this past sunday i was preaching on “church life” and rob presided; we essentially switched spots. during rob’s presiding he mentioned that his CG discussed “discerning God’s will” from Ephesians 5. This wasn’t planned but it set off a lot of thoughts the matched up well with my sermon content. Ephesians 5:8b,10 (skipping the parens of v9) says, “Walk as children of light, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” And often we understand “discern” as to figure out or reason out in our heads what is good; people get stuck on discerning God will before they practice God’s will. Or perhaps the thinking is that it’s much easier to “discern” than to “walk” God’s will, thus we skip over to the easier one we can do without attracting too much judgment; thinking is way easier than doing; it’s much easier to hide; there’s less risk of failure.
i easily find myself in that camp. i’d rather dissect theology than deal with people. in many ways i was preaching to myself. i’m often trying to think my way out of things rather than doing. that’s why the passage i quoted at length from cs lewis still speaks to me every time i read it:
May I once again start by putting two pictures, or two stories rather, into your minds? One is the story you have all read called Beauty and the Beast. The girl, you remember, had to marry a monster for some reason. And she did. She kissed it as if it were a man. And then, much to her relief, it really turned into a man and all went well. The other story is about someone who had to wear a mask; a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for year. And when he took it off he found his own face had grown to fit it. He was now really beautiful. What had begun as disguise had become a reality…. If you are interested enough to have read thus far you are probably interested enough to make a shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s Prayer.
Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending. Because, of course, the moment you realise what the words mean, you realise that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death. So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.
Why? What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind, where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.
I wonder if we don’t play pretend because we are too satisfied with the present – that we stop hoping for more or we stop believing that more is even possible. maybe i feel stuck with who i am, that i’ll never be more sanctified than i am now so i stop pretending – i stop playing at discipleship. pretending is an expression of our imaginations. my imagination needs more practice.