Are You For Real?

Recently, in my daily reading, I came across an interesting idea for the new year.  Instead of making New Year's resolutions (which I rarely stick with), the author suggested choosing a word or phrase that would be your theme for the year.  She gave some guidelines and ideas about what kind of word or phrase to select and then shared what she had chosen after much prayer and Bible study.  I liked the idea and began praying about what word or phrase the Lord would have to be my motto for 2018. No answer.  Well, that's not entirely true.  On several other occasions, I came across this same suggestion about selecting a word or phrase for the new year.  "I'm trying," I grumbled, "but nothing is coming to mind."  Frustrated, I put the thought aside.  After all, my brain has enough to focus on without constantly whirling about trying to decide on a motto.

But then, as I relaxed in the tub last night, the phrase came to me as if it had been whispered in my ear.  It was quiet but precise, and immediately, I knew I had my motto--"Get Real."  Ironically enough, God even solidified the idea in my mind while I was watching a Christmas episode of one of my favorite shows, When Calls the Heart.

A man had bought a gift for his new wife.  In his mind, the jeweled, spider brooch was rare, exquisite and breath-taking.  Well, he was right on the last point.  When the wife "stumbled upon" his gift for her before Christmas (yes, she was sneaking around, but hey, that's part of the fun of gift-giving, right?), her breath caught.  Never in her life had she seen something so hideous and gaudy.  She took the brooch and sold it to a traveling peddler, hoping the husband would assume he had lost the gift and would buy her something else (can we say "ungrateful"?).  Anyway, her scheme was discovered by the local constable who told her she was going to put the brooch back, and when her husband gave it to her on Christmas morning, she was going to do the right thing and act surprised and delighted.  She did, and the husband was none the wiser.

Oh, how I can relate to the wife on that Christmas morning!  Putting on a show.  Playing a part.  Doing what's expected.  Hiding my real feelings.  After all, that's what we're supposed to do, right?  As Christians, aren't we supposed to smile through the heartache, laugh when we want to cry and encourage others when we'd rather just sit down on the couch with a tub of ice cream in one hand and a pan of brownies in the other?  When someone asks how we're doing, shouldn't our answer be something like, "I'm so blessed" or "I'm wonderful because God is so good to me"?  After all, we're supposed to be the light of the world, and we can't do that if we're in the dark.

So, what do we do?  We shove our hurts and frustrations deep down inside and put on an act.  We smile and sing and serve, but all the while, we're crying and dying on the inside, and we're too afraid to let anyone else see.  What would they say?  How would people respond to your despair or confusion?  Surely it's better to just keep your feelings to yourself, right?

I get a lot of comments from readers of my blog and books and from those who watch my teaching videos on YouTube, and the thing I hear the most is, "I love how genuine and real you are.  It makes me know like I'm not the only one who feels this way."  You know what that tells me?  It tells me that people don't need someone who's polished and refined and "practically perfect in every way."  They need transparency.  They need someone who is flawed, who gets frustrated from time to time and who falls as often as she dances (though neither are pretty sights, I admit).  They don't want or need someone on a pedestal.  They need to see someone walking through the muck of life alongside them and saying, "Here, let me give you a hand."

Funny thing, even though I've been told that a hundred times or more, I still find myself hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness and togetherness.  I fear what others might say if I reveal too much of myself, too much of my struggles, too much of my reality.  What, for example, would others say if they knew I was typing out this devotion in my pajamas--no makeup, no jewelry--shoot, I haven't even brushed my hair or teeth yet?  Or how about this one?  How can I possibly admit that I'm engaged in a fierce battle with anxiety and depression when I've just released an entire book series on how to handle those things?  Who would want to buy those books if the principles within them don't even work for the one who wrote them?  See what I mean?

The truth is, I'm afraid to reveal too much of myself because I'm afraid of what others might think of me.  I'm terrified of losing their respect or even their love.  The question that plagues my mind night and day is, "What would happen if people found out I'm not as nice and sweet as they think I am?"  I honestly don't want to think about it, but I don't think the Lord is giving me a choice.  He's been working in my life a lot over the past few months, and I've been struggling to identify exactly what He's doing.  But I believe I have my first clue--get real.  In my daily life.  In my relationships.  In my ministry.  I believe that God wants me to remove the mask and show the world the real Dana Rongione, scary though it may be.  No more hiding behind what I believe others want and expect of me.  It's time for me to be what God has called me to be and to admit (and show others) that I am not "practically perfect in every way."  That being said, though, I can also serve as a picture of imperfect progress.  No, I haven't arrived, and I have a LONG way to go, but I'm making progress nonetheless.

What about you?  Are you tired of playing a part?  Do you fear what others might think of you if you were to take off the mask and be who you really are?  If so, I invite you to adopt my New Year's motto--"Get Real."  It won't be easy, and it probably won't be fun.  But I sense God telling me that it's necessary.  We can't hide forever, and I have the feeling I'll be a greater help and influence to others by being real than I will be by having it all together.  So, with that, it's time for an introduction.

Hi.  My name is Dana Rongione.  I eat way too much chocolate and drink too much caffeine.  My hair has been white since before I was 20-years old, so I color it each month.  I chose the color red because I felt it best reflected my personality--fiery.  I often work in my pajamas or my "work clothes" which so closely resemble pajamas that I've been known to sleep in them.  I crave order and routine and get quite cranky when those things aren't possible.  I've been known to snap at others when they throw off my groove or interrupt me when I'm doing "important work."  Some days my patience is as thin as tissue paper and my mood is as stormy as the weather we're experiencing here today.  I long with all my heart to love and follow the Lord, but some days I feel like I take as many steps backwards as I do forward.  I am socially awkward and despise talking on the phone.  I enjoy hiking but hate bugs and things that slither, creep or crawl.  On more than one occasion, I've spoken ill of a fellow Christian and even fellow church members.  During any given week, I can swing from thinking the world couldn't make do without me to feeling I could disappear entirely and no one would notice.  I have barked at my husband more times than I care to admit and questioned God so many times that I've lost count.  And sometimes I go to church because I'm supposed to instead of because I want to.  I am far from perfect, and I know it.  And now, you know it too.  Welcome to reality!  It's not always pleasant, but no matter how you look at it, the truth will always set us free.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10