Authenticity: It’s Tough Stuff

This past weekend was our fourth Ridder retreat (my second) in northern Michigan. Ridder is “an intensive, two-year process that includes leadership development for pastors and a team of six lay leaders from each church.” Through five three-day retreats, homework assignments between retreats, faith-walking, and lots and lots of accountability, we learn to equip ourselves as disciples and leaders (snagged some of that from the Ridder Church Renewal page off the RCA’s website). North Holland has been participating for two years.

The Ridder program pushes you to do the hard work of creating a missional community by exposing your team to different tools and resources that inevitably require personal transformation. Some teams have been doing this for two years, like my congregation – some for upwards of nine years.

It’s daunting, exhausting, and absolutely fundamental.


On my first retreat, the Ridder definition of integrity really stuck with me:

Integrity means…

  1. doing what I said I would do
  2. when I said I would do it
  3. in the manner it should be done.

Notice that there are three pieces there, and all are important when giving your word. I immediately shared this definition with my Youth Ministry Team the following week, and we spent a while sharing some “integrity gaps” with one another during devotions. It was really healing and inspiring to see them do that hard work.

[slight aside: if you don’t think that’s hard, you’re not doing it right. It’s important to own up to the integrity gap with the person it impacted, and then ask them to share what the impact of your integrity gap was on/for/within them. It’s not fun, but it’s a really good discipline]


On the retreat this past weekend, we focused in (again) on authenticity.

Scripture is made of the messiest, weirdest, hardest, most frustrating, complicated, and ugly stew of stories. I can’t think of one instance where Goldilocks would take a sip and say “mmm, just right” (have you read that one in a while?! It’s so terrifying!!)! Even when you’re reading the classics – the creation story, the crucifixion, any highlights from the life of Jesus, the story of Moses/Exodus and being in the wilderness, etc etc etc – there’s an invitation to authenticity in every account (whether or not we seek it out is another matter entirely), which can impact us for our entire journey of faith.

The reason the Bible has had it up to here is because when you’re responding authentically to the gospel, you can’t help but freak out. Grace is so foreign and God is so massive and we are so full of yuck – the impact of the gospel, for many who have articulated it to me as their Pastor, is huge and oftentimes painful.

Until one day, it is life.

Authenticity is so ridiculously important in Scripture, it’s almost unbearable. But when engaged appropriately, safely, patiently, and in community, authenticity has the power to offer you an abundance that could only be from God.


During our time of confession this morning in church, I invited our congregants to get authentic with God – not to offer up the objective sinfulness of the world or even their own ambiguous “shortcomings,” but to take one more courageous step toward being specific. Instead of using their energy to hide from God, I invited them to use that energy to move toward authenticity (in silence because #Reformed).

Inauthenticity isn’t easy – it’s hard work. Authenticity is hard, too, but the burden is different. And hear me: there are people in your life who can/will/want to carry that with you.

I post this today because I want to remember to be authentic, but I know there are moments when I will choose not to be. I hope that in those moments I come back to this post and remember how important the pursuit of authenticity is.

Future Aud: which burden would you rather carry – inauthenticity, or authenticity? 


For those who are curious about the image – a photo of my notes on “Generating and Sustaining Creative Tension.” Contact me if you’re intrigued. And yes, there’s a Kid President quote in there.

Author: aedewaard12

Wife. Pastor. M.Div. Reformed. Feminist. Runner. Enneagram Activist. Mediocre Writer. Lover of the Bible. People call me Aud (it suits me).

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