Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I hate that expression. I only use it when I’m discouraged. I only hear it from people who are depressed. When you don’t feel like obeying or being happy or maintaining belief, just fake it ’til you make it. Put on a mask so that other people think you are kind or joyful or faithful. That doesn’t ever solve my problems. And it makes you wonder why Jesus wasted all that time talking about the inner man if He just wanted us to fake it. No, I don’t think the man who called Himself “The Truth” wants His disciples to put on an act.

On the other hand, there are times when our minds, our bodies or our circumstances simply can’t reach a place of peace or joy. Pretending isn’t a good solution, and giving in to rage, terror or hopelessness isn’t either. Thank God there is another way of being.

God gave us each a mind (the thinking part of the brain), a heart (the seat of emotions) and a will (for choices and actions). Various translations of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30 express this trinity: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. God created each part of the human spirit to seek Him and to reflect His image in the world. God Himself provides what we need to keep those parts operational. He feeds us truth for our minds, His great love for our hearts and a wise and measured discipline for our wills (both in the limits He gives us and in the strength He offers us to stay within those limits). It is surprising how often you find all three of these concepts addressed in short passages of Scripture, for example Psalm 119:41-44 or Phil 4:7-9.

Now, for the bad news. All three of these parts are fallen. Our minds have the tendency to believe lies, our hearts have a tendency to fear, and our will has a tendency toward rebellion. Scripture tells us that our idols speak deceit (Zech. 10:2), our hearts do not fear God alone (Is. 8:12, 13), and we are inclined toward evil in our habits and choices (Gen. 6:5).

It is God’s grace that when one part fails, we have the others to pull us upward. There are Scriptural examples for each. We are to be transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). But sometimes it is the heart which leads with love (Ruth 1:16). And our will must be conformed to the image of Christ, even when we don’t really want to go there (James 1:22). In the case of those who talk about faking it, I think they are actually saying their mind or their will is leading them toward God while their heart feels far from Him. The will, acting upon truth rather than feelings, is in no way a pretense − any more than the widow’s mite is a pretense (her will acted from feelings of worship and compassion rather than logic).

In God’s original plan, heart, mind and will were perfectly aligned in the image of our Maker. There is no longer perfection or harmony between souls or inside of them, but just as we have the community of God to help us when we are weak, so we have three means of approaching God from within. It is important for us to use whatever godly impulse we have in our heart, mind or will to reach for the empowering Spirit who enables us to approach the throne of grace from many angles. That struggle is very human, very valuable and very real.


This essay was first posted here in June of 2012.

The Mother-Love of God

When my grandfather was a grown man, he experienced a toothache so painful that he tried to climb into his mother’s lap. While that wouldn’t have made the pain go away, he knew that it would bring him another sort of comfort. It seems we never completely lose the desire to be embraced by a mother’s love.

My grandfather had grown too big for climbing into laps. Sometimes, we have the same problem seeking comfort from God. Our thoughts concern our problems – how to fix them or avoid them. Psalm 131 can teach us another way.

It bears King David’s name, and we know him as a man of action but not in this poem. This psalm appears in the middle of the Psalms of Ascent, the songs of a long pilgrimage toward Zion. In the midst of the journey, we may need to stop and rest as David did. We could imagine him alone in the wilderness, done with fighting and fleeing, seeking only the peace of God’s company.  To that end he writes of a return to dependence, a return to stillness, a return to childhood.

In distressing circumstances adults tend to cast about anxiously for a solution or look for someone else to blame. Psalm 131:1 teaches us to set aside these prideful thoughts, acknowledging that solutions are beyond us and that we are as fallen as the next sinner. A child is content to simply be held. A “weaned child,” as described in verse 2, might be three or four years old, still small but also independent. Such a child would no longer cry and look for milk from her mother’s breast, but she would be satisfied with the warmth of her arms and the protection of her presence as she sings her baby to sleep. That is the aspect of God which David wants us to experience, the encircling, restful and gentle mother-love of God.

We can only experience that stillness if we deliberately set aside the cares of the day and our attempts to fix them. We can only do that in a quiet space where nothing else intrudes. We can only do that when God alone is all we want, not the things He might give us. The Lord of the universe gave us birth and nurture and sustenance. He proved His incredible love for us once and for all on the cross. He has all the time in the world to sit and hold us in His arms. Let us not wait until pain finally drives us there. Climb up into His lap in humble dependence and enjoy His love today.


Questions:

  1. What present circumstance makes you most long for a mother’s loving comfort?
  2. Take five minutes right now to meditate on this psalm. Try to sit quietly in God’s lap, resting in His arms and His love. If you find yourself climbing down again, don’t be frustrated; just notice it, and go back to sit with Him a little longer.

This post was first published in 2013.

As Though You Meant to Harm Me

Losing a Friend

I once lost a friend in a way that still stings. After building our relationship for several years, mapping her emotional trenches and revealing mine, talking her through several crises and vice versa, she suddenly stopped calling or responding to me. After a month of wondering, I finally asked whether I had upset her, thinking I surely couldn’t have done anything extreme enough to warrant complete and silent rejection; there had to be another explanation. But in fact, I had made one careless, judgmental statement which had hurt her feelings. I did sincerely apologize, but she never let me close again.

If she had, I would have wanted to ask her whether, after everything we had been through, she truly believed I was the kind of person who intended to hurt her – because that is how she treated me. She backed away from me as you would from a strange and hostile dog, forgetting me, the well-known companion who had long accompanied and comforted her. As I was praying through the sting of her assumptions, it suddenly occurred to me that I do the very same thing to my Heavenly Father all the time. I treat Him as though He meant to harm me.

A Question of Trust

I question His goodness. I retreat from the circumstances He sends me. I doubt His presence with me. I parse His words, looking for the catch, the threat, the deception. I have been a Christian for more than thirty-five years, and this same Lord has walked me through life and death, depression and loss, forgiveness and renewal. But even had I just learned this very day of His terrible sufferings for me, that alone ought to be enough for me to run toward Him in my pain rather than backing away in dread or disappointment. Anyone who would endure the torments of hell on my behalf can be trusted. No one who loves me that much can mean me harm, even if I don’t understand what He is doing.

A Final Prayer

So, God, it breaks my heart that I have treated you like a strange and hostile dog rather than the dearest friend of my heart. Your prodigal daughter has run from You rather than toward You.  Please forgive me for ever treating You as though You meant to harm me.


I’m going to be away from my computer for a while, so I’m reposting the above which was originally published five years ago. I hope you will go back and search the site for other reading material, especially if you are new here.