"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
“What dominated his mind was not the living but the giving of his life.”
― John R.W. Stott
Several years ago, I crashed a wedding reception with two friends of mine. One was invited. Two of us weren’t. We decided that it would be fun to road trip to the wedding together, and then even more adventurous to crash the reception following.
It was a grand affair at a country club of some sort. Lots of food. Lots of beverage. Lots of dancing. I dare say, we had a rather fancy time. Trying to fit in by concealing our true identities, my buddy and I playfully adopted some fake names and some alter egos. He decided to go as “Lou.” I went as something like “Dale.” The names weren’t very believable, but had just enough plausibility to protect our true identities and ward off suspicious inquirers.
At first, being “Dale” was a lot of fun. Dale was simply an attempt to be the very best of me. He performed pretty well. He could be polite, even mildly charming. He told some funny jokes. He got along with those around him swimmingly. However, I didn’t think he fit in well enough. The performance wasn’t cutting it. Dale didn’t seem quite at home.
And so I decided that Dale needed to pretend to be a lot better and more interesting than he actually was. Soon Dale liked to sail and cycle. Dale read Hemingway and Thoreau. Dale traveled extensively, and to far away places like Moscow and Beijing. Dale had a very nice car. He would have shown it to everyone, but it was in the shop which was interesting because Dale normally fixed his cars himself. Dale worked hard pretending that he belonged and could almost pull it off. Almost.
Despite his best pretending, a visible suspicion eventually came over the eyes of his more astute listeners. He feared that he was being found out. In fact, he knew that he was. The curtain was coming down. The fat lady was about to sing. He was feeling the shepherd’s crook around his neck. And so Dale did as all pretenders eventually do when found out: he bolted. He grabbed his coat, a handful of shrimp, and headed briskly for the door.
Dale died on the way out to the car. I’ll confess that his disappearance was a relief. The thrill of trying to fake it and fit in was at first exhilarating but ultimately exhausting. I couldn’t sustain it. Sooner or later, all of my performing and pretending fell short. I knew that exposure was looming. Fear gripped by heart.
The same is true in my real life as Kevin. I’m tempted to try and find acceptance by presenting only my best self in front of others - to conceal my weaknesses, my inadequacies, and struggles. I want others to think highly of me, to accept and maybe even admire me. When my performance doesn’t cut it or even starts to break down, I’m then tempted to pretend - to “fake it until I make it." I’ll pretend that I’m better than I am, that I’ve got it together. Sure, I can keep the act going for a while. At 45 ripe old years, I’m a pretty good pretender. However, sooner or later, the haunting melodies of the figurative fat lady fill my head. The curtains eventually fall on every one of my shows. My true self starts leaking through, and I’m tempted to flee - to start the cycle of performing and pretending over again somewhere else, with a new (and hopefully more gullible) audience.
I’d probably keep running all of my life, but I’m getting tired. I’m tired of performing. I’m tired of pretending. It’s a good thing that I don’t have to.
Thankfully, Jesus performed for me. He did everything right on my behalf. When I screw up and fall short, I find comfort that he lived the perfect life that I should have lived, and he died the death that I deserved to die - all in my place, for me. My sinful record became his; his righteous record has become mine by grace through faith. I have all that I need in him. In him, I am accepted and loved - not because of my performance for him, but because of his performance for me.
Thank God, I don’t need to be Dale. I can just be Kevin. I don't need to fear my failures or fake impressive successes. After all, my performance is not the ultimate source of my security or the ground of my identity. Jesus is. And he loves me because of who he is, even in full awareness of what I am not.
Child of God: the same is true of you. You’re loved. You're free. Free to be real. You don't need to "fake it until you make it." In Christ, you're already there.
You're loved. Don’t forget it.
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