“If I climb to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Hell, you are there!” Psalm 139:8
I stumbled across this phrase “Flee from Phoniness” a few weeks ago.
And as I chewed over it, I recalled the desperate search of Holden Caufield in The Catcher and the Rye. This adolescent was desperately seeking people but kept stumbling into the adult world of phoniness. He was lonely and lost due to the phoniness he witnessed:
One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window…I can’t stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy.
Holden fled from phoniness.
Could you imagine his status updates if Holden had a Facebook account? Facebook has become the highlight reel of our phony existences.
And Christian music its soundtrack.
As Bono and Eugene make their way across the internet, the statement that has stuck out to me was Bono’s desire for Christian musicians to write and sing about the brokenness of real life. This is why I flee from 91.9 and other Christian music. The voice of the broken; the desire of the hungry; the longing of the seeking can be much better heard in the lyrics of Dave Matthews, Mumford & Sons, and The White Buffalo.
Interestingly, this is what the book of Psalms provides us. They are prayers; they are pleas from a desperate man’s heart; he is needy; he is fleeing from all phoniness. The psalms are our heart’s longing for authenticity. They are an invitation to draw closer to God through prayer.
See, God never calls us from something without calling us to something. So while we flee from phoniness, what is it our heart is being drawn towards? As I heard a man in recovery beautifully articulate: “When you hit rock bottom, you crave authenticity.”
This is what Holden was hungry for. This is what we are all hungry for. Authenticity.
Prayer is the chance for us to flee from phoniness. In prayer we open ourselves to God and discover the depth of a love that will not reject us. We expose our sinfulness, and discover that the one person—the holy and perfect God—who should look at the mess we have made and run in horror decided not to do that. Instead He chases after us, bows down to pick up the burden of our sin, and takes them upon his shoulders on the cross. Rising with his last breath to scream out to his father in utter pain: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. His cry shattering the phony world that pretends like life makes sense, seems fair, and is under our control.
To Follow Christ is to flee from phoniness.
I began to pray and memorize Psalm 139 this morning.
I would warn you…stop reading now, if you desire to keep living your phony life. If you’d rather pretend that the highlight reel is real. If you want to keep up the facade then go find something else to read.
But if you are ready to peel below the surface. To drill into your heart, and hit rock bottom. To dive into the depths and darkness of who you are, and who God is.
Then pray this Psalm aloud. Pause between each line. Reflect. Chew on it. Write this Psalm down on a card to read on the drive into to the office. Pull it out over lunch. Place it atop of your briefcase, lunch box, purse. Look at it while you pick up the TV remote. Whisper it as your head hits the pillow.
Search me, O God
And know my heart
And know my anxious thoughts
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way of everlasting life.
Allow God to search your life—to peer into that closet you have kept locked from everyone, including your spouse. Let Him take a spotlight into the dusty corners, the hidden drawers, the locked boxes. Open your calendar, your browser history, your liquor cabinet, your checkbook…
Invite God to know your heart—the anger and the hatred you harbor there. Let Him know what you long for, what you truly desire.
Test God to test you…and see who wins. Push on Him, so He can push back. The difference between 14 and 24 karat gold is how many times it has been through the fire to be tested and purified…see if your heart can withstand that heat.
Having felt that scorching heat, let God know your thoughts. Tell him the anxious things that keep your pulse elevated, that cause you to toss and turn at night. Let Him hear the guilt and the shame that shroud you. What are the thoughts that distract you; the “if they only knew” thoughts. Tell Him.
In fact, show Him. Take God down your path…the way you want to go. Show Him the imagined future you have constructed. The path you have drawn. The way where sin and fun and frivolity abound. Take him to the windows you daydream through, and the mirror you primp before. Let Him see those stolen glances, the lust that emerges; the way you drink for distraction, and the escape of pornographic fantasizes. Show him the well-trod rut you have created in your life.
And then, when the burden seems too great. The darkness too dark. The embarrassment too much. Turn back to Him, exhausted, stick out your hand and beg that he would lead you in a new way towards life…life in abundance.
Flee from the phoniness and find rest for your soul.
“Stand by the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
Don’t join the simple, the fools and the mockers who said, “We will not walk in it.”