Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes: Unmasking the Real Youby Brennan Manning, James Hancock
Be who God made you to be. Adapted for teens and students from Brennan Manning’s best-seller Abba’s Child, this book will help you see how God’s grace sets us free to be who we really are. No more games, no acts, no masks. Discover your identity in Christ and be set free.See more details below
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Be who God made you to be. Adapted for teens and students from Brennan Manning’s best-seller Abba’s Child, this book will help you see how God’s grace sets us free to be who we really are. No more games, no acts, no masks. Discover your identity in Christ and be set free.
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POSERS, FAKERS, & WANNABESUNMASKING THE REAL YOU
By BRENNAN MANNING JIM HANCOCK
TH1NK BooksCopyright © 2003 Brennan Manning and Jim Hancock
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCOME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE
Night. Ruller lies awake, listening to his parents in the next room.
"Ruller's an unusual one," his father says. "Why does he always play by himself?"
"How am I to know?" Ruller's mother says in the dark.
Ruller is Flannery O'Connor's creation; a small-town kid waking up to the world.
Day. Ruller chases a wild and wounded turkey through the woods. Oh, if only I can catch it, he thinks, and by golly he will catch it if he has to run right out of the state to do it. Ruller sees himself marching through the front door, the turkey slung over his shoulder and the whole family, amazed, shouting, "Look at Ruller with that wild turkey! Ruller, where did you get that turkey?"
"Oh, I caught it in the woods. Maybe you would like me to catch you one sometime."
But catching the wounded bird is harder than he thought. Another idea occurs to Ruller: "God will probably make me chase that damn turkey all afternoon for nothing." He knows he shouldn't think that way about God-but it's how he feels. And who can blame him if that's the way he feels?
Ruller trips and falls and lies there in the dirt, wondering if he's unusual.
Suddenly the chase is over. The turkey drops dead from the gunshot wound that crippled it. Ruller hoists the bird on his shoulders and starts a victory march toward home, right down the center of town. He remembers his thoughts about God before he got the turkey. They were pretty bad, he guesses. This is probably God getting his attention, stopping him before he goes wild like his brother. "Thank You, God," he says. "You were mighty generous."
He thinks maybe the turkey is a sign. Maybe God wants him to be a preacher. Ruller wants to do something for God. If he saw a poor person on the street today, he would give away his dime. It's the only dime he has, but he thinks he would give it to that person for God.
Ruller is walking through town now, and people are knocked out by the size of his turkey. Men and women stare. A group of country kids trail behind him. "How much do you think it weighs?" a man asks.
"At least ten pounds," Ruller says. "How long did you chase it?"
"About an hour," Ruller replies.
"That's really amazing."
But Ruller doesn't have time for chitchat. He can't wait to hear what they say when he gets that turkey home.
He wishes he would see someone begging. He would, for sure, give them his only dime. "Lord, send me a beggar. Send me one before I get home." And he knows for a fact God will send him a beggar because he is an unusual child.
"Please, one right now," Ruller prays-and the minute he says it, an old beggar woman heads straight toward him. His heart stomps up and down in his chest. He springs at the woman, shouting, "Here, here!" He thrusts the dime into her hand, then dashes off without looking back.
Slowly his heart calms and he feels something new-like being happy and embarrassed at the same time. Ruller is flying-him and God's turkey.
This is when Ruller notices the country kids shuffling up behind him. He turns generously to face them: "Y'all wanna see this turkey?" They stare. "I chased it dead. See, it's been shot under the wing."
"Lemme see it," one of the boys says. Then, incredibly, the boy slings the bird over his own shoulder, hitting Ruller in the face with it as he turns. And that's that. The boys saunter away with God's turkey.
They are a block away before Ruller even moves. As they disappear in the falling dark, Ruller creeps toward home, breaking into a run. And Flannery O'Connor ends Ruller's remarkable story with the words: "He ran faster and faster, and as he turned up the road to his house, his heart was running as fast as his legs and he was certain that Something Awful was tearing behind him with its arms rigid and its fingers ready to clutch."
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." A. W. Tozer wrote that, talking about how people project their opinions about God onto the world. He was asking those of us who believe in God-which is most of us-what God it is we believe in. Good question.
