I think we can all agree that sometimes we pretend to be someone different than we are. Sometimes the person we appear to be is an imposter. We keep our real identity hidden away. Do those closest to you know the real you?
In 1956 the television show To Tell The Truth aired for the first time. In this show the four panelists had to try to guess the correct identification of a contestant who was accompanied by two impostors who pretended to be the contestant. The panelists question the three contestants; the impostors are allowed to lie but the central character is sworn “to tell the truth”. After questioning, the panel attempts to identify which of the three challengers is telling the truth and thus identify the true character.
As I first stated, quite often in life we attempt to conceal our real character from others. We often have brokenness, flaws or pain in our lives that we do not want others to know about. We put on our false smile to hide our true identity. If you were the contestant on To Tell The Truth and you were sworn not to lie about your real personality would the panelist be able to identify the real you?
Smokey Robinson captured the false character that we sometimes portray in his huge hit Tracks Of My Tears. Can you feel the pain of the person behind the smile in these lyrics?
People say I’m the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I’m blue
So take a good look at my face
You’ll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears
I have found one more huge hit that conveys the same issue of identity concealment and it came from the group The Platters. I named this week’s email after their huge hit The Great Pretender. Here are a few of their lyrics:
Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Pretending that I’m doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell
Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I’ve played the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to grieve all alone
Finally I have chosen a few verses from the uber successful Broadway play Phantom Of The Opera. The power filled opening song after the intermission is Masquerade. All of the characters are in masquerade costumes on a staircase which allows the Phantom to be concealed in their midst. Perhaps you can identify yourself in these words:
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade!
Masquerade! Hide your face,
so the world will never find you!
Masquerade! Every face a different shade!
Masquerade! Look around –
There’s another mask behind you
Each of these three songs addresses the issue of false pretense and hiding reality. Further down in the lyrics of the song Tracks of My Tears are these powerful words:
I need you, need you
Outside I’m masquerading
Inside my hope is fading
When we conceal our real life struggles and pains from others sometimes our hope does begin to fade. We are not meant to be isolated Christians. The lyrics said “I NEED YOU” and that is so true. We do need each other and that is why God designed us to live in community.
Read this passage from 1 Peter 1: 3-8. Notice that after speaking of the trials of life, Peter speaks of JOY. It is important to see that the trials precede the JOY. We read the same thing in James 1:2-3: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”
So where does this JOY they are speaking about come from in the midst of our trials? We find that answer in 1 Peter 1:22 “Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love, love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” Peter is telling us something very important. He is telling us that the trials of life can be sanctifying fires but following these fires of life we are called to love one another.
To make my point today let me attempt to connect the dots. We know that there are trials in life. These trials can be a form of sanctification. Following our trials we are told that we will experience joy. The Joy comes from loving one another. Now here is my main point. One of the best ways to love another person is to be Christ to them by comforting them in their distress. In order to offer comfort we must know someone is hurting. When we pretend to be fine, others will not offer comfort to us and if we don’t realize others are just pretending to be fine we most likely will not offer comfort to them. PRETENDING TO BE FINE IN THE MIDSTS OF THE TRIALS OF LIFE IMPEDES THE COMMUNAL LOVE THAT GOD HAS PLANNED FOR US!!
I read this on a post on the internet: “This community of love is meant to comfort the person who’s discouraged, to strengthen the person who’s weak, to encourage the person who has no hope, to come alongside the person who’s alone, to guide the person who’s lost his way, to give wisdom to the person lost in foolishness, to warn the person who’s beginning to wander, to correct the person turning the wrong way, to give eyes to the person blind to God’s presence, and to physically represent God’s presence and love. No one, including pastors, is wired to live outside this community.”
Why must we quit pretending and stop our masquerade? This answer is found in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” When we suffer alone the entire Body of Christ is left to suffer.
The story of the healing of the Gerasene demoniac from Luke 8:26-39 contains a powerful phrase that can be life-altering for all of us. It says these words in verse 39: “Return home and recount what God has done for you.” The man went off and proclaimed throughout the whole town what Jesus had done for him. Look at what Jesus told the man: “recount what God has done for you.” What is he telling us to do?
If we have brokenness, trials and pain most of us want to pretend we are fine. Jesus, however, tells us that we must recount or in other words share with others what He has done for us. Jesus is the great healer, forgiver and source of all mercy. So in order for us to tell others about what Jesus has done for us we must first be willing to be transparent or vulnerable and actually show others the “tracks of our tears.”
Does God really want us to tell others our problems? Does He want us to share our broken past? Does He want us to disclose our secrets? Yes…Yes and YES! That is exactly what He meant when He directed the man to “recount what God has done.”
The tormented and broken man after he was healed just wanted to stay with Jesus and travel with Him. This man had been an outcast and he kept to himself. He was alone. We are too often alone with our trials. If and when we do admit our struggles we are perfectly comfortable to simply remain in the presence of Jesus. He calls us to so much more.
Our trials, struggle and broken past can become a transformational experience for someone else. When we, astounded by the mercy, forgiveness and healing power of Jesus, openly and willingly share with others our transformation story, our stories can become an inspiration for them. When we hide our tears and pretend to be fine others may get the feeling that only they are lost and broken. Our story can be the proof someone is looking for that depicts the life-changing power of Christ.
Like everyone I too for most of my life kept my struggles to myself. I was the great pretender and as the song said, my need was such that I pretended too much and I was struggling but no one could tell. Now with God’s urging I travel the country and through my Broken Door Ministry retreats I recount what God has done for me. When I do this, many people come to me to share their personal stories of struggles and pain and through this communal love and sharing we both grow in our love of Jesus Christ.
I leave you with this question: Are you a great pretender?
Dear Heavenly Father, please give me the strength to be vulnerable, open and honest with others, show that through my trials I may bring glory to your Son Jesus Christ, amen.