I was walking through my living room when I noticed an upside-down cardboard box moving kind of awkward-like down the hall. Two pairs of legs from the calf down were visible. The box bumped and bungled its way around as the two occupants inside giggled and talked. Watching my daughter's play make-believe in this manner put a smile on my face. How many card-board boxes have been turned into how many different toys?
Make-believe is great when you are a kid. Not so much for adults.
And yet . . .
I know some of the greatest players in the land of make-believe are adults. They put on a happy face and pretend everything is perfectly OK in their life. No marital problems. No questions about their faith in God. Firm grasp of Biblical understanding. Check. Check. Check.
This is not a bad thing on one hand. We don't want to be around people who carry their problems on their shoulders and spill their guts to us every chance they get. How many times have we slowly tried to edge away from someone we don't know who suddenly feels free to share intimate details of their personal problems with any stranger willing to listen? Some modicum of social decency says we are to respect the relational boundaries we have with others. On the other hand, all this pretending has also had a harmful effect. The festering wounds we suffer go unspoken, unnoticed, not talked about, and then when something visible happens, everyone is surprised.
I know of divorces I never saw coming, people leaving church for "no apparent reason", and spiritual lives that suffer to this day in deadly silence while smiles mask any hint of the personal pain they bear.
They are The Great Pretenders.
I remember having several teachers growing up who would echo a consistent message between them: "Does anyone have any questions? Speak up! Someone else probably has the same question and is just afraid to ask."
What questions are you afraid to ask? What are you afraid to ask about marriage, child rearing, your spiritual walk, your faith in God?
I have realized in recent years that the questions I have, and the problems I struggle with are not as unique to me as I thought. What's more, while I sit and worry about the problems in my own life being discovered, there are people all around me thinking and worrying about the same things.
Someone has to be willing to speak up and start asking questions.
For me, it was asking the hard questions about why my own marriage was not thriving like I thought it should. I looked around, and everyone else seemed to have it together. Smiles and happy faces all around. Everyone sitting as families together in church. Not a problem in the world among them. Then it happened. A whisper of a long-married couple was getting divorced. Shock was followed only by bowed heads wagging in wonder how it could happen. Thank goodness their own marriages were functioning perfectly fine.
The truth I know is that there are no perfect marriages.
I do not see behind your closed doors. You do not see behind my own. The struggles we have are common, though our knowledge of others' struggles is not. We hide these problems because we fear. We do not want to be judged by others. Seeking help would unmask the truth, and the truth must not be known for what others may think of us.
So, we pretend.
We pretend we do not have such problems. We pretend our marriage is just fine. We pretend we have no problems with our children. We pretend we have no questions about our faith in God. We pretend we have understanding on spiritual matters where we may be confused. We pretend . . . . and we keep up the charade, yet secretly hoping someone will figure us out and come and help us. Until then, we pretend that our lives are full of nothing but joy and happiness.
We are the Great Pretenders.
Help though is as simple as one person having the courage to ask a question. Who is going to ask the question everyone else is thinking but too afraid to ask because of what others may think of them? If we are to be men and leaders of our homes though, we must ask these questions. We must be willing to become vulnerable - not to the public at large - but to trusted Godly friends and Christian advisers who will seek to help, and truly want our greatest good. For that to happen though, we must stop pretending everything is always OK.
We cannot be the great leaders in our homes God wants us to be and retain the title of Great Pretender.