A lot of us think what Ruller thinks about God. The God we believe in is Someone who gives a turkey with one hand and takes it away with the other. The giving is a sign that God cares about us. We feel close to God when we get what we want, and it makes us feel generous too. So everybody wins, right?
The story is different when we lose a turkey-it's a clear sign of rejection. We look for a reason. Where did I go wrong? Why is God angry with me? Is God trying to teach me something?
Most of us never say it out loud or even dare think it for long, but losing a turkey makes us think God is unpredictable, bad-tempered, mean, unfair. Those thoughts drive us away from God, deeper into ourselves. Now God is a bookkeeper counting every false step, every mistake, every screwup, and holding them against us. God is a grudge-holder who gets back at us by snatching family, friendship, health, money, contentment, success, and joy right out of our hands.
Losing a turkey makes us think God is unpredictable, bad-tempered, mean, unfair.
But then we think, Who can blame God? Seriously. Just look at me-LOOK AT ME! I'm a mess. I never should have gotten the turkey to begin with. If it hadn't dropped dead in front of me, I wouldn't have.
So we project onto God our worst attitudes and feelings about ourselves. As someone famously remarked, "God made us in his own image and we have more than returned the compliment." If we feel hatred for ourselves, it only makes sense that God hates us. Right?
No, not so much.
It's no good assuming God feels about us the way we feel about ourselves -unless we love ourselves intensely and freely with complete wisdom and never-ending compassion. If the Christian story is true, the God who shows his love for us everywhere, in everything, expresses that love completely and finally in what Jesus did for us. Deal done-can't add to, can't subtract from it. Any questions?
Well, yes. As a matter of fact we have quite a few questions. These declarations about God's love are a lot easier for Christians to say-especially to others-than to actually believe. Julian of Norwich put her finger right on the bruise when she wrote: "Some of us believe that God is almighty and can do everything; and that he is all-wise and may do everything; but that he is all-love and will do everything-there we draw back. As I see it, this ignorance is the greatest of all hindrances to God's lovers." Where do we think we are going when we draw back from God?
The tiny gods we worship when we draw back from the true God are idols we've made to look just like us. It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are-and not in spite of our sins and faults, but in them and through them. As Anne Lamott sees it, "The secret is that God loves us exactly the way we are and that he loves us too much to let us stay like this, and I'm just trying to trust that." She makes two things plain here: God won't stop working on us until the job is complete AND God doesn't hold back his love because there is evil in us. Not now, not ever.
One night a friend asked his handicapped son, "Daniel, when you see Jesus looking at you, what do you see in his eyes?"
After a long pause, the boy replied, "His eyes are filled with tears, Dad."
Now it was his father's turn to hesitate: "Why, Dan?"
An even longer pause. "Because he is sad."
"And why is he sad?"
Daniel stared at the floor. When he looked up, his eyes were rimmed with tears. "Because I'm afraid."
Wow. It's not supposed to be like that. God never meant for us to be afraid. "There is no room in love for fear," John says. "Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life-fear of death, fear of judgment-is one not yet fully formed in love." It breaks God's heart that we are afraid of him, afraid of life, afraid of each other, afraid of ourselves.
So we do everything in our power to remain self-absorbed, self-sufficient, self-satisfied. "Better the devil you know," the saying goes, "than the angel you don't."
It breaks God's heart that we run from him instead of to him when we fail.
It breaks God's heart that we run from him instead of to him when we fail.
For an alcoholic, a "slip" is a terrifying experience. The physical and mental obsession with booze comes like a flash flood in a place everyone thought was high and dry. When the drunk sobers up, he or she is devastated.
This is not academic. I'm an alcoholic. My life was ruined by alcohol abuse and restored by the relentless tenderness of Jesus. When I relapsed, I faced two (and only two) options: surrender again to guilt, fear, depression, and maybe death by alcohol; or rush back to the arms of my heavenly Father.
Here's the thing: It's no trick to feel loved by God with our lives together and our support systems in place. Self-acceptance comes easy when we feel strong.
