I pretended to believe in God for a very long time. I wouldn’t admit, even to myself, that I didn’t believe in God because I was afraid. Afraid of dying and the thought of no afterlife. Afraid of disappointing my family. Afraid of not fitting in. Pretty much everyone I knew was Catholic, from my extended family and my best friend to my neighbors and my pals at school. I couldn’t imagine being anything but Catholic, never mind an outright unbeliever.
I went to church every Saturday evening, but instead of reciting the opening lines of Nicene Creed aloud with the rest of the parishioners — “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen” — I cleared my throat or coughed instead. I couldn’t say, “We believe” aloud because I knew in my heart it was a lie. I didn’t believe. I didn’t believe in God. I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. But I continued to pretend like I did. I was good at pretending. I fooled everyone.
The problem with pretending is that it’s easier than facing what is usually a more frightening or challenging reality. Pretending becomes comfortable, even routine, if you practice it long enough. The false persona slides in, all stealthy and sly, and before you even really know it’s happening, that persona begins to feel real. After a while, the make-believe becomes reality. That’s how easy it is, how insidious. You start off pretending to be who you want to be, or who you think other people want you to be, and before long, you buy into yourself.
That’s how it worked for me. That’s how I tricked myself into believing I believed in God for more than twenty years. And let me tell you, when you’ve perfected the act of pretending for that long, it takes a lot of time and a lot of difficult, soul-searching work to shed the layers that obscure the real you. We’re talking epic mid-life crisis, people — or, as Brene Brown likes to call it, a Breakdown Spiritual Awakening.
So let me ask you: who might you be pretending to be? The Super Mom? The Go-Getter-Has-It-All-Together Professional? The Life-is-in-Perfect-Balance Working Mom? The Proverbs 31 Wife? The Good Christian? The ____________?
Maybe you’re not pretending to be anyone – maybe you are truly and authentically 100 percent you. And if that’s the case, I am very, very glad. But if you feel a little tug in your gut, a bit of tightening in your throat when I ask that question, think about it. Who might you be pretending to be? And who might you find if you began to strip away some of those false layers?