In his book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis writes that “All mortals tend to turn into the
thing they are pretending to be.” Think back to when you or a child you knew played pretend. I
always played teacher. Is it any surprise I eventually became one? I would guess you’ve seen
this phenomenon, too. We can usually tell from a young age what children may become based
on who they pretend to be. We may think of pretending as something we grow out of, but the
truth is, pretending often shapes our futures in powerful ways.
Have you ever pretended to be something else, like patient? Let’s imagine that you’re at work,
dealing with a difficult person, and you are frustrated beyond measure but know you must keep
face. You pretend to be patient. You act in a way that is in contrast to how you feel.
I think becoming like Jesus often feels a lot like we’re faking it. We feel so broken on the inside,
but we try really hard to pretend like we’re good. I don’t think that contrast is all that bad. In
fact, I think it’s the first step to transformation.
Picture a woman who wears a mask that makes her appear more beautiful than she actually is.
After years of wear, she finally takes it off to discover that her face grew to fit into it. She has
now become what she pretended to be — beautiful. She eventually became who she pretended
to be. Paul gives us other images of this same phenomena when he tells us to “clothe yourselves
with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), and “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:24). Do you
think of your spiritual life like clothes? Are they something that you have to dress yourself up in
everyday? Paul understands that the Christian life isn’t something we just wake up with; it takes
some putting on.
Do you remember when you were a new Christian? Personally, I felt like I had to be baptized
again every day. I still felt deeply broken. I still feel deeply broken. But can any of us who have
been in Christ for many years look back and see no change? Of course not. The change is slow,
but it is real. Maybe pretending isn’t all that bad. Maybe pretending frees us up to believe that
who we are today is not who we will always be.
To look like Christ, we may need to pretend for a while. But over time, if we wear masks of
goodness, masks that look like Christ, the Spirit will come along in a mysterious way and
transform us to fit those masks. Becoming like Christ does not happen in a moment. It is a
practice. It is putting on Christ’s clothes and discarding our old ones. We live with the hope that
who we are now is not who we really are. We are people who will someday grow to fit Christ’s