From the Archives: A Reflection from the first-annual Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club!
Which would also become our first-annual WINE Winter Book Club!
By Stephanie Landsem
“And a yes to a life lived with integrity is a yes to a life lived wide open.”
This particular idea of living a “wide open” life resounds with me, especially as it is a theme in my latest book The Tomb: A Novel of Martha. In the book, Martha of Bethany struggles with this very idea. Everyone around her believes that she is a perfect, holy, and upright Jewish woman. Martha knows how wrong they are but feels she must maintain this false persona. Jesus, of course, loves her despite her flaws, imperfections, and very real sins. While it’s easy to see where Martha went wrong, it’s not always easy to see these same tendencies in ourselves.
The word integrity comes from the Latin adjective meaning “whole” or “complete.” When we use the phrase “structural integrity,” we refer to something that is strong, whole, and unable to be broken when put under stress. We can’t have integrity if we are divided—if the face we present to the outside world is not the same as our “real” selves, the self that God knows. Even on a good day, it is difficult to maintain this outward lie, and an impossible task when we are put under stress. Without integrity, we are bound to break down and not fulfill the ultimate plan that God has for our lives.
Lisa speaks about her “avatar,” the woman she wants the world to see, the perfect women who have it all together. In this age of Facebook and Twitter, it’s easier than ever to present a false front to the world—to compromise our integrity. We post our children’s faces when they are happy and smiling, our houses when they are clean, or our perfectly plated meals. No one sees the tantrums, the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry. We can do the same in our real-life encounters. When a friend asks how we are, we answer “fine,” when we really aren’t, or we list only our accomplishments and triumphs instead of our worries and failures.
But what’s the harm in hiding our weaknesses?
The harm is two-fold. First, when we present this false front, we’re denying others the chance to use their God-given gifts of compassion, encouragement, and counsel. When we don’t share our pain with them, they can’t help us and neither person can grow. Secondly, we might be compounding our friend’s own feelings of inadequacy and failure. After encountering my “perfection” or seeing my touched-up Facebook posts, she might say to herself, “Stephanie has it so together, what’s wrong with me?” when that’s not at all the truth, not even close.
Integrity means honesty in who we are, even when that doesn’t look good to the outside world. It may be those very weaknesses that let us into another’s life and brings them closer to Jesus in a way that a perfect persona can’t do. Jesus knew all this. Perhaps this is why he chose the most imperfect of followers: doubters and betrayers, cowards and men with more pride than sense. He knew that it wasn’t going to be the perfect man or woman who would bring others to Him, it would be the imperfect ones … the ones just like us.
Does this mean we need to air our dirty laundry to everyone we meet? Of course not, but it does mean that we need to ask ourselves if our public face—the “avatar” that Lisa speaks of—is truly an authentic representation of ourselves. God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us despite our weaknesses. He has a perfect plan for us, as flawed as we are, and it doesn’t include pretending to be someone different.
So let’s be real. Let’s be our authentic selves with all the messiness, struggle, and humility it will require. Let us be the one who reaches out to connect to others with compassion and grace and perhaps be the inspiration others need to seek God’s mercy.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Think about at your last conversation with an acquaintance or peruse your Facebook posts. Are you authentically representing yourself?
- How can you reach out to those who think they are the only ones struggling with their faults and failures, letting them know that they aren’t alone?
- Our structural integrity can only be maintained if we strengthen ourselves with prayer. What can you do today to increase your prayer life?
About the Author:
Stephanie Landsem is a wife, mother, lifelong Catholic, and author of authentic biblical fiction. The Living Water series (The Well, The Thief, and The Tomb: A Novel of Martha) is published by Simon & Schuster and based on encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John. Stephanie has also contributed her unsurpassed fictional writing skills to WINE’s book club offerings — Walk in Her Sandals and Gaze Upon Jesus.
Visit Stephanie’s Web site for more information about her writing.