Are you a good liar?
Sometimes I’d like to think that I am – that I can keep a straight face, keep a secret, or keep my true feelings under wraps. But then my mouth betrays me before my brain can catch up.
Like the time I came home for my first break from college. Church friends greeted me warmly. One older member who I wasn’t very close to told me that they’d missed me. Unfortunately, the feeling was not exactly mutual.
I knew I should quickly tell a polite white lie, say I had missed them too. But my body rejected that idea. I hesitated for way too long. Then I choked out, “I missed…everyone, too.”
They realized what I was doing, and laughed at it, and everything was fine, but I was still ticked off at myself. Why was it so hard for me to fake it?
I’m great at faking in other situations, like, for instance, when it comes to God. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to coax my heart into an attitude of praise, or deference, or understanding, or love. One day, surely, I’ll actually feel those things. Right?
It’s either that or cry myself to sleep
Maybe Naomi was also a bad liar.
Her adult life started out simply, but hopefully. She got married. She gave birth to two sons. She moved with her husband to a new land, safer, hopefully, than the land of the Israelites was during the time of the judges. Life was good, blessed even.
Then Naomi’s husband died. But her grief was soon followed by joy – her sons married beautiful women.
And then both of Naomi’s sons died.
All of a sudden Naomi and her two daughters in law were widows – alone, unsupported, with a future of poverty staring them in the face.
It must have stung. The pain, the fear, the worry for the future must have been suffocating, exhausting. And Naomi wasn’t afraid to show it.
“It is more bitter for me than for [her son’s wives], because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” (verse 13)
“Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” (verse 20)
“The Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me. The Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” (verse 21)
I cringe a little bit reading Naomi’s words. Why was she so blunt, so open with her frustration and bitter feelings? Why didn’t she plaster on a smile, like you’re supposed to? Why didn’t she just say that ‘God knows best’ and leave it at that, like a good Christian?
But then again…why should she?
She didn’t believe in a fickle, emotional God who would pout and get revenge on her for her attitude. She didn’t believe in a God who needed to be placated, catered to, calmed or fluffed. She didn’t believe in a God who could be tricked by a fake smile, thrown off by an easy platitude.
She believed in the true God. She believed in an Almighty God. She believed in our God.
God isn’t just our Teacher. He isn’t just our Judge. He isn’t only a Being with authority over all heaven and all earth.
He’s also our Friend.
God knows us.
God understands us.
God can read us like a book.
And He still wants us and loves us and gave up His life for us.
There’s no need to fake it with Him. What God wants is our honesty, and guess what? He can take it.
“You can come to Me as you are.”
It isn’t that simple, though.
Knowing God can take my honesty doesn’t immediately make it easy to give it. I still find myself faking it, lying to myself, trying to conjure up perfect Christian feelings.
Because I’m still afraid. Not of God, but of myself. Of my feelings.
I’m scared to doubt God. I’m scared to question God. I’m scared that if I’m honest, my faith won’t have a leg to stand on. I’m scared that if I don’t fake it, I genuinely will not make it.
But God wants me, not a facade. He wants you, not a stereotype. He doesn’t want perfectly formed feelings and a sanitized idea of what a Christian should be.
Naomi chose God despite her bitterness. Ruth chose God in a way that was almost random, sudden. Was it out of fear? The lack of a better option? Did these women have some doubt? Anger over their loss? Uncertainty over whether this god was the true God?
None of it mattered, because they chose God.
That’s what faith like a mustard seed means. It might be so small, so hesitant that you can barely feel it, but it is enough to make a choice.
It’s that beautiful, tiny choice that God wants, not gaudy, faked feelings.
It’s that honest choice that will cause us to be saved.
It’s that small faith that God will strengthen and nurture and transform into a changed heart.
It’s that blunt, open honesty that will take us on a journey with God, to a life more whole and joyful than anything we could have pretended.
What do you think? Do you try to fake good Christianity for God?