'Real' Book Review
I am a pretty independent person. I like to think I have life sorted and never show any weakness. In Real by Catherine Parks, Catherine talks about having a similar outlook on life:
‘I’m successful. I’m intelligent. I am a wise and self-sufficient woman. In other words, I don’t want you to know me at all. Not the real me. I only want you to get to know a carefully crafted version of me.’
To some extent, I think that almost everyone I know experiences this. We all want to display the best version of ourselves, and make sure no one sees the bits that are less than perfect. But the problem with hiding our sins and our struggles, is that our relationships become trivial and surface-level.
Catherine goes on to talk about how our difficulty in forming deep, real friendships is a direct result of sin. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve had no shame, they had fellowship with one another and fellowship with God. But after they ate the fruit, they hid and they were ashamed. We’re like that with our sin – not only does it impact our relationship with God, but our shame impacts our ability to be real in our friendships.
Thankfully, through Jesus, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him, so that our sins are forgiven and we can have a relationship with Him. This relationship is a real, deep relationship. Social psychology separates ‘knowing about someone’ – impersonal knowledge – from ‘knowing someone’ – personal knowledge.
Impersonal knowledge – an acquaintance, someone you recognise, you’re able to smoothly enter into a conversation with them
Personal knowledge – to know who someone is and to know information that is particularly intimate or private – the type of knowledge that can be earned by lovingly being in someone’s life for a period of time and seeing aspects of their life that are hidden from the general population.
When we have a relationship with Christ, He knows us fully – that personal knowledge. But still, our sin and shame often prohibit us from having deep fellowship with one another. Catherine goes on to address why it’s so important that we don’t let this happen:
‘Deep Christian friendships are a gift from God to spur us on in following Jesus … That’s the beauty of God’s plan for his people. He is not making a bunch of individual Christians to go it alone – he is creating a people.’
The battle we face against sin is huge – one we could never win without Christ. We can rejoice knowing that God will win the war, but until we’re called home, we continuously battle through the daily struggles of sin. But God hasn’t left us to fight this battle alone. He made us in His image, as relational people, so that we can spur one another on and fight the battle against sin as one people.
COVID has forced us to rethink how we do friendships. One of the first rules Boris announced, way back in March, was ‘no non-essential social contact’. Big events are called off, we can’t chat over coffee after a Sunday service, can’t invite people around for dinner, even seeing colleagues is severely restricted for most people. Relationships aren’t a passive thing anymore, we have to work to make them happen, and if we want them to be real, we have to work even harder.
It takes more effort and meeting up with people one on one can feel more intense, but it gives us a great opportunity to form deeper friendships. We have to be deliberate in our relationships – specifically asking to see people because we won’t bump into them at church or at the prayer meeting etc. We have to brave the weather (or worse, brave Zoom..) to spend time with each other.
At a time when we’re separated physically and normal life seems so far removed from where we are now, let’s be really deliberate in forming deep, real friendships that spur one another on towards Jesus.
Have a read of Real by Catherine Parks for a much better explained version of my synopsis above – it’s only about 200 pages and a really easy read.
- Debbie Adamson, Church Member