Fake, Fraud, and On Empty


At times when I’m serving at church or encouraging a friend or writing some inspirational piece, I think —

If people knew how I really am, they’d run screaming.

Because I often feel like I’m compensating for the wrong I’ve done, and that there is never enough I can do to wash out my past. I think it’s all a desperate race to look good when I’m really still crooked inside, and any second now I’ll be exposed and pay the penalty and everyone can say, I always knew something was wrong with him.

I wish there was a magic bullet for this: but the itch never goes away. It’s a constant anxiety that others might pull off the mask and see I was just a fake the whole time.


Very often I end up telling others what I want to be more true for myself, and I push my own crushing mold of perfection onto hapless bystanders.  It’s sort of a vicarious vampire-like narcissism.  My pulpit becomes a venue of emotional catharsis.  I exorcise my own demons by speaking about them in a subversive reverse-humility, as if I am past them: but I’m not. 

In an ethos where we are largely built on performer’s paranoia, it’s easy to operate out of spiritual gifts while having zero interior connection to God’s grace.  We can be completely void and bankrupt of any depth while speaking eloquently on a blog or a church platform.  Inside though: we are silently collapsing inward, deflating on the daily pressure to perform.  We run on empty and ignore the meter.  

You know how it is. 

You lead praise and genuinely get people close to God, but backstage you’re angry with your band members and lusting after the keyboardist and your prayers are mumbles. 

You teach a Bible study or guest-speak somewhere and people are really moved, but really you’re speaking way ahead of your own spiritual life and secretly you think maybe if you move enough people, you will actually catch up to what you’re telling them to do. 

I preach and people get saved and they cry and recite the sinner’s prayer, but inside I’m detached from what I’m seeing and saying and I wish I could be just as excited as they are, and I’m just barely skimming my abilities as a speaker but not alive as a herald burning with any power from the Word. 


I wish I could wrap this up for you with a happily-ever-after — but it doesn’t always end that way. 

Some of us are about to crash, or have.  Many of us do not finish strong, because we neglected the inner-truth of our spiritual well-being and fed on the applause instead.  We fed on blog hits and reblogs and quoting great quotes, instead of nourishing our soul from the Only One who can.  We allowed our past and secret wrongs to choke us into a compensatory guilt that never ends.

All I can do for now is cling onto God’s mercy by the barest edge of my fingernails.  I will love Him anyway.  I can trust Him, even with the tiniest sliver of faith, that He is good and will work things for good, and the fog will part again soon.  I will serve anyway, by grace.

— J.S.

4 thoughts on “Fake, Fraud, and On Empty

  1. This is what transparency is all about. If we were willing to teach that everyone’s a mess – including the teachers – this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, the average sheep has come to expect their shepherd to be ‘above’ them somehow in moral standing. This is rarely the case.

    My husband always says, “If you want to know what a pastor is struggling with, just listen to what he’s preaching against.” He’s right about 9 times out of 10 (and he’s a pastor himself, of a sort). What we judge we do, is the short version of Paul’s N.T. warnings. It would behoove leadership to come clean about their struggles. But it could cause an uprising of the sheep – no one can bite like a lamb, I know from experience.

    Thanks for the reminder that we’re all a mess! 🙂 God bless, J.S.


  2. Praying for you to be refueled. Your utter honesty is very uplifting because we often think our leaders aren’t struggling the same as us. More often than not, the leaders are struggling more because they are bearing the weight of their own personal struggles and the struggles of the flock.


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