I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve found myself in this athletic family. Me, the non-competitor. I’ve been told I might just have what it takes and could possibly uncover an inner athlete if I tried hard enough. But when you don’t care who wins in the end, it’s sort of hard to put all that work into it. I know sports hold potential for life-lessons and discipline and virtue-building experiences. But truly, if you’re not a competitor at heart, you can find other ways to grow your character.
I hope you still like me.
There is one game, though, I played and mastered for years. It’s called the Pretend Game, and the only equipment you need is a mask. I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. It’s popular all over the world. You’re required to wear a huge smile, but if you want, your mask can do that for you.
There’s all sorts of reasons one joins, and the more you practice the better you get. And truly, the longer you’re in this game, the more you don’t realize you’re even playing. You can excel despite the baggage you carry, the baggage you can’t drop even if you wanted to.
Once you sign your name to the roster, it’s really hard to leave.
I was first made aware of the Pretend Game when I was 20 — even though I had played it for years. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I walked away from it all. Yes, it took me a decade to let action emerge from knowledge. And honestly, I didn’t walk away. I limped. And crawled. And wrestled myself into authenticity.
The shame of playing for years has kept me from reconnecting and facing reunions. How do you live in community with people who only knew you as a facade?
The freedom you taste after finally throwing in your mask is, well, indescribable. The world looks different. Your Redeemer looks different. But oh my goodness, unfortunately you look different, too. It’s terrifying, really.
When you look at yourself through the lens of truth, all you avoided and judged is wrapped up right there in your own little heart. Any fear you’ve had of the dark as a child envelopes you like never before, for when the night is in you, you can’t run away. You can’t just turn on the light. No, He actually reaches for you.
The God who spoke light into existence, saying, “Let light shine from the darkness,” is the very One who sets our hearts ablaze to shed light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus, the Anointed One. 2 Corinthians 4:6
And I know He created light at the dawn of history. I’ve seen it shine into the night and remove the shadow’s power. But my Redeemer, the miracle worker, He’s creating light from my darkness over and over. And the power that ugly facade had over my relationships and motives is broken as light is born, overcoming all that’s not true.
“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope,” promises Tim Keller.
I’m valued. I’m noticed. For God, the Creator, chose to pursue my heart and set it ablaze.
I risk, hopeful for redemption, as He sheds light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus.
Yes, He restores what is broken, but he creates new life, too, out of utter despair. From my darkness held in secret for years, He’s shining truth and mercy forever.
And like turning my face toward the sun in winter, I look to Him, anticipating another miracle rather than staying away in shame.
“Let light shine from the darkness,” says He who spoke light into existence.