We had a stack of books underneath a fish tank in our home of children’s stories and one of my favorites was The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s a book written by Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they don’t see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

The emperor is naked. N-A-K-E-D. I think that is why it was one of my favorites, the very thought made me giggle as a child. Now as an adult, it sticks with me. If you want to talk vulnerability, parade around your town like the emperor.

Have you ever opened up to someone or a group of people and were totally vulnerable and honest? You dug deep and stripped back your mask and revealed the raw and real truth, you spoke it out loud and laid yourself bare.

Have you ever?

I have and in the midst, it feels freeing. There have been times I have never been more alive and awake as in ME, but most times afterwards I am plagued with a greasy and sticky film: the feeling of regret. “I should not have just shared THAT because THAT (whatever it is) reveals that I am indeed much like the emperor.

Unfit for my position.

Stupid.

Incompetent.

Because surely if I wasn’t these things, I would HAVE NEVER…”

I somehow become incredibly conscious of the crowd. I become acutely aware. I read their minds. I hear the conversations whisper behind my back. I watch their heart turn from me…

Or at least I think I can.

I take what was a beautiful invitation to go beyond the surface and turn it into a chaotic parade where I end up on the cross and my spectators are laughing and pointing at me, throwing stones.Yes, I play out the very worst case scenarios in my head. Scenarios that rarely ever take place in the natural realm, but scenarios nonetheless that I think will help me self protect which further convinces me, for a brief period of time, “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN.”

And each time I show up and I cover up, the heavy clothes bog me down. They are so combersome that they take away my breath. They are ill fitted, scratchy and burdensome to wear. They are not me at all and I know it. I am left contending for a girl I once knew, a girl who once walked naked and free, a girl who is often TOO AFRAID of the crowd to fully show up and extend her hand as an invitation that says, “Come.”

Here is what I am learning: Showing up fully YOU, just as you are, is a gift. It is a good and perfect gift you give yourself every day of this life. Actually it is a gift that Jesus Himself has given you because you are no longer a prisoner chained in a dark and damp cell awaiting release.

Other people’s opinions no longer have control over you.

Worry and anxiousness cannot keep its thumb on you.

Fear can no longer hold you back.

Do the next thing” as Elizabeth Elliott says. Keep moving forward.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1

Do not be burdened by the yoke of what others think; it’s none of your business anyway. Don’t be bothered if they point and laugh when you are parading your nakedness. Chances are, they aren’t even thinking those things. Chances are, you being fully you will inspire them to do the same. Remember, His burden is light which means your clothes are lighter.

Do not wear heavy things.

Not only do we shortchange ourselves when we hold back from being our “original” selves, we shortchange the person standing in front of us who is hungry for a taste of authenticity. In a world plagued by fast and fake food laced with counterfeit substitutions…hearts are longing for a real taste.  They are longing for HONEST. They are longing for ORIGINAL. They know when they have been left standing empty-handed, holding a plate and on it, little substance and we become exhausted when we continually shift our content; maneuvering boxes around in ourselves hoping no one sees through the windows of our soul that we have stuff.

I realize as I write this that if I show up with you fully ME, just as I am; in my good day or in my bad, in my vulnerability with my need, in my happiness or in my tears and I extend to you my hand and say, “Come. I invite you here, into this place…” it is really just that. My offering to you. The sweet-smelling fragrance of my original identity. Yes, showing up honest and true keeps me free because I AM. It truly is an invitation to a relationship.

Get to know ME. Invite me get to know YOU.

I’ll continue to place myself in the offering plate because I believe so very much in the power of vulnerability and authenticity. I believe very much in the power of simple presence and I’ll just let it at that. Even though there are days I feel as if my offering cost me everything, I know that’s not true, it’s only a win.

A gain for both of us if we allow.

Much Love,

August