C. S. Lewis writes in his chapter “Let’s Pretend” in Mere Christianity that as we grow in our walk with the Lord, sometimes we need to fake it. As children, many of us have reveled in games of pretend. Lewis says we need to do this to grow spiritually. And growing spiritually is huge in the process of conveying who Jesus is to the children in our lives. Lewis says we need to act like better Christians than we actually are.
That idea is jarring and smells of the worst charge against Christianity: hypocrisy.
Until we think about what he really means by this . . . . Think about babies. We talk to them immediately–telling them how much we love them, how cute they are, etc. We never, ever think, “I’d better wait to talk until my baby initiates the conversation. He doesn’t know what I’m saying yet anyway.” No. We fake it. We start off pretending they know what we’re saying, and eventually they do.
In the same way Lewis tells us to act like nicer people than we actually are.
Sometimes we need to act loving toward others when we don’t feel up to it. We need to fake it. It reminds me of Walter Trobisch’s Love Is a Feeling to be Learned. We certainly don’t always feel loving towards everyone around us, just as our children don’t. But we can train ourselves to act in kind and loving ways. We need to remind ourselves and our children that the reason we need to act loving is that we are the children of the most loving person on earth: our Holy Triune God. We need to reflect His character to those around us. By doing this, we can allow the Spirit of God to shape us into better people.
We grow into the people Jesus wants us to be—by pretending we already are.
How does this help us grow spiritually? If you are like me, your devotional life has its ups and downs. One day you feel super motivated to read your Bible. Other times you feel stuck and not at all motivated. Feelings vacillate. Unlike our feelings, God’s promises are secure. The more faithful we are in reading his word, the more he will bless us through it. Some days we need to pretend we want to read the Bible. Just do it. But we need to remember not to read the Bible out of guilt.
God wants our hearts—not feelings of guilt or shame.
I love that in Jesus Calling Sarah Young reminds us not to feel ashamed that our minds wander. She says God knows we are that way, because that’s the way he made us. We just have to work at getting back on track. Just like with making time for reading the Bible.
What if you plan now for a time to read the Bible tomorrow? Even if it’s only for five minutes. Then write yourself a note somewhere to help you remember. Choose a time your house is usually quiet. Preferably before you check your phone or go online. For me, deciding to spend this time before checking for messages allowed me to be much more consistent and enjoy devotional time much more.
But we need to be careful not to beat ourselves up about missing planned times with God.
Just keep moving forward. Give it a try, and wait for God to bless you abundantly with a strong sense of his presence in your life. Your child will notice that too. Just as children love acting more grown up than they really are–and learning in the process–we can all learn by taking on the behaviors and character of our God. Even when we don’t feel like it. As Walter Trobisch says, the abundant feelings will follow.