As children, our imaginations took us into many an adventure within the bounds of our home and yard. There were no computers or hand-held technical devices for our entertainment, and television viewing was limited by the fact that there only three channels from which to choose. We were allowed Saturday mornings for cartoons before the television was turned off and we were whisked outside to play.
My younger sister and I often took our dolls outside as we pretended to be mothers. I’m not sure why, but running from tornadoes with our children in our arms seemed to be a common theme….I suppose we needed a little drama from time to time. We played house and when our little brother wanted to play with us, we made him be the baby that had to take a nap. Every time. We danced as ballerinas and floated like angels. We made up stories and games. We squabbled and cried, made up and started over.
My older brother and I were fans of the original Mission Impossible television series and would pretend we were the special agents sent to accomplish the impossible, secret assignments. This was made even more fun by the fact that a cousin in another city would send reel-to-reel tapes to my brother, and once we had received the instructions for our mission, we pretended the tape would disintegrate, just as it did in each episode on TV. There were days we were riding with the Lone Ranger or hunting with Daniel Boone. We fought battles against invading enemies using sticks for guns. We raced and chased and played as long as we could before nightfall.
We would leave our imaginary worlds and come inside for supper, baths, and a little television time with Daddy before bed. I enjoyed this time of my childhood very much. It was such fun to pretend. But once inside for the nightly routine, I didn’t keep pretending I was someone or something else. Playtime was over, it was time to just be me.
Yesterday I wrote about being an imitator, copying the life of Jesus as a pattern for our own. This is very different from pretending to be like Him. When we imitate Jesus, or his faithful followers in the Bible, we do it through a heart effort to change our behavior, to become more like Him. And because of the power of His word, we know that we can be changed by looking at Him and doing what He did. Imitating Him is an act of faith – believing in Romans 12:2.
Pretending to be something you’re not is very different. Pretense: an act or appearance that looks real but is false. My older sister uses the word authentic in writing about her own pursuit to no longer be a pretender*. We’ve all been grown-up pretenders at some time or another. Sometimes we pretend we agree with others just by our lack of comment or action. Sometimes we pretend to love those in the congregation with us when we really don’t care at all. Sometimes we pretend to worship God when our minds and hearts are far from Him. Pretending to be someone or something you are not is deception, and is actually a lack of faith!
Imitator or pretender? I’ve been both. It’s a matter of the heart.
“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all else that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Really coming to the knowledge that God loves me unconditionally, all the time, never to end, is what sets me free to stop pretending. Jesus calls us to a “vital union” with Him – it’s the only thing that can keep us real.