Approximately 25 years ago I attended a church service in a new church. At the end of the service, the pastor, trying to increase the attendance said “remember, come as you are. Tell others, we welcome you just the way you are.” How refreshing and slightly confusing at the same time.
I thought “wait a minute, I am welcome just the way I am?” So many times, as I was growing up and attended church services with my Nana, she would direct to wear your “Sunday Best.” I would question “why does it matter what I wear? Doesn’t God love me as is?” My Nana would often say, “just do it.” When I was old enough to attend church on my own, I stayed after the service to ask the pastor the question I had for several years. “What is appropriate to wear to church?” His answer would really make a lasting impression in my life. He said, “God loves you just as you are, your authentic self…he doesn’t care what you look like or what you wear.” As he continued with his answer; I found myself muting the remainder of his answer. I was hooked. I was accepted and loved by being my ‘authentic self.’ I thought about the pastor’s response all the way home. Hmmmm, my authentic self, what did that look like?
As an adolescent, I would try to emulate the popular kids, what they would wear, how they would act, etc. just to fit in. I conformed. I was pseudo-Tracy. As I matured into adulthood, I would often buy name brands so others would think I had money or status, when in fact I wasn’t going to buy food the following week because of my splurge on unneeded stuff to make myself into someone other than my true self. Sound familiar?
Today, after several life lessons, I have come to realize who my authentic self is. I don’t need name brands. I don’t need to drive a fancy car. I don’t need a label “authenticating” an item. In the words of a famous sailor “I am what I am.” I sometimes say the wrong thing. I wear clothes from thrift stores. I am inappropriate at times. I dance by myself. I go against the norm. I found that people like me for me. Sometimes I have people tell me how refreshing it is to be around someone who is authentic, real. As Polonius said in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.”
I challenge you to look in a mirror and ask yourself, “Am I being authentic? Am I purchasing things I can’t afford just so people will think of me in a different manner than who I truly am? When I’m in the presence of certain people, am I phony or my true self?” If you answer yes to any of these questions, I dare you to “come as you are.” Be your true self – authentic. If you do not like who you see, what can you do to change this façade? I welcome you to come as you are.