I’ve written before about what I think it might mean to accept Christ’s love in my heart, and how it can make me a child of God. I’ve also written about how Christianity is a practice in a literal sense: It takes work; every moment, every day, I must make conscious choices of faith, until it no longer requires any conscious choice (which may be never).
This morning I’d like to write a bit about what I’ve read in C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity,” and in particular the portion entitled “Let’s Pretend.”
Lewis starts the chapter relaying a story about an unattractive man who wore a mask to disguise his face. After a time, he removed the mask, and found that his face had grown to its shape–he was made handsome by pretending to be handsome. The point is that by pretending to be like Christ, we can actually become a little bit more like Christ every day. He writes:
“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 pretense 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 pretense 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.”
This speaks to precisely the idea I wrote about earlier, and here Lewis and I are of one mind–practice makes (closer to) perfect. Lewis continues on to say that if we earnestly “dress up” as Christ, and put on that mask, Christ will actually be with us, and influence our lives. He says that if you or I pretends to be like Christ, “You are no longer thinking simply about right and wrong; you are trying to catch the good infection from a Person.”
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans that we should figuratively “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14). This is probably what he meant there: If we think of how Christ would be or feel or act in a situation, and try to clothe ourselves in that action or feeling, we will react more like Him, and less like our meager selves. In that way, Christ is acting through us, and we become more than ourselves. There’s a reason that the “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets were so popular years ago.
Here’s the thing: we absolutely know that this principle works. There are dozens of scientific studies about how smiling can actually make you happier, or how posing like a superhero can actually make you feel more confident. If I pretend that I am like Christ, and accept His guidance in my heart, then He will begin to act through me, and I will be closer to Christ. It’s just like practice.
I’ve found this in my own life as well. In particular, I tend to take notice of my actions or thoughts that are not Christ-like. I am consistently more mindful of moments where I flash to anger, or when I am being untrusting, or when I begrudge someone for something instead of being patient and forgiving. By simply being conscious of Christ’s influence in my life, I am becoming better at being who God wants me to be. By actively choosing to trust people as Christ did, or to forgive as He did, or show patience as He did, I am becoming more like Him, and He is with me.
This is a daily process, and it is hard work. Maybe someday it won’t be, and I’ll realize that the practice and this pretending and this mask has made me into something more beautiful than when I began: a true child of God.