Last week my singing group moved into the 1980s – we got an overhead projector! This is actually quite hi-tech for us as we had been relying on a flip-chart for the words of the songs we sing, and it had been getting very tatty. I think a lot of churches and businesses who used to rely on OHPs have moved on to laptops and screen projectors but I couldn’t find anyone giving an old projector away. Thankfully Ebay was a fairly inexpensive source and I even got some free acetate transparencies through my local freecycle group. Maybe we are using up to date resources after all.
Projecting a positive image of ourselves is probably something we all have to do from time to time – whether it is writing a CV, going for a job interview or meeting someone influential. One of my drama lecturers talked about how it wasn’t just all our transferable skills that got drama students into such a wide range of jobs, it was presenting ourselves well at interview that meant we could convince people we could do the job – even if that wasn’t necessarily true. Part of what helped me in the first few lectures I gave was knowing I could come across as more confident than I am – and acting confident can be quite convincing, even to yourself.
There’s maybe a fine line between projecting a version of yourself and pretending to be something you are not. If I’m not totally aware of all the facets of myself then who is to say that it’s not real when I seem to be much more entertaining after a glass of wine or more spiritually aware when faced with a serious situation. That said, I do know that sometimes I have faked being fine, being humble, being prayerful or even being a ‘good Christian’. I’m not sure that ‘faking it’ is always wrong – there are times when sitting in church and appearing to be praying or reading the Bible is better than complaining to your neighbour that this song or preach is dreadful. But I also know Jesus saved some of his toughest words for hypocrites or people who pretended to be more spiritual than they were.
There have been times when I’ve sat in Church meetings or conference sessions and thought everyone was faking it. Either that or their experience was so completely different to mine that I may as well give up and find a new religion. I tend not to visit such overwhelming meetings these days, and expect that even if I did, I would believe some people were sincere, some just a bit over-enthusiastic while some may indeed be faking it. I don’t believe that pretending to be happy when you are not is generally healthy, but I can accept that some people are just naturally more cheerful than me, while others are genuinely seeking to praise God anyway, heartening their souls.
I think some people do reflect something of God, and that seeking to be more like Jesus is something we are called to do, while recognising our failings and inadequacies. I used to find the verse in Ephesians quite difficult, which tells Christians to be imitators of God. Surely this is the very kind of faking it or projecting something that is evidently impossible and that I’ve been arguing against. Thankfully the rest of the verse puts things into more context. We are called to be imitators of God ‘as dearly loved children’. To me, this is like wanting to build a lego wall near Daddy because Daddy is building a real wall, or enthusiastically strumming a toy guitar because you want to be like Mummy who plays the guitar. The important thing is the quality of the relationship, not the quality of the imitation, which will generally be pretty poor! Jesus was the perfect image of the invisible God. We on the other hand usually mess things up royally. But I believe our heavenly Dad is glad to be close by us if we humbly have a go.