By Casey Ewen Avenriep
Why is it so difficult for me to be authentic, to admit failure, to boldly defy worldly standards, and to cry out to God for help in the process?
My life is a walking contradiction. My inward dialogue sounds something like this: I’m a follower of Christ who has experienced His redemptive touch. I’m … (gasp!) self-seeking and superficial. I have no rational reason for these contradictory realities. To openly confess this feels as if I swallowed an entire apple … and it settled in my throat.
Why is it so difficult for me to be authentic, to admit failure, to boldly defy worldly standards, and to cry out to God for help in the process? Could it be that I desire acceptance more than I do obedience? Surely God’s peace and eternal presence are far more pleasing than temporal pursuits and pleasures. Yet my superficial lifestyle says otherwise.
The depth of my conundrum hit me while reading Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy (Zondervan). Since then, I’ve explored the reasons why I’ve routinely layered my life with thin coats of something shiny, hoping to hide my pain and past experiences — and ultimately to gain accolades from others.
Recognize Fake Perfection
Willard and Locy explain that we veneer in order to conceal our true selves from the world. Some of us embrace the deceit because we’re too embarrassed to be seen, too afraid to fail, or too self-indulgent to care. Others have lived under a thin sheet of fallacy for so long that their true identity is completely unknown to them. (Guilty!)
“We use a veneer to cover over ourselves, hoping others will perceive us as having greater worth, as being more beautiful and perfect than we feel inside” Willard and Locy explain. “Most of the time, we aren’t aware we’re doing it; our culture is so glossed over with the sheen of fake perfection that we unknowingly comply.”
After slathering on layer after layer of heavy-duty shellac, I now realize how many people I’ve pushed away, how many painful memories I’ve suppressed, how many faults I’ve tried to hide — hoping no one would notice the difference. But, truth be told, my veneer has covered up the features that make me unique.
It’s time to strip off my veneer and put an end to my paradoxical lifestyle. I’m more determined than ever not to be conformed to this world. I want to live the unveneered life: one marked by consistency, authenticity, loyalty, and simplicity.
Far too many Christians are shallow and self-absorbed.
Acknowledge Faults and Flaws
According to Willard and Locy, admitting fault is the first step in stripping the façade of fake Christianity. Far too many Christians are shallow and self-absorbed. I’ve been one of them for too long. What’s more frightening is that few would immediately recognize these defects in me — not because I’ve done such a terrific job of disguising my flaws and covering up my failures but because the high-gloss surface hides the supernatural core of who I am in Christ — the one clear distinction that sets me apart from the world.
That’s why living the veneered life hardens Christians relationally and spiritually. We get consumed with self, consumed with stuff, consumed with activity, and as a result, we’re unable to find the zeal in living — and dying — for the cause of Jesus Christ. We harden into a bunch of ineffectual phonies, faking happiness like we have it all together and pretending to care about the well-being of others. Without the evidence of anything real or sincere in us, we’re no different than the fallen world. The only way to begin anew is through confession: acknowledging our faults and flaws. Not faking it, but faithing it.
Defy the DIY Urge
If we’re humble enough to acknowledge our character flaws, the next question is, how do we fix them? Ironically, asking this is one of the reasons we got stuck in the veneer mess in the first place. We’re conditioned to turn to self-help quick-fix schemes. But Do-It-Yourself (DIY) doesn’t work. Jesus Christ must do the work in us. I can’t fix me and I certainly can’t fix you, but the Master Carpenter can.
Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. ”
Jesus Christ is waiting patiently for an invitation to refinish our uniquely marred and perpetually flawed surfaces. The Carpenter’s hands are working worldwide even now. He lovingly chips away at us with a divine purpose in mind: complete restoration. We must resist the urge to do it ourselves and allow Jesus to work in us.
Seek Total Restoration
Anyone who’s ever attempted to give an old piece of furniture new life knows that the process of stripping wood is arduous. Although it’s tempting to slop a layer of paint directly on the old surface, the proper method is stripping the existing layers first. The more layers beneath the surface and worse the condition, the more time-consuming the process — consequently, the more surprising the renovation. To see the natural wood grain through the new finish, the old layers of varnish and paint must be completely removed. Isn’t this process of stripping wood just like how Christ renews His beloved creation? Complete restoration means living in the fullness of all God created us to be. “Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).
