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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Facade or the Real Thing?
By Anita van der Elst


A favorite game of mine at my teenage slumber parties was charades. I’d insert scenarios I’d written on slips of paper into balloons. We batted the balloons around until the timer rang. Then we grabbed the closest balloon and popped it. Whatever slip of paper was released was the charade we acted out.

My adult children love Pictionary, charades in drawing, electing to play this when we’re together at holidays; it’s become our Thanksgiving tradition. Although I love playing, I seldom win. My kids either dread teaming up with me or have pity on poor old Mom whose drawings resemble inkblots. We’ve noticed that when my identical twin boys team up they always win. All one has to do is draw a single line and the other one knows the answer! Then we hum the “X-files” theme.

I’ve encountered a form of charades in church life that is not so pleasant. One such charade played out when I was in my teens.

My younger sister and I went to a Bible conference in which our church participated, in a city fifty-five miles away. Since I did not have my driver’s license yet, we rode with another family to the home of the friends we stayed with for the weekend. This meant we needed a ride home afterwards.

An elder and his wife from our local church offered us the needed ride. I was leery because I’d often heard disapproving words from them towards and about my family. But they were smiling and congenial. I decided to take it as the thoughtful, kind act it seemed.

The hour I spent in the back seat of their fancy car was one of the longest I’ve ever endured. My sister fell asleep with her head in my lap while I underwent non-stop nitpicking, criticism and harsh scolding. Their main complaint was that I didn’t attend the mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting regularly.

I explained that my time was limited what with school homework, rehearsals for the school play, baby-sitting and weekly candy-striping duties at a local hospital. This became fodder for more scolding. After all, they said, Bible study and prayer were far more important than these activities. I had no argument as to the importance of both but was given no opportunity to voice my own questions. I wanted to ask, was sitting silent for two hours, since women were not allowed to speak during any church meeting, more important than being involved in my community and making my best efforts at school? Would God judge me harshly for non-attendance at meetings? Would He not more likely be pleased with me ministering to and interacting with others as a person who loved Him and was loved by Him? And did I not just spend three days listening to teachers who taught from the Bible, not to mention my own personal Bible study?

Unfortunately the atmosphere in that car and in this particular church did not match up to what I heard taught from and continued to read in the Bible. It looked pretty good from the outside—people attending every time the doors of the building were open, carrying their Bibles, even opening and reading them. But as I entered adulthood I saw past the empty, deceptive exterior, remembering what I’d seen inside their homes and experienced in my own. Sadly abuse, physical, emotional, verbal and sexual, was all too common. Grasping control over others rather than respecting them seemed to be the focus within the leadership. That one car ride was no exception.

What a blessing it has been in the years since then to find many other believers who live and speak the way Jesus taught, and who allow Jesus to live through them. As I’ve grown in my walk with God, he has led me through the process of forgiving the hurts and the hurtful. God has used what I experienced there as a steppingstone, creating in me the desire as his well-loved child, to reflect my respect for others in my attitude and behavior. My goal is to keep in line with what Paul taught Timothy when he said, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”* With that as a guide, no one will have to guess whether the act offered is a façade or the real thing.

(*1 Timothy 1:5, New Living Translation)

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This article has been read 612 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Heather Sargent08/21/08
How sad that this is a common occurrence in our churches. I just get so upset when I hear this going on. Good job bringing this topic to light again.
Robyn Burke08/21/08
Thanks be to God for Grace! I am so glad the hurts of the past are healed by the touch of our heavenly Father. This story serves as a good reminder, the importance of closely examining the religious institutions we belong to. It must break God's heart to see the things that happen in our churches today.
Well written; the emotions that propelled the story were clearly felt.
Marlene Austin08/22/08
Nicely written personal narrative. Good devotional. Thanks for sharing. :)
Jan Ackerson 08/22/08
How unfortunate that this happened, and continues to happen in some churches today. This was well-written.
Patrick Whalen08/22/08
Though it is unfortunate, I believe we all encounter similar charades throughout our lives. I'm glad that you have been able to see through it to the true beauty of God.
Lisa Keck08/22/08
This is well written and one of the reasons I read--to learn about things I have not experienced. Of course, in this case I am thankful but I know it is an area I can pray about and that there's a need to examine my motivations. Good job.
Lisa Keck08/22/08
This is well written and one of the reasons I read--to learn about things I have not experienced. Of course, in this case I am thankful but I know it is an area I can pray about and that there's a need to examine my motivations. Good job.
Patty Wysong08/26/08
Thank God for the living churches that are full of God's love and forgiveness!