Monday, September 2, 2013

Behind the Curtain - Pretenders And Powerplays

One of my all time favorite movies has to be The Wizard of Oz. I grew up in Kansas and I remember watching it from an early age. Every October the local TV station played the iconic film ("back in the day" before DVR and Netflix). With the recent release of Oz: The Great and Powerful, I pulled out the classic once more. There is no comparison, in my humble opinion.
There are so many great parts, it is hard to select one over the other. However, there is one striking scene toward the end of the movie. You may remember that Dorothy and her friends traveled great distances and faced severe and life threatening challenges along the way. They managed to get back to Oz, having fulfilled the condition the great Wizard set before them - kill the Wicked Witch of the West and bring back her broomstick. They arrived, expecting the Wizard of Oz to keep his part of the bargain - return Dorothy and her precious dog Toto to their home and family in Kansas.

As Dorothy and her friends stand, knees knocking and hearts trembling at the sound of the Wizards' mighty and ferocious voice, Toto begins to nip at a curtain off to the side. With one tug the veil is pulled back, revealing a man...a rather small, old, timid man. Having been found out, he confessed his identity - he is no wizard, just a nervous man - a man afraid of conflict, a poser who was so ashamed of his own being, he went to great lengths to prove to others he was not who he said he was. The whole city, the Emerald City, was founded on this impostor. He played the part of a Power-broker, pretending with every word he spoke.

As soon as the truth was out, he confessed his fear:

The conversation continues...

WIZARD Uh - now, please don't be angry with me. I'll - I'll do anything you say, only... only if you don't shout at me. It makes me nervous! 
SCARECROW It makes you nervous? 

Of course, this is just a movie. However, how many of us lead this kind of charade? Who am I...really? Is who I portray myself to be anything like the real me? If I am being honest, no. I get how the Wizard began his makeover. Fear of being found out takes over and a new and improved version of you gets displayed. Especially in Christian circles, appearances must be kept up. Don't talk about the job you just lost - people might thing you are a failure. Don't discuss the challenges you face with your kids - people will think you're a bad parent or worse, that your kids aren't perfect. The impostor takes over and in every area of our lives we the point of not knowing who we are anymore. We actually believe our own press, just like the Wizard. The whole town believed he was who he said he was.

Thankfully, there is an alternative. In the gospel we see the truth. The truth of what God says about us. 

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”
Brennan ManningAbba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

We don't have to define ourselves by what we can accomplish and how much power we have. We don't have to stay enslaved to the endless need to prop ourselves up and make ourselves look good - to God and to others. We can stop all the relentless sales pitches and get popular schemes. In a recent post entitled Grace and Personal Identity, Tullian Tchividjian writes:

"An identity based in the one-way love of God does not take into account public opinion or, thankfully, even personal opinion. It is a gift from Someone who is not you. As my friend Justin Buzzard wrote recently, “The gospel doesn't just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.” In other words, you are not who others see you to be, and you are not who you see yourself to be; you are who God sees you to be—His beloved child, with whom He is well pleased."

Hear the good news for worn out impostors.

Come from behind the curtain, and be free.


  1. So agree! Some people make life so much about keeping up appearances, and all they are doing is fooling themselves. I am happy that the only one I need to impress is our God and keep reminding myself that, every time I fall or fail!

    1. Donna, you are right - and I would put myself right in the middle of that! Everyday in a thousand ways I get caught up in pretense! The gospel reminds us we are free from all of that, thankfully. Thanks so much for stopping by!