I desperately want to live an authentic life – the same in private as I am in public. For the past eight months, the Lord has been at work on my insides, confirming in experience something He spoke to me at the Proverbs 31 Ministry She Speaks conference I attended last July:

Authenticity is developed in darkness and revealed in the light.

To be completely honest, my underlying motive for attending was to discover the path to the spotlight. I was convinced it was the next step for me, my book, and my blog. Instead of finding a formula for the spotlight, God used a keynote message from Christine Cain to draw me into the dark room.

I will forever remember the night Christine spoke. I was engaged from the moment she opened her mouth! There I sat with nearly a thousand other female authors and speakers, and every word she spoke seemed directed right to me. But one particular statement permanently pierced my heart:

If the spotlight hits you before the image of Christ is developed in you, it will destroy you.

And it will destroy the message of the gospel.

She went on to explain how the process of developing film (back in the day when there was film) is much like the process of God doing His work in us. In photography, the dark room is a place of solitude: just the photographer and his film. It’s where the image of his work is permanently developed on film. If the film is prematurely exposed to the light, the image is ruined.

In the same way, it is in the dark room with God that He develops in us the image of Christ. If we don’t stay in there long enough, and the light hits us too quick, it will destroy us.

Authenticity isn’t found in what we allow others to see of us. It’s rooted in the thoughts and intents of the heart. What frightened me is that nothing secret stays secret, and in reality, nothing secret really is secret in the first place. God, who sees everything, will bring every work into judgment, good and evil, including our darkest secrets and private motives (Matthew 6:18, Ecclesiastes 12:14, I Corinthians 4:5).

It is in the dark room, a sometimes painful place, that these things are revealed. Call it part of the chemical process: It is where He develops the image of Christ in us. If we don’t get in the dark room with Him, where He can impress the image of Christ on our lives, exposure will destroy us. It will destroy the image of Christ.

Christine declared (and I hope I am getting this exact): “If the light inside you isn’t brighter than the light that shines on you, the light that shines on you will destroy you.”

As we follow Jesus, we are to become like Him. The more time we spend with Him, the more He is reflected in us. That happens in the darkroom, not the spotlight.

In the darkroom, we encounter God’s truth, including the truth about what’s wrong in our hearts, thoughts, motives, and lives. As we spend time in God’s word, it “is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It’s the truth that sets us free, and when we’re free indeed, we can live under the glare of any spotlight God may choose to shine upon us.

It was during Christine’s message that God spoke directly to my heart: “I can’t take you farther, Shauna, until I take you deeper.”

He has to do a work in me before He can do any work through me, and He’s shown me that authenticity is rooted in the thoughts and intents of the heart. I can’t live an authentic life unless my heart is pure. Undivided. As Psalm 51:10-13 says:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

THEN I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You

(emphasis mine).

Look at all that has to happen before the THEN. It is only when God has created in me a clean heart, renewed a steadfast spirit in me, kept me in His presence, given me His Spirit, restored the joy of my salvation, and upheld me by His generous Spirit that I will ever be able to teach transgressors His ways so they can be converted to Him.

Only God can change the heart, but we must do our part, which is to yield it to Him and trust Him with it. To let Him take us into the dark room and impress on our lives the image of Jesus Christ so that when people see us, they see Him. And that’s His desire for every single one of us who are His.

I’ve been in the dark room for eight months, and I can honestly say, I love it, not because of what He’s revealed in me, but because of what He’s doing in and for me. And I know that as He completes His work in me, He’ll be able to accomplish through me whatever is according to His perfect will and plan.

It’s been painful. It’s been overwhelming. It’s revealed truth about me I didn’t want to see, but in the context of His truth, it is setting me free. Truly free. Like, no trace of the old kind of free.

Do you find that you’re frustrated with the same mindsets, patterns, and behaviors over and over again? Do things get better for a while, and you think you’ve finally overcome, only to cycle back through the same junk all over again? Do you wrestle with bitterness and unforgiveness, holding on to hurts inflicted by individuals and circumstances? Me too!!!

The dark room is changing that, because the Lord is changing me.

Will you let Him take you into the dark room? Will you pray, and ask Him to apply whatever spiritual chemicals to your life in order to develop the image of Christ in you? Will you change your schedule and cut back on distractions in order to MAKE the time to be still with God? All I had was willingness. God did the rest, including sending an older, godly, biblically wise woman to listen, pray, and help guide me in sorting out all the Holy Spirit was revealing to me about myself, about God, and about His truth.

All I have today is willingness. God is still doing the rest.

If He’s doing it for me, He’ll do it for you.

Honest.

Lord, may the authenticity of our lives withstand whatever spotlight You allow to shine on us so that Jesus is the One who is glorified!