Our role in this restoration project is simple: surrender. Clear the way and prepare the surface for the Master Carpenter to do His transforming work. From a practical standpoint, this means removing distractions and eliminating all that keeps us from God. The unveneered life means removing the focus from ourselves and fixing our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Jesus Christ is waiting patiently for an invitation to refinish our uniquely marred and perpetually flawed surfaces.
Embrace the Beauty of Imperfections
But the process doesn’t end here. The Christian life is a process of returning to the wood shop again and again, where the one true Craftsman can turn us on His lathe and transform us into new creations. Through various grits, God can work through our veneer issues until the desired smoothness is perfected. When all high-gloss pretense is stripped away, there should be less of us and more of Him (John 3:30).
We can be confident that even after we’re converted and become new creations in Christ, the process of becoming new is ongoing. Because of His skilled handiwork, becoming beautiful works of art is attainable every day.
Melody Box is a small-business owner, the wife of a former pastor, a mother of three children, and a true spiritual mentor to me. She loves to study and teach God’s Word and has a knack for just telling it like it is. Her wisdom comes from a lifetime of experiences.
She tells me, “Casey, quit looking in the mirror and focusing on your own insecurities. Quit comparing yourself to other people. Practice putting on God’s truth every time you look in the mirror. Don’t even consider what others may see when they look your way. What does it matter, anyway? What matters is what God says about you in His Word.”
The Bible tells us we are His creation, holy and dearly loved, created in His image, “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Your reflection in His mirror is flawless, as is mine. He thinks we’re perfect. He sees us as radiant. He calls us friends. We are His treasures. We are chosen. We are a royal priesthood. We are an heir. We are forgiven. We are deeply loved.
Steven Furtick is pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in America. In his blog post “You Already Have It,” Furtick writes, “God’s acceptance isn’t based on your performance. It wasn’t for Jesus. And because of what He did for you, it isn’t for you either.” Furtick outlines the truth of the gospel, based on a passage in Galatians 4:5-7. He says, “The acceptance Jesus had, you have. The love He unconditionally received, you unconditionally receive. Yes, Jesus was the Son of God. But through Him, you are a child of God with the same privileges.”
“God’s acceptance isn’t based on your performance.” — Steven Furtick
Furtick explains that many Christians spend a lifetime trying to achieve something Jesus already achieved for them. Jesus had the acceptance and unconditional love of God the Father. The same is true for us. We don’t have to impress God; we have nothing to give that could wow Him anyway. All that we have, He has given us. All that we are, He has gifted us.
Surrender to Self
In my self-surrender, I invited the Master Carpenter to peel back the layers and I saw the absurdity of living by worldly standards. I recognized how shallow faking-it really is, especially for a believer whose life is hidden in Christ. Colossians 3:3 reminded me, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.”
During this process, Jesus Christ scraped away the counterfeit confidence that hid my self-doubt. Layer by layer, He stripped me of the inadequacies I felt as a wife, mother, writer, leader, and speaker. Then He scraped away the phony cheerfulness that masked my depression and anxiety. Finally, the conscientious Craftsman gave me a protective topcoat — a healing and sealing oil. The best part is, He continues to refine my character, reveal my inner beauty, and polish my surface so the natural glow of Jesus Christ shines though me.
Despite what our culture says, real worth, joy, contentment, pleasure, and eternal value are found in Christ alone. The apostle Paul learned early on in his journey of faith that when the veneer of the world is taken away, at the very center is Jesus.
Much like the wonderfully flawed appearance of imperfections in uniquely aged wood, the marks of time and the mistakes of my past actually improve my real worth and enhance my character. I’ve got nothing to conceal. My surface — and my sin — are finally exposed. Although I’m riddled with wormholes, gouges, dents, and natural blemishes, I’m far more beautiful — and far more valuable —than any shiny veneer overlay. •
Some of us embrace the deceit because we’re too embarrassed to be seen, too afraid to fail, or too self-indulgent to care.
In her lifetime, Casey Ewen Avenriep has experienced the fullness of God’s presence through times of great joy and unspeakable heartache. She’s committed to sharing about those experiences through her writing and her speaking and loves ministering to others who are searching — and finding — comfort in Christ during life’s deepest valleys. She and her husband, Brett, live in Fort Worth, Texas, with their 2-year-old son, Grayson.
This article originally appeared in the August, 2011 issue of Home Life. Subscribe