The Getting Real Point

Dr. Walters had directed my every academic step in my undergraduate educational journey.  For three years I never swayed.  I never questioned.  I simply did what Dr. Walters told me to do. 


I was sitting in his office one day in the spring of 1988.  Dr. Walters was preparing to show me what my upcoming senior year was going to look like.  Not that this was unusual, for I had sat in Dr. Walter’s office every semester, as he prepared to tell me what my next semester was going to look like.  Yet, this visit would be different than all the rest.  Little did I know that this routine visit to my academic advisor would produce one of the most courageous and transformational decisions of my life. 


Dr. Walters presented me with a schedule that was comprised of an 18-credit first semester and a 12-credit internship, during my second semester.  The semester that would be the last of my undergraduate career.  At this point, custom would have it that I would simply grab my paperwork, put it into my backpack, thank Dr. Walters and quietly exit his office.  Yet, today I simply looked at him, for what seemed to be an eternity.  Then the word that changed my life came out of my mouth – “No”.  To which Dr. Walters simply stopped and said “Pardon me?” 


Would I take it back?  Would I make up some story that I was thinking about something else?  Or would I stand firm in my declaration and refuse, for the very first time in our relationship, to follow my academic advisor’s direction?


I took a deep breath and then said, “I don’t want to do an internship during my last semester.”  In response Dr. Walters, as any good academic advisor would, pressed me as to why I was refusing to do the very thing that would insure that I would be employable after graduation, in my chosen field of study.  To which I could only respond with the cold, hard truth – “I don’t know.  I just know that I want to stay on campus for my senior year.”        


What could Dr. Walters do?  Nothing, but hand me a blank registration form for the second semester of my senior year, with his signature.  A form that now, because of my decision, was left to be filled out by me in any way that I chose.  Just as long as it was comprised of 12-credits. 


That simple exchange, the whole conversation literally took less than two minutes, was a turning point in my life.  A watershed moment, a crossroads.  Not that I had any idea why I was so bold or what God was up to.  All I knew was that it was very clear that I was not to leave campus that following year. 


I wrote it off as failure to launch syndrome.  Wanting to wring every last drip out of my college experience before I had to go out into the big, bad world.  I didn’t understand why and I didn’t understand where it all had come from.  For it was definitely not me to ever question any authority, let alone just flat out reject it.


Well, less than a year later I met this young, beautiful woman named Michelle.  In fact, I met her on January 14, 1989.  The weekend before classes started for the spring semester of my senior year.  If I had followed Dr. Walter’s direction I would have been off campus, working some internship.  Thus, I would have never been at that party the weekend before classes started. And I would have never met the woman of my dreams.  The same woman that I have been married to for the last 31 years.   


If I hadn’t been real.  If I had simply towed the line, as a dutiful mentee, and did exactly what Dr. Walters directed, I would have missed out on meeting Michelle.  I would have missed out on having my two wonderful daughters.  I would have missed out on everything that I know as my life.  One decision.  One moment of being real was truly that life altering.


Being real is essential to living. Yes, you can have a life if you are not real.  You can have a life if you simply do whatever anybody wants you to do, regardless of your own personal desires and dreams.  You can have a life if you never share who you are, warts, bumps, bruises and all. You can have a life, but you will never live.  For living requires that you get real with yourself, with others and with God. 


Living isn’t about merely existing – eating, drinking, sleeping, reproducing.  Living is about discovering who you are and then being it, unapologetically.  Being bold.  Not taking risks for risk’s sake.  But taking risks for your sake. 


There’s a story in the Bible (John 4:4-24) where Jesus is sitting by a well when a Samaritan woman comes to draw water.  Being thirsty, Jesus strikes up a conversation with her about getting a drink from the well.  During the conversation Jesus invites the woman to go and get her husband and come back to the well, so that they can talk more. 


It’s at this point that the woman has a decision to make.  For she has no husband.  In fact, she has had five different husbands and the guy that she is presently living with, isn’t her husband.


The Samaritan woman could have simply lied.  She could have simply agreed and left Jesus at the well, never to return.  Or she could be real and confess that she has no husband.  The former risked her missing out on a relationship with Jesus.  The latter risked her being condemned by Jesus. 


Not only would the conversation totally turn, in response to her decision.  History would totally turn, in response to her decision.  For if this woman decided not to be real, we would not know her or her story.  If this woman decided to be real, to be herself, to tell her truth, then she would be introduced to a totally new way of living.  And we would be introduced to the power of getting real with Jesus.


“’I have no husband,’ she said.”  This was her response to Jesus’s request.  She got real.  And that made all the difference in the world.  “Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband.’”  This wasn’t simply a statement by Jesus acknowledging that this woman was telling the truth.  This was Jesus acknowledging and accepting her identity. This was Jesus embracing the realness of this woman.  She was right.  And it was this state of rightness that enabled this woman and Jesus to go even further in their relationship.         


One decision can change your life.  One moment can change your life.  That’s why it’s essential that you get good at being real.  Does being real come with it’s fair share of negative consequences?  Yes.  Does being real open you up to the possibility of living, as opposed to simply having a life?  Yes.  The choice is up to you.