“Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)
My wife was pregnant with our third child when I received the call at work. She had lost the baby that had taken almost 3 years to conceive. Inconveniently, we had organised a party for my son’s 4th birthday for that very afternoon. Both of our children had been talking about the party for days and were jumping out of their skin with excitement. For their sake, my wife wanted ‘the show’ to go on. And so, for the love of our children we pressed on with our party plans. My wife also felt that she wanted to grieve privately before disclosing to too many others what had happened. A cancellation of the party would make that impossible. How could I disagree? The show had to go on.
But ‘show’ it was. Amidst my son’s well-wishers and kids high on sugar, our hearts were in our boots. The party, just a couple of hours in length, felt interminable as we fake smiled and laughed with the happy crowd and played party games with the children.
We pulled it off. We faked it till we made it. We must have done such a good job because my daughter, then about seven, exclaimed after all the guests had left, “This has been the best day EVER!” The tragic irony could not have been more poignant.
It wasn’t easy, but faking it seemed the wisest and most loving choice at the time.
I was chatting to my minister one Sunday morning. His poor wife had been chronically ill for over 18 months. She suffered with a permanent fatigue, migraines and chronic pain. The diagnoses had been ambiguous and uncertain. With four young children, life was a challenge. Even as a minister’s wife, (though she knew better), she was beginning to feel that God had abandoned her.
I commiserated with my minister on how hard it must be for he and his wife to front up at church with a welcoming face when they probably didn’t feel like showing up at all. He then shared by saying, “You know, to a great extent, you have to fake it till you make it.”
I was initially a little uncomfortable with my minister’s response. “How inauthentic we all are,” I thought. And yet, I had to admit to myself that daily I did much the same thing.
Aren’t there some days when you have to go about your business and your heart is in your boots? You’re troubled, you’re anxious, you’re depressed, you’re unwell, you’re lonely, you feel undervalued…etc. We have all been there – all of us just faking it. Is there any merit in all this pretence?
Well, mercifully I believe there is. If we want to transform and become more Christlike, some role-play is often required.
In his classic work, “Mere Christianity,” author C. S. Lewis wrote:
“The first words of the Lord’s prayer are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending. Because, of course, the moment you realise what the words mean, you realise that you are not a son of God…you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death. So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.
Why? What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already…
Now, the moment you realise ‘Here I am, dressing up as Christ,’ it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretence could be made less of a pretence and more of a reality.”
The moral of the story? When it comes to building godly character, sometimes you have to fake it till you make it.
For Prayer and Reflection: Ask the Lord to help you to clothe yourself with Jesus Christ.
For Further Reading: Matthew 5:43-48