As we compared notes on the various churches we had visited, my friend began to tell me about one she had attended for a while. "The folks there always ask how I'm doing, and seem to really mean it, but I never feel like I can actually tell anyone that my husband and I had a blow up in the car, that I don't want to have my quiet time today, and that I feel just horrible. It's as if I have to pretend I have it all together, or they'll judge me or something. I mean, they have it all together, as far as I can tell!"

She paused and then sighed, "It's like they're not real people. I need to know they're real people."

People are broken; we need Christ and his truth. But if Christians refuse or fail to be genuine with those who are thirsty, the Living Water is quenched, and they will look elsewhere for help. My friend's struggle at this church drove her to leave and look for fellowship elsewhere. She's not the only one I've known to abandon friendships with believers because they felt put off by fakely perfect Christians. The "Elsie Dinsmore" Christians unintentionally ostracize the "Anne Shirley" types, and God's truth is sold short.

Perhaps some of this is just misinterpretation of people, but I think it's deeper than that. I've been on an adventure this last year, trying to figure out what it means to be "real" and why that matters. I want to be a real person; I've been studying the most "real," grace-filled people I know, and I'm finding that it mostly comes down to two factors: humility and honesty.

Humility: "Do unto others . . ."

My mom's favorite correctional catchphrase is "Do unto others…" referencing Luke 6:31: "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them" (ESV). Living this concept requires humility -- you're assuming that everyone else is either equal to you or of greater significance. Paul calls for the latter assumption in Philippians: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil. 2:3, ESV). Anyone who practices this brand of humility is immediately engaging and wins the trust of those with whom they interact. A heart of humility overflows with concern for others first. This is always first the mark of a real person, one who loves Jesus enough to love others, even undesirables, first.

I heard a story once about Amy Carmichael where there was a disgusting, menial chore that had to be done, and Amy quietly took it on when others scorned it as beneath their dignity. Amy's humility was disarming, and those who had refused the task found themselves drawn to her example of selflessness. Ultimately, her humility was so winsome that these people were saved. I want to be humble enough that people see Jesus' love through me, as through a clear window - just like Amy.

Honesty

If you're struggling with something, you're probably not going to want to ask the woman who seems perfect for help; you may be too proud or too shy. I would prefer to talk to someone who's struggled with this issue and overcome it. Real people seem to be those who are frank about their struggles, but only because they know this: God's grace overcomes weakness, and he receives glory when the believer testifies of her failings and his faithfulness. When a friend tells me of her struggles with sin, and how God is giving her grace in that area of her life, I know that she will be supportive and encourage me in truth if I ever walk a similar path.

I hope to "sin boldly" (as Luther suggests) so that grace is made more glorious in my life. This doesn't mean that I'm going to sin and abuse grace; this means that I'm not going to hide my sin and pretend that I have it all together when I don't. I'll ask for prayer and for help. As God meets me in my struggle, he will get the glory for turning things around in my heart, because anyone who knows me will see that it's not by my strength or willpower.