There’s this idea out there that you can fake it till you make it. Do you lack confidence? Well, just act like you’ve got it and eventually you’ll have it. Hate public speaking? Just pretend you’re more assertive than you really are. Think you’re not a very good Christians? Well, just pretend like you’re one and everything will be okay.
You’d think it would be impossible to fake your way through the Christian life. After all, to be a Christian requires something impossible to truly fake—a miracle of God. And yet, some people, whether they’re legitimate Christians or not, seem to do it quite successfully… at least until a stiff wind blows the house of cards down (of which the examples are far too numerous). So why does this happen? To some degree, it comes down to the culture of our churches. If people believe there’s a certain way to be a Christian, then when they don’t meet that expectation, they’re either going to throw their hands up or try and fake it.
Nicholas McDonald’s seen enough of that—actually, he’s lived enough of it to know it doesn’t work. Yet from his earliest years, he “knew” faking it was the way to get ahead. He became what he called a human chameleon, trying to be whomever people around him expected him to be in order to win their approval. Which is a lot of pressure, as you can imagine. Eventually the pressure became too much and he couldn’t fake it anymore.
But when you’re so used to faking it, how do you figure out who you really are? This, friends, is why Faker exists. In this book, McDonald writes to teens who were once where he was: the kid who feels like the approval of others—whether friends at school or the leaders at church—but doesn’t know who they really are.
Identity: the big question
In other words, this book is, to some degree, an exploration of the question of identity—the big question we’re all trying to figure out when we’re teens (and often as adults, too). When I was a teen, you generally defined yourself by the music scene you were into, and whether or not you were into it before the bands in said scenes went mainstream (aka, “I was into them before they were cool/sellouts”). Today, it seems to be less about who you pretend to like, and more about who you’re pretending to be. We take endless selfies of the things we’re doing (instead of enjoying them). We post clickbait (like-bait?) updates so people will validate us. We invent a person who is like us but not us because the person we really are isn’t someone people will really like (or so we think).
But McDonald reminds his readers that this ugly approach to life just doesn’t work because when we’re faking it, “we’re living in constant fear: fear we wont’ measure up. Fear we can’t repeat our performance. Fear they’ll change their mind. Fear we’ll be stripped of our mask, and everyone will see us stark naked” (21).
The good news for fakers
The answer, of course, is not to try a different approach—another way of trying to justify ourselves in the sight of our fellow man. Instead, the answer is to turn to the God of the Bible, the God no one would ever make up:
He’s a God who’s over me, not a god who’s under my thumb. He’s a God who confronts me about my claim to the throne of my life.… God is the rightful, ruling and returning King of the world. (29, emphasis in original)
And through Christ, fakers receive so much the good news:
Whenever I’m tempted to think that my failures are devastating, or think I made myself successful, I can look to this truth: God, the King and Judge, is truly in control. Not me. He gives, and takes away. Whenever I’m tempted about pleasing people, I can remember: “These people don’t have ultimate power. God does. He controls my life, not them.” (31, emphasis in original)
Why is this good news? Because if Jesus rules and reigns, if God is the true king of the universe, then the only one we need to please is him. Not friends, not family, not teachers or people from church. Just him—and if we are his, then he is already pleased with us. He has brought us into his family; he has justified us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s a big deal—and the kind of stuff I wasn’t ready to hear when I was a teen (but I’m glad I know now).
A solid introduction to biblical truths
Faker is a really solid introduction to a number of key biblical truths. McDonald doesn’t shy away from words like “justification” and “propitiation”, and he provides helpful, basic definitions for the theological terms he employs. Some readers—say you’re a youth leader, or a parent looking for something to encourage a teen in your life—might use different language to define these words, but what McDonald provides is extremely helpful. In fact, I suspect there are more than a few adults who hear words like these bandied about, but don’t really ask what they mean because they don’t want to appear ignorant (and thus the cycle of faking continues).
Ultimately, what I see this book as a tremendous opportunity for parents and youth leaders to invest in their teens. McDonald’s writing is accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike, carefully avoiding assumptions about any reader’s standing with God. It is a book filled with good news—and if readers catch that, it’ll be a wonderful thing indeed.
Title: Faker: How to live for real when you’re tempted to fake it
Author: Nicholas McDonald
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2015)