But what about when we lose control? What about when we do wrong or fail to do right, when our dreams shatter, when the people we love don't trust us, when we disappoint even ourselves? What about when we are no better than the people we always looked down on? What then?
Ask someone who's just gone through a breakup, a lost friendship, or her parents' divorce. Does she have it together now? Does she feel secure? Worthy? Does she feel like a dearly loved child of Abba, or did she lose the sense of God's love when she lost control? Does she experience God's love when everything feels broken or only when things are good-only when she's good?
God is not shocked when we fail. No more than a mother is stunned by her toddler's stumbling and falling and getting into fixes he can't get out of. Julian of Norwich wrote, "Our Lord does not want his servants to despair," however often and however hard we tumble because, "our falling does not hinder him in loving us."
That's hard to believe. People like us are skeptical about that kind of thing. We believe there must be a catch. And if it's difficult to get our minds around, it's even harder to truly accept in our deepest hearts. We're so timid (or is it proud?) we can hardly bring ourselves to ask for the mercy we need. Not because we hate God and not because God hates us, but because we hate ourselves.
Get this if you don't get anything else: The spiritual life begins with accepting God's wholehearted love for our wounded, broken, surly, frightened, sorry selves. There is no other starting point.
God calls us every one to come out of hiding. God calls us back from wherever we went running for our lives, calls us back home. God is the love-crazed father at the window, waiting for a lost boy to come to his senses, gazing down the road for a sign of his return, now running to meet and embrace and more-than-half-carry his kid the last mile so they can start all over, as if nothing bad ever happened between them, as if the party he intends to throw that very night is the celebration of his child's birth.
It's always been this way. Adam and Eve were ashamed when they disobeyed God, so they hid themselves. And one way or another, they've been role models ever since. Why? Because we hate being seen for what we truly are, which has almost nothing to do with being as bad as we could possibly be and almost everything to do with failing to be all we could be and should be-what we aspire and maybe even pretend to be.
We know the truth-or at least much of the truth-about ourselves, and it's not all that pretty. Our way of dealing with the ugliness is mainly misdirection: Hey, look how ugly that guy is! Look at all the things I don't do! Our solution is faking it, taking cover when we lose our nerve-hiding out. Which is no solution at all.
Simon Tugwell wrote:
We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like.
Well, surprise! Whether anyone bothered to tell us this before, and whether we like it or not, God loves who we really and truly are. God calls us, as God has called everyone since Adam and Eve, to come out of hiding just as we really and truly are. No amount of spiritual cosmetology can make us more presentable to God-God buys us in an As-Is condition and says, "I've been looking for you! I have just the place for you!"
If what God says is the truest thing about us, then it makes sense to follow him and accept our As-Is condition as the starting point. Thomas Merton said, "The reason we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with God is that we so seldom acknowledge our utter nothingness before him." If we confess the truth about ourselves, there's every reason to fear God will say, "Yeah, that's right; and another thing..." and we're fairly sure there will always be another thing. We are like people afraid to tell the doctor where we really hurt because we fear we may be sicker than we think.
We are sicker than we think. We're dying and, crazily, running from the healer because we're ashamed, because we hate ourselves for all we are and all we're not.
God, who spoke us into existence, speaks to us now: "Come out of self-hatred into my love. Come to me now," he says. "Forget about yourself. Accept who I long to be for you, who I am for you-your Rescuer-endlessly loving, forever patient, unbearably forgiving. Stop projecting your sick feelings onto me. You are a broken flower-I will not crush you-a flickering candle-I will not extinguish you. For once and forever, relax: of all places, you are safe with me."
For once and forever, relax: of all places, you are safe with me.
One of the most shocking contradictions among Christian people is the intense dislike we have for ourselves. We are more disgusted and far less tolerant about our own weakness than we would dream of being with someone else. David Seamands saw it like this:
Satan's greatest psychological weapon is a gut level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, and low self-worth. This feeling shackles many Christians, in spite of wonderful spiritual experiences and knowledge of God's Word.
Excerpted from POSERS, FAKERS, & WANNABES by BRENNAN MANNING JIM HANCOCK Copyright © 2003 by Brennan Manning and Jim Hancock. Excerpted by permission.
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