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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Imitation Exposed

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."
(Matthew 6:30)

For years, I admired my neighbor's flowerbeds.  Each season brought a new batch of cheerful colors - the beds just filled to the brim with mums, pansies, one-eyed-susans, and the like.  I'd drive by, admiring the beauty they lent to the front yard, all the while secretly desiring that my garden looked that beautiful.

Each season, I would head off to the local home store, peruse the many flats of perennials and come home with my trunk laden down with fresh soil, flowers galore, and an occasional blooming bush or two.  My back would ache and my body would cringe with each movement, my bank account taking a "hit" for the day's shopping, but my flowerbeds looked good!  Yet...not quite as good as my neighbor's!

What I did not realize was that my neighbor's beds were filled with "artificial" flowers!  It took me years to realize that!  One day, while taking a plate of cookies to their door near Christmas, I mentioned how beautiful her beds always looked.  Imagine my surprise when she told me that they were "fake".  To top it off, she bought them at the Dollar Store or Walmart specials!  They were not only "imitation" - but they were "cheap imitation"!

We live in a world today that has made imitation of almost everything available for us - often looking so real that we barely notice the difference (until we are up close).  There is imitation sweetener for our coffee.  For those of us that want the "sweetness" without the "cost" of the calories, we choose one of the many varieties of "imitation" sugar.  The thing is that we are choosing it not because it has value, but we don't want the "cost" of the calories to be realized in our lives.

There are imitation fingernails - everything from the stick-on type to the more expensive and elaborate sculptured nails.  They look so nice - equal lengths, neatly polished, and sometimes even with little designs painted on them.  The fact is that the same stubby, badly-bitten nails are still underneath there!  We can try to hide the reality with the imitation, but it is what is underneath the surface that matters.

I am intolerant to milk products, so I have to elect for an imitation coffee creamer, soy milk, and non-dairy ice cream.  Okay, don't get me wrong, they all taste good.  Yet, the fact is that the coffee creamer is really not the same as the real thing!  It lightens my coffee, but it is not as rich as the real thing.  The soy milk works well on my cereal, but I cannot make pudding from it - it just doesn't "set up" well.  It looks and tastes okay, but it doesn't have the full range of function as real milk.  The non-dairy ice cream satisfies a sweet tooth, but it is just not the same consistency as the real thing.  

The same is true anytime we want to present a "fake" image of being okay on the surface, concealing the hurts, failures, and disbelief that we hide so deeply underneath.  We are no better than fake fingernails - we are an illusion.  There is this "full-body armor" thing that is sold in stores for women of larger size - they call it a "body slimmer" or something of that nature.  I call it armor!  If you have ever tried to wiggle your extra pounds and unruly cellulite into one of those, you will know exactly what I am talking about!  The end result is that it "takes inches off your appearance" - but you never lose an ounce!  Take it off and you still look the same!

Periodically, God works on me to remove something in my character that I have been using as "full body armor" - something that gives me the appearance of looking one way, but underneath I am quite another.  All he is doing is asking for me to be "real" about who and what I am.  In fact, every time I remove a skillfully applied "mask", he uses it for his glory.  What I come to realize is that God fusses over my life when the masks are removed!  He cannot do as much as he'd like to until we get down to the "real" us.

Tonight, we will have "imitation crab" on our salads.  Don't get me wrong - there is absolutely nothing wrong with it!  It tastes fine!  Both have the same amount of fat, but the imitation stuff has more carbs and less potassium.  It is actually not the best choice of the two....but, it is more readily available, cheaper by far, and much easier to obtain.  Sometimes we approach the things God wants for us to have much in the same way - we want what is readily available, costs us very little, and is the easiest for us to get!

Isn't it time we look for the reality in life?