Today’s humble ramblings comes from the a song that was released when I was three years old. Fifty-three years after The Platters released the song the group appeared randomly on the trusty iPod during a morning stroll with dog friend Hannah. The song is written about a guy pretending to be happy when his love interest has left him. The lyrics to The Great Pretender led me to think again about one of my pet peeves in the churches of America. I get angry, frustrated and sad when followers of Jesus go to church and pretend to be something we know we are not.
That we are okay all of the time. I lived those lyrics out Sunday after Sunday for too many years.
Oh yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell
We go to a place where honesty should be encouraged. Where shortcomings ought to be accepted. Church should be the place where you can say without fear, “I am struggling, I hurt, I need help”. But for some reason the opposite happens far too often. Two people who are really in deep and desperate pain could have this conversation every single week in church.
“How are you doing?” (Insincere query…too busy to really care)
“Great, how are you?” (Dishonest reply…perfunctory courtesy return question)
“Fantastic…great to see you.” (Really dishonest reply…safe dismissal salutation)
Am I advocating dumping our woes on everyone we meet? Of course not. But my fear is that we have created a culture where we feel there is something wrong with us if we are hurting. If I am struggling I must be doing something wrong spiritually. Shouldn’t God meet this need? What is wrong with me? The fact that God created us with a desire to be in community tells me that part of His plan for us is being helped by other members of the body of Christ. We must be willing to trust someone with who we really are for this plan to work as God intended. That cannot happen until we know that the body of Christ is a safe place to let others know what is really going on. Instead we seem to settle for something far less than God has in mind for us.
We are angry, sad and lonely during the week and even on the way to church. When our church friends are not watching we are wailing about others, gossiping and even mean. As soon as we walk in the church door we are smiling like the homecoming queen during the parade. Just like the lyrics from the song, we become the great pretenders. We are not fooling anyone.
Adrift in a world of my own
I play the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to dream all alone
The difference between the love story from the lyrics and the love story that Jesus wrote on the Cross is significant. In the love song that Jesus wrote He will never leave you to dream or face life all alone. Remember the big final project Jesus assigned before He left?
Pretty daunting little assignment. But I tend to forget the next words.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus aches to come along side me and you and help me deal with the junk in my life. His agenda is for me to stop pretending and be real with Him and with one another. And Jesus has promised to be with me each stumbling step of the way. When a Dad is teaching his toddler to walk he is patient and encouraging. When the tyke wobbles and falls a loving father doesn’t start screaming at his child.
“There you go again! You can’t walk three bleepin’ steps before you tumble over again. You are hopeless. You will never get this walking thing down. Why am I wasting my time?”
Hardly. The Dad encourages and applauds the effort. He lifts the child back up and exhorts him to try again. He is beaming with each step and not at all angry when the child falls. That is how I view Jesus with my spiritual walk when I understand His grace. He is thrilled with each spiritual step and is encouraging and lifting me up without condemnation when I stumble. When I am pretending and not trusting then that grace is not realized.
Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal
How many times I have felt like that? I am a fake. If my walk right now was exposed I would be excommunicated from the faith. I am so dry that any spark sets my anger and emotions aflame. But do I confess that? Dare I confess that?
Satan would have us believe that we would be rejected if we dared to let other see the truth behind the person. Perhaps some would reject me because they are pretending so much that they can’t see the need to be authentic in this journey. But I want to be willing to take a chance to be real. I want to simply be honest and see where that takes me. I can’t find that authenticity with a painted grin and phony reply.
Can we trust Jesus enough to stop pretending? Can we trust him enough to be authentic? Not needy and demanding. Just honest and real. There is so much more available to us in the body of Christ if we can stop the charades. Want some more homework? Look up the “one another” verses in the Bible. Here is an example from Hebrews (10:24–35).
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I don’t want to pretend anymore.