About two weeks ago, I was at my parents' house, the house I grew up in, for my brother's graduation (Oh my gosh, my brother graduated). Since I moved out three years ago, not a ton of stuff has changed in my room: the layout is the same, and some of my odds and ends are still there. On the dresser mirror, High School Sara hung her badges from all the singing events she attended. She also taped two things. One of them was this index card:

The date on that is August 30, 2010. Five years ago.

In case you're wondering, that's not my handwriting. It's my mom's (her handwriting is so much neater than mine). I remember the occasion, too. My family and I were sitting at the dining room table, having just finished dinner. I was fifteen, a sophomore in high school, and I had just started attending a new school. I mean, we were about two weeks into the school year. I was expressing to my mom a fear that I'd had for many years of my life at that point. I was afraid I wasn't being myself.

I was afraid I didn't know how to be genuine -- to be real.

My mom and dad are very practical people, so Mama dismissed my fear. Sara, you know how to be real. You act like yourself every day. You are always acting like the person that you are. And it was true. But the one that really did a number on my heart was this quote that she wrote on an index card.

Fast forward to five years later, and twenty-year-old Sara stops and looks hard at the index card, taped to her mirror since that day five years ago. I've seen it many times, and reread it many times, but something about this, a remnant of a lifelong fear taped to the mirror I've looked in since I was four -- something about it made me smile.

If there's anything I've learned, it's that the index card was right.

Real isn't a static state. Real is dynamic. It varies not only by person, but by the situation and circumstances. There are no requirements for genuineness. We are only asked to do one thing:

Show up.

Show up, with all your worries and scared-stiff-ness and anxiety and What ifs.

Show up, with excitement and joy and anticipation for what lies ahead.

Show up, laying your heart bare. It may seem like you face the scorn of the world, but really, you are presenting yourself as a love offering to your Creator, Who made you and knows every square inch of you.

Come brokenhearted. Come elated. Come worried. Come rejoicing. Come when you're so weary you can hardly move, and all you can do is stand dully where you are and say, "I have nothing to give You except this."

I promise you -- I promise you -- He will take it.

Because, my friend, He loves you.

And in that moment, you are the most genuine you have ever been. You are saying, "Help me. I cannot do this. I cannot be the person I most fully am." And you're right. But when you lay before Him all that you have, then somehow, in His great mystery, He makes sure that when you show up, you show up as the person He made you to be.

Because this is true:

Real is something we become gradually, as we face life vulnerably, returning to God over and over and finding ourselves loved, even when life hurts, when it does not make sense, when we are angry or afraid.