Why do we pretend at church? Is it because we don’t really know how to do it? Sometimes pretending is a beneficial thing to do, especially if the goal is one of becoming. A child pretends to play parent, professions, and house. Pretending helps us along the way to the place where we no longer need to pretend, because we’ve become.
So, is that what this church thing is all about? Are we pretending on our pathways to heaven? Is this the place we play sinner, righteous, house, and profession?
Johnny runs the sound each Sunday because it’s his hobby. Joanne helps run a farm all week, but does the church’s books. Jared leads the junior high kids, but follows the leaders each week at work. Nancy leads the nursery. She lost her baby ten years ago.
Playing pretend together, we show up Sunday in smiles. Who wouldn’t? Playing pretend is fun. After wrestling children into clothes they hate wearing (and will only ruin with markers and glitter in Nancy’s nursery) we finally make it out of the house. The doors are open for us and a nice couple greets us as we enter. They seem to know us, but we probably don’t know them. “Good morning” has no name with it. A shake and a smile will work. We’ll pretend to know one another. That’s how it works in Pretendville.
We drop our kids off with Nancy and Jared and make our way to worship. We stop and recognize the blank name tags begging us for use. Was the nice couple that met us at the front door wearing these? Do we want people looking at our name tags? If they do, and we remember them, will we feel easy to forget? Would we feel more comfortable without the name tag? The visitors might think we’re visiting too, and a hand shake and a nameless “Good morning” will suffice. But, do we really want to tell another tagged and tenured person that we’ve been going here for three years, then make up some excuse as to why they might not recognize us? Ah, it’s all pretend anyway. It’ll be fun role-playing.
Then, it hits one of us. We forgot to write the check. That Joanne lady probably talks about us during the week. We see her with the pastor’s ear.
We forgo the nametag. Fretting the collection plate, we scan through the bulletin to plan our escape while we sing the hymns. We sang four of them, but we were using our pretend voices.
We sit. The plate takes off at the front, and we sit patiently. A look is given to our spouse that informs them that we’ll be passing without dropping today. It’s the same look we’ve given before, and looking about Pretendville, others have mastered it too. This day, our spouse takes their pretending to a new level of excellence by saying, “You’ve got it,” audibly enough to be heard by the visitors and the tenured nearby. The words aren’t as important as the tone. It may be a question designed to confirm you have the check. Or, it may be an acceptance of a request you just made of them. Either way, you’re now on the hook. And you’ve got no droppings. Their noise has gained attention. Quickly, you demonstrate your degreed pretend status, “Here, I’ll help you.” You rise and follow.
In the restroom, you wipe the sweat from your face, wondering if the sweat ever pretends too, and how it relates to the other beads of its brethren streaming down your guilty face and renders your deodorant defenseless. You spend the proper pretend time of five minutes away, and without having synchronized your watches, your spouse exits their door just as you exit yours.
This pretending isn’t easy. Sure will be nice one day when we get to heaven and don’t have to do it any more. Or, maybe up there we’re so childlike that pretending actually works without all the guilt. Either way, we long to stop the sweating.
Today, that one pastor is preaching. You know, the dry one that knows a lot and teaches things and can’t quite pull off a joke up there. He too seems impacted by the sweats and fears of this place, and he’s a star in Pretendville.
Well, since he was preaching, I decided to come out here and write down these words. Need to wrap it up though. I can’t miss communion.
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