When I was in 10th grade, I was an odd kid. My parents were simple, blue-collar people while I dreamt of being rich, so I hung out at places where rich people hung out. I’d go to restaurants in our downtown area and watched how successful men dressed, how they entered the room, how they greeted their friends, looked them in the eye, and even how they handled a knife and fork.
I began to dress differently. I wore long sleeve cotton shirts rolled up at the sleeve, in the heat of summer instead of t-shirts like all my friends. I dressed like the Kennedy’s at Hyannis Port. I was an early incarnation of Richey Rich (but without the money!).
The point was to “fake it until I made it.” In doing so, I became more self-confident. I began to believe I could attain that for which I so desperately longed.
I did something similar when I first came to faith.
Paul says this in Colossians 3:12,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
The imagery Paul gives is of putting on the new clothes of Christian virtues. When I first came to faith, the Holy Spirit convicted me that because I was now a “new man in Christ,” I had to start acting like him, even though it was completely foreign to the way I had previously lived. I tried on these “new clothes” of humility, gentleness, and compassion. They did not feel natural at first and felt phony. It was an out of body experience watching this new Clare De Graaf even want to think and behave differently. I didn’t know the moves and I made mistakes.
Neal Plantinga in Engaging God’s World puts it this way.
C.S. Lewis reminds us that a child likes to go to a clothes box full of grownup outfits. The child wears a coat that’s too big and a hat that falls down over her eyes. She clumps around in grownup shoes and she clips on earrings that swing down to the middle of her neck. It’s all a kind of pretending, but it’s also a kind of preparing, because every child wants one day to be a person who fits into clothes of this size.
Christians are people who dress up like Christ, not because we want to deceive people into thinking we are better than we are, but because the only way we can become better than we are is by trying on our grownup clothes.
I also had to undress, “take off” my old clothes of sinful ways, as Paul describes here:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Colossians 5:5-7
Some would call what I describe as hypocrisy. I don’t obviously. According to Webster, Hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform: pretense.”
In faking it until I made it, I was honestly trying to live out what I said I believed. It just wasn’t natural for me yet. It was counter-intuitive to my Clare-centered worldview. I know
II Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come.” While I believe scripture, my personal experience was that the “old man” in me kept showing up at my back door, wanting me to come out and play! That’s still true. So in many ways, I will be faking it until I make it, until I’m with Jesus. And so will you! Just admit it. We’re all frauds to some degree.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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