowed us to celebrate Halloween. Every year we would get a new costume and participate in some party or gathering highlighted by tons of the sugary treasures we hoarded in our pockets, socks, plastic jack-o-lanterns, themed plastic bags or the old faithful brown paper bag. Most outfits were plastic jumpsuits with drawstrings that got tied around your neck. There were two very distinct features about these outfits;

(1) no matter which character you chose to be (or in some cases the only character left on the shelf because your parents waited to the very last moment to buy your costume) there was always a part of your back that remained exposed leaving part of your true identity without concealment;
(2) the rubber band that held that hot plastic mask to your face always irritated your head as you sweated profusely all the while yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’

Oh, the lengths we went to become someone else.

The truth is we enjoyed those outfits because for a moment in time we had the chance to be something or someone we admired. The costumes, whether superhero or super-beast/creature, had characteristics we longed to have in our own lives and we chose them so that we could pretend to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. We were faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

Unfortunately, masses of men are still running around hidden behind hot sweaty masks with their backs exposed hoping no one will notice that it’s just a costume. We have somehow convinced ourselves that as long as we wear the costume and play the part no one will know the truth. Our lives have become adjusted to the darkness of our concealment to the point that we have become crafty as actors, playing our roles so well that we can no longer distinguish between the false persona and the real person. When faced with the truth about ourselves we fortify our masks and push others away so that we can remain in darkness.

The scripture says in Luke 8:17 ‘For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all’. (NLT)

Have you ever met a child who wanted the trick instead of the treat? What disappointment a child would experience if they got duped into believing that they had a bag full of treats only to discover later that they had been hoodwinked. Have others experienced this disappointment because they were expecting to encounter the genuine you and what they ended up with is feeling tricked? We cannot hide in darkness forever. We are called to live authentically. That means we not only tell the truth about ourselves, but we live the truth and accept that some people will not be able to engage us with loving kindness when they see us for who we really are. To live authentically can be unnerving for those who are skilled at hiding.

One truth that has helped me in my struggle for genuine transparency is knowing that God loves me despite all of my failures, bad decisions and all the other things about my life that make me want to take cover. He loves me, not the person others say I should be, not the person I wish I could be’.He loves me and that’s the truth. The Father Almighty takes pleasure in bestowing His love, mercy and favor upon all those who would dare to live the truth. His love looks beyond our faults and meets our need for love.

Here are three steps to towards living more authentically:

1. Learn to tell yourself the truth. Jeremiah 17:9-10a says ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.’ It is part of our human condition to lie to ourselves about our abilities, limitations and the true nature of our condition. Left on our own we will make a mess of our lives. What is it that keeps us from being honest with ourselves? Pride. It is being confident in our own ability to fix things. The trouble in our lives didn’t get there because of someone else but because we refused to accept our own limitations for fear of being seen as weak or failures. If you re-examine every failure in your life you’ll find bread crumb trails that lead you back to moments of pride & self sufficiency. All of us are in need of spiritual heart surgery.

2. Let God show you how to live in any way that seems right to Him. Sometimes we are expecting God to do things according to what we have determined is the right course of action. The problem is that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We are all guilty of trying to tell the Expert how to do His job. The Lord knows what is best and He chooses the course of action that best accomplishes His will for the lives of humanity. Trust the Expert.

3. Look at the man in the mirror. Authenticity requires regular self examination even when things are going well’no especially when they are going well. Surveying our hearts for the little things we let slide because they don’t seem to matter, will make all the difference. What we won’t deal with today, will deal with us tomorrow.

Either we make a choice to come into the light freely or God will allow circumstances to bring us into the light through consequence. Never ever forget that God is with you and longs to reveal the real you to the rest of the world because you are an expression of His love. The earth becomes a better place when men decide to take off their masks and live an unconcealed, unveiled life. Walk in the light and may every person who encounters you discover the treat that God has gift wrapped in the package called you.

Battle Strategies for Real Soldiers: Why Accountability Is Important

Dante Poole MA, NCC

“Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)

Accountability. It’s one of the words that bring the same reaction as cod liver oil or enema. You know it’s good for you but it doesn’t feel good. For most men isolation is comfortable and hiding is convenient. We are so use to living in isolation and so use to hiding that the thought of letting others into our sick world causes an adverse reaction. It’s as if we were allergic to being vulnerable, having real connection and living honestly.

When we are driven by fear of exposure, we continue to assume the posture and attitude of Adam that began in the Garden of Eden’hiding and ashamed. All the while God is calling for us. Adam where are you? Why are you hiding? Because God knows the true condition of our hearts He calls us back to Himself through meaningful relationships with other believers. It is through these godly relationships that we begin to experience the love of our Heavenly Father.

God understands the importance of connection. The power and source of sustained victory lies in our willingness to connect with others in the realm of truth. Without this connection our faith in achieving long lasting victory looses its grip and we are left adrift clinging to our old sinful ways of coping with ourselves. It is a dangerous and miserable state to be left to ourselves. A reprobate mind is how the bible describes this state. After many attempts to convince us to do it His way, God allows us to experience life on our own self seeking terms. What a mess we are in when we get everything we desire!

We must make a choice to live life on God’s terms as a soldier or on our own terms as a victim. Being a soldier is much more desirable than playing the victim. There is the potential for spoils, honor, and strength for soldiers. Victims always get the short end of the stick. Playing the victim also means others become our victims and eventually casualties of war.

“One who isolates himself pursues [selfish] desires; he rebels against all sound judgment.” Proverbs 18:1 (HCSB)

A rebel dressed up in victims clothing!

Whenever we choose not to connect with others we rebel against the mandate of community. Once a choice has been made to engage in the Battle for purity as a soldier certain strategies must be utilized as a necessity for survival. One such strategy is accountability. Success in the battle requires, no demands, community. We must choose to fight and fight together!

If this battle were just about managing our sexuality then we would have found a quick easy solution by now. But there is something much more. Much greater than staying away from lustful pleasures of the flesh. There is something about this battle that calls to a place deep within us. At the very core of our being there is a desperate longing to be a man. Ever noticed how men are drawn to movies and activities that involve danger, a damsel in distress and victory to the underdog!

In every man there is a desire to shed his thin skinned boyhood in exchange for thick, leathery manhood; Unashamed and unafraid. Commingled with this desire is a plea to be in the company of other men engaged in the battle. This company provides a place for three things:

A. The challenge to become extraordinary

B. The opportunity to help create change

C. The freedom to develop real connections

This is real accountability. Not some watch dog sent to protect me from myself, but a ‘band of brothers’ who offer refuge, responsibility and respect. It is within the safety of this network that divine surgery takes place transforming wounds into testimonial weaponry.

Joshua said ‘choose you this day whom you will serve’ (Joshua 24:15). I echo his challenge to you. Choose. Either become a soldier and join an army ready to fight or die as an isolated victim. Join a band of men, soldiers even, and learn the art of war. Let them hold you responsible for carrying your load. Let them help you when the load is difficult to bear. Learn to fight in unity with others to keep from dying in isolation.

Live on fellow soldiers, live on!

For help in the battle for integrity see Every Man’s Battle.