“Come set me free. Inside this shell there's a prison cell.” - Jon Foreman, Switchfoot
Every time I see my friend and fellow FCA staff member, Ron, he always asks me the same question. It cuts through all the fluff and hits me in the gut. I should be ready for it, but it always takes me by surprise. He doesn’t ask the typical, “How are you doing?” Instead he asks:
“How’s your heart?”
Usually when someone asks, “How are you doing?” it is easy to simply reply, “Good, how are you?” However, Ron’s question demands a better response. “Good” doesn’t quite cut it. Unfortunately, many times when I’m asked how I’m doing, I take the easy route by faking it, and I tell people what I think they want to hear regardless of how I actually feel.
I’ve discovered it is easy to fake it and hard to be real—especially in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone in the world is struggling and dealing with a hard issue. Regret. Loss. Pain. Anxiety. Worry. Fear. However, when our life is all about performing, there’s a problem. For many of us, we’ve learned we need to perform or perish. Instead of taking a risk and being transparent, we play it safe and cover things up. We give easy, fake answers: “I’m good.”
We must look our best, live our best, be our best and perform our best. Regardless of what is going on in the world, we are expected to perform. We learn to not let the inside stuff affect the outside stuff. On the inside, we might be dying with problems, conflicts or struggles, but we are still expected to perform at a highest level as a spouse, parent, worker, leader, coach and friend. People are looking for answers, but we don’t have any. Certainty and clarity are gone in these crazy times. There are no COVID-19 experts because no one has experienced this before. We are trying to figure it out and find answers every day!
We fake it until we make it.
This performance mindset destroys authentic life and leadership. Life becomes a show. The frontstage (what we present to others) is the enemy of the soul. We want others to see us better than who we really are. This frontstage of our lives contradicts the backstage (our inside, or our true self).
Life becomes a daily show on the frontstage and our goal is to impress others. We want to show everyone we are doing better than everyone else. We want others to think the pandemic isn’t affecting us, just everyone else. The act is rehearsed and choreographed to bring pleasure to the viewing audience. A foundational principle of this frontstage is to impress at a distance.
The lie that drives our frontstage performance says that the more others like us, the less likely they are to discover our backstage, a place we pray nobody will ever discover. It has our pain, insecurities, weaknesses, wounds and sins. These are off limits to others, no one is allowed behind this curtain. This is what we hide, bury and keep in the dark—where it belongs. These things cannot make their way to our frontstage.
If the backstage is revealed, we think it will embarrass us and shock others.
The frontstage controls the backstage. However, deep inside we realize that as long as the frontstage is in control, we will live in bondage. Freedom is lost for the sake of protecting the backstage. We think we are fooling others, but we are actually fooling ourselves. We think that if the backstage ever becomes the frontstage, it would take too much work, cause too much pain, and bring way too much regret.
Unfortunately, we believe duplicity is easier than authenticity.
Is there hope for our backstage? Is transparency possible? Yes. It is found in pursuing wholeness of soul and letting the love of Jesus invade our hearts. This brings healing that is desperately needed in us and others! The backstage and frontstage get replaced by Christ’s stage. No more shows. No more pretending. When we sacrifice our image, it restores our hearts.
This is why FCA is such a powerful ministry. The world of sports knows the pressure to perform too well. Many coaches and athletes live on the frontstage their entire lives, and they never bring the backstage into the light. The constant expectation to perform creates a daily battle that rages within them, and this creates an enormous amount of inner tension. This is why we have over 2,000 staff and tens of thousands of volunteers who wake up every day with a mission to lead coaches and athletes into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. As a result, we are now ministering to over two million coaches and athletes in nearly 100 countries!
Ready. Set. Stop.
What we need to do is simple. Stop the show! God does not need our performances to advance the Kingdom of God. But He does need our hearts. He wants us to pursue one stage…Christ’s stage. Ignoring the backstage is the enemy of our soul, but Christ is the lover of our soul. He loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay the way we are!
“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” —1 Thessalonians 5:23
Stop performing. It’s time to get real and be honest about your backstage. We all have one. Tear down the curtain and let Christ reign in your life.
Father, help me move from duplicity to authenticity. No more frontstage performing and backstage hiding. Invade my heart because I want only Christ-stage living. Heal me of my pain from the fear, worry, anxiety and stress. God of peace, forgive me for wasting time on the wrong stage. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.