The Price of Pretending

My two-year-old son, Ty, is regularly confronted with a fork in the road. He’s learning how to navigate a certain question, one with serious implications – both for him and for us: do you have a dirty diaper?

When met with this question, Ty furrows his little brow, deciding whether he’d rather stop his playing for the needed change or just pretend nothing is wrong. His childish short-sightedness prevents him from grasping that there is a consequence (i.e., diaper rash) of pretending that everything is “just fine.”

In John 4, when Jesus engages the woman at the well, she confronts a similar scenario. In the glaring heat of midday, she encounters One who escorts her to a crossroads where, effectively, the same question emerges.

The woman, steeped in years of isolation and shame, seems, at first, to divert the conversation. But as she dashes back to her town, it is clear that she has begun to wrestle with her mess. She blurts out – likely to the very people who’d judged and avoided her for so long – that she’s met someone “who told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:29) As she wrestles with her troubles, she begins to understand the Messiah, and soon, others are coming to meet Him, too.

There are numerous factors that contribute to whether someone flourishes in their 20s. One that has enormous sway is courageous vulnerability. Trouble can be hidden completely or toyed with (though not dealt with) through “safe vulnerability.” But the price of pretending is high. Not fully engaging our mess with God and others robs us of deeper experiences of the gospel and can endanger what kind of “good news” we share with others. The beautifully good news is that He knows all about our mess and lovingly pursues us in the midst of it. The tragedy of pretending is that it keeps God at a distance and changes the news we share to something closer to the “gospel of sin management,” not the Gospel of redemption!

Each new day, we are met with a choice. Will we – as Ty is often tempted to do – insist on continuing to play amidst our troubles? Or, will we, like the Samaritan woman, take steps to engage with Jesus about our brokenness, our fears, our insecurities and our failures and so move towards deeper levels of gospel-freedom in Him? The Word and prayer, mentors and friends – these are often the first steps.


  • The Psalms! – Pay special attention to the “hard things.” David often says things that we easily gloss over.
  • John 4, John 11 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 – Look at the ways Jesus actively, lovingly meets us in the midst of brokenness (and helps re-define “success”).
  • The Gifts of Imperfection (Brene Brown)
  • God Moves in a Mysterious Way (hymn by William Cowper)
  • I Have Made Mistakes (song by The Oh-Hello’s)

Be refreshed.

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