“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts”
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599
You definitely like Jesus, but loving him sounds a bit pathetic
You go to church on Sunday. You definitely like Jesus, but loving him sounds a bit pathetic. You sing Christian worship songs, but you’d never articulate your faith that way to your friends. You actually like the Bible, and think it has some useful advice but it also is full of a whole lot of strange rubbish you think is wrong, or just cannot make sense of. You struggle to describe your views on gay marriage to your friends without sounding bigoted or like you live in a different century, so you pretend not to have a view. You text the person you’re dating inappropriate things from time to time. You’ve slept with them – and no one need know. You struggle with your sexuality. You struggle to manage your lust, your finances, your time. You say things you immediately regret. You read and watch stuff that you know isn’t good for you. You over eat. You under eat. You make yourself sick. You steal. You smoke. You battle depression. You struggle with self harm. You’re unhappy – really unhappy. Church is often boring. You don’t really like your friends, let alone trust them. You feel excluded and misunderstood. People tell you that you’re a ‘New Creation in Jesus’, but most days you feel the same. And sometimes it feels worse.
you are a holy imposter Meanwhile, your friends are articulate about their Christian faith. Their Facebook statuses tell you of the 12 people they brought to faith this week. When they share stuff in your small group, their guilt is about the prophetic word they had for someone on the bus that they didn’t share, and that they’ve been wracked with guilt all week. They always have useful stuff to share with you when you’re having a bad day. They are there for you, and text you encouraging Bible verses at exactly the right time (How do they do that?). They see people healed. They pray in other languages. They go on mission instead of on holiday. They seem to have a better relationship with their parents and their siblings, and the never get angry. They do brilliantly at school. They’re not lazy, but they’re not a geek either. They’re popular, and Jesus seems to radiate from their face every time they walk into a room.
They – they’re the real Christian. The good Christian.
And you? You are a holy imposter.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
It’s in the Bible and we know that the word of God can be trusted, so why does it feel like we’re constantly a fraud, playing at a role, and daily praying that the darkest parts of who we are aren’t exposed and we’re not shown up to be the huge frauds that we are.
I’m 29, I’m training for full time Christian Ministry. I believe in God, in the Trinity, that Jesus died and rose from the dead. In honesty, I identify with more of the first list than the second. My life is a daily battle to remember that I’m a new creation, and most days, it really doesn’t feel like it.
Over the last few months I’ve been on a journey of discovering the incredible power and freedom that comes with sharing your struggles with friends. And whether they’re to do with friendships, sexual things, financial things, work, your education, your family or your parents, finding those people that you can be totally honest with is one of the best things about Christian community, and about genuine friendship. In that place of vulnerability, with everything laid bare, in spite of your mess and your sinfulness, you discover that you are still loved. What is more, the discovery that you are still respected by those who you love brings you the most remarkable feelings of freedom. I have discovered that friendship like this, where you stand as you really are before another, is unparalleled – and every other relationship pales into insignificance in comparison.
I have many friends with flourishing careers in the armed forces. Recently we were discussing the security clearance process. It’s not, as I thought, primarily interrogation of your friends and family, and snooping through your post and phone records, but it’s honest conversations, where you lay before senior staff your whole life, all your significant mistakes, your affairs, your debt, your lies, your one night stands, your accidental drug taking - anything anyone might use to blackmail you with. This is what gives you greater access in the company – honesty, and the freedom to know that no-one can hold anything over you.
Make your Christian friendships like this, and ensure the devil has no foothold to tell you that you’re not good enough, you’ll be outed as the fraud you are or that you’re unworthy.
These are natural parts of the cycle of life – there are seasons for rejoicing, and seasons for what will feel like wading through treacle, trusting that God has a better and brighter future in store.
The crucial thing is to find people with whom you can be utterly honest. Find yourself a few godly friends whom you respect and trust, whom you know to be discreet, wise and sensitive, and tell them everything. Lay it all bare. Real friendship will cope, and you will be free from ransom from the devil as a result.
I firmly believe that there is a desperate need for truth in the church.
There’s a place for pretending
I firmly believe that there is a desperate need for truth in the church. Not only with young people (and guys, set an example here – exercise your 2 Timothy calling), but with leadership, parents and between friends. Christians have always had a call to live differently, and so often we look just like everyone else.
There is a twist though…
I also firmly believe in the importance of a good performance. I believe this because I see that performance cultivates character.
Sometimes we need to dig deep and act as if we’re braver than we are, and we discover that we can do things we didn’t imagine were possible.
Sometimes we need to act in a loving way, even when a person frustrates us, or when we don’t like them, because that is the call of Romans 12.
Sometimes we need to pretend that we’re disciplined, so that over time, we become more disciplined.
Sometimes we need to speak up for injustice with a voice we don’t think we have, and trust that we can be loud enough.
Sometimes it’s okay to pretend. It’s okay to put your mind over your feelings and be courageous, overcoming fear or anxiety or doubt.
Similarly, sometimes we need to let our hearts rule over our heads. One act of kindness may not change the world, and it might not be taken well, and we don’t know if it will have any significant impact. Sometimes we are called to simply love people without question, without agenda, without expectation and without pride, and that can be as much a discipline as stepping out when you’re fearful.
Just choose carefully who you pretend to be, because you’re choosing the person that you want to become.
“we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Endure the things that worry you. Offer them to Jesus, and then act like you have control of them. You are a new creation, God has promised you that. The moment you told him you needed him, and you understood who he was, and what he did, and he met with you through his Holy Spirit you were new. And each time you get it wrong? The process repeats and you are made new again. That is the grace and mercy of God.
That is the grace and mercy of God
Persevere. It produces character. And as you watch yourself transform through honesty and vulnerability, and through a bit of pretending, you’ll realise that you’re slowly becoming the person that to start off with felt like a bit of an act. In honesty, you’ll probably find that you’ve been that person all along.
Then have hope: You can change, be braver, more courageous, have more integrity, fewer flaws, and less sin.
You will always battle. You will often feel like a failure as a Christian, but if you commit yourself to it, you will grow, learn, change and mature. But it doesn’t happen by itself.