Have you ever heard what to most people would seem like a random comment, but the words stuck with you as something profound? I remember one such comment that my pastor said at a Christmas Eve service a few years ago. He and the choir director had just finished singing a duet of “Mary Did You Know.” Since they did not have much opportunity to rehearse ahead of time, there were a couple of noticeable blunders in the performance. At the end of the song, the pastor made this unscripted throw-away comment that went past everyone else except me:
“It is better to be real than to pretend you have it all together.”
Being real. I think the ones who know how to do that better than anybody are children, especially the preschool and kindergarten set. Yes, kids are masters at pretending. When they play they often imagine to be grown-ups. Girls pretend to be mommies to their dolls and have tea parties with their stuffed animals. Some children pretend to be firemen or soldiers, astronauts, or doctors. Groups of kids play cops and robbers, school, pirates, and other such games. As they take on their pretend role they actually believe they are that person. But when it comes to interacting with adults, children do not feel the need to have to pretend to be adults. They will be honest with you, coming to you as they really are. I remember when my niece was five and I gave her a complicated grown-up expectation. I can still see her looking up and reminding me, “Aunt Mary, I'm just a kid!” She instinctively knew that what I was asking of her would be in conflict with what God was calling her to be: to live as a child, free to be who God created her to be, and not have to pretend in real life to be someone she is not.
Even as we matured into adults we never forgot how to pretend. “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” We are taught to “put our best foot forward.” and to “never let them see you sweat.” That means that what we want others see of us is the self that is our “all-together” self. We don't want that first impression to expose our weaknesses, our failings, our fears. “How are you?” is routinely answered with the reply, “I'm fine. How are you?” Yes, we still have our five-year-old skill of pretending. We just forgot how to be real while doing it. And in forgetting to be real, we lose the freedom that comes with being our authentic selves. We lose the freedom of being the child of God that we are created to be.
Can we get our freedom back? Can we be that child that God created us to be? The apostle John wrote, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God” (1John 5:1). Being a child of God allows us the freedom to come to our heavenly Father just as a child approaches a loving parent. We do not have to put our best foot forward. We don't have to pretend we have life flawlessly put together. God already knows our weaknesses, our failings, our fears. We can be real. We are free to come before Him just as we are, knowing that we are accepted and safe in His love. We are free to be completely honest telling Him how we feel or what we need, trusting that He will meet our needs. We can openly confess our sin to Him, assured that we will receive forgiveness and He will remember our sins no more. That, my friends, is good news!
Yes, it really is better to be real than to pretend you have it all together!