Authored by Marie Story
Judy Garland, an American actress, once said something that I really like. She said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
While watching an old western movie, I noticed the structure of many of the buildings in the set. All along the main street of the town were tall storefronts hiding short buildings. The fronts looked nice, but they were just hiding the squat buildings in the back. The fronts were fake.
This wasn’t due to it being a movie set; it represented real life. Fake storefronts in the American Old West often hid a slapped-together building in the back. A lot of work went into making the front tall and impressive. Money was invested in glass windows, pretty paint jobs, and clever carpentry. Each business obviously tried to have the most impressive front. Banks, hotels, saloons, and stores built up their storefronts, hoping to attract more customers than their competition. Often the roof leaked and the wind whistled through the walls, but that wasn’t as important to people as having a pretty front. Ultimately, a fancy front was what brought the customers in.
Unfortunately, the false fronts were often the first thing to go when a storm came along. Glass was shattered, boards were ripped away, and paint was stripped—that’s if the whole front didn’t blow away altogether!
I went to a party with some friends not too long ago, and it struck me that so many of us do the same thing. We wear the right clothes, we say the right words, we put on the right smile, yet all the while we might be neglecting the rest of our “building,” so to speak, who we really are inside—our values, our character, our spirit. Fronts and appearances so often take precedence rather than what is more important: having a sound, solid structure—or rather, inner life—that won’t fall apart with the first heavy wind.
Maybe the reason some of us put up fronts is that we feel that we’re not good enough the way we are. We fear that we won’t be accepted just the way we are, so we try to make ourselves look better to others. We change things about ourselves—the way we walk, talk, act, or dress—just to get people to like us.
Sometimes we see others who seem to be popular, and figure that if we could be more like them, people would like us more and things would be better in our life. So we start copying stuff about them—his walk, her attitude, his style—until we become a replica of someone else rather than the unique version of ourselves.
Our fake storefronts put a pretty face on a life that might be hollow and empty—empty because we’ve put value on appearances rather than on something solid and lasting and of real value.
Wouldn’t it be better if we spent that energy investing in who we really are and were meant to be?
See, life isn’t about building a picture-perfect image to impress others. It’s about discovering the amazing gifts God’s given you and developing them to their full potential so that you can live your full potential. It’s about finding God’s purpose for you and living that to the max.
So what does it mean to do away with the false fronts and instead focus on having a strong house? Well, God made you just the way He wanted you, and He has given you a particular set of skills and gifts that He wants you to build on. Each moment you spend investing in what He’s given you, you’re investing in a strong and solid structure rather than just the pretty front. When you focus on improving your talents, you’re fortifying your house. When you read the Word and find ways to apply it to your life, you’re fortifying your house. When you make solid decisions based on what you know is right, you’re fortifying your house. When you help others, when you reach out to someone in love, when you stand up for what you believe in, you’re fortifying your house. When you spend time with Jesus and ask Him to help you manifest His qualities, you’re strengthening your house. One remodel at a time, one decision at a time, you’re fortifying your house.
In Psalm 139:14 King David praises God that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”(1) The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous!” That means that we were made to be awesome. It means that God did a great job the first time around. It doesn’t say “fearfully and wonderfully made if you change your hair style,” or “if you talk differently,” or “if you can get into that group of friends.”
Sure, it’s important to take care of yourself and your appearance. It’s important to be well groomed and well dressed. The fact of the matter is, nine times out of ten, people will judge you based on your appearance, so you can’t neglect it. But the point I’m making is that there’s more to life than appearance. While we need to groom our outer person, we also need to invest time grooming our inner person. Jesus once told the Pharisees, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”(2) That’s quite a gruesome picture, huh? But the point He was making was that it wasn’t enough to look good on the outside, whether in appearances or in actions. The inside man had to be clean and beautiful as well.
The question we probably all need to ask ourselves is, “How do I look on the inside?”
In order to discover that, you may need to ask yourself some more questions, like, “What are my values; what are those things that are important to me, and do I uphold them and try to live by them?” Things like standing up for the underdog, or not gossiping about others or ridiculing them, or taking time to pray for yourself and others, etc. Another question might be, “What are my main topics of conversation?”—Because what is in your heart is what you’re apt to talk about. Or, “When was the last time I invested time in someone else?” Or, “When was the last time I spent time with Jesus and asked Him to change an aspect of my nature to make it more like His?”
What do you think would happen if we all dropped our false fronts? What would happen if we quit worrying so much about “looking” good and instead focused on doing good? What would happen if each one of us decided to be just the person God created us to be? What if we stood up and decided to be an absolutely first-rate version of ourselves, and quit worrying about trying to be like anyone else?
When life throws difficulties and curveballs your way, what are you going to be left with? Are your false fronts going to be torn away, exposing a sad, hollow shell? Or is your house going to stand strong, facing up to any wind and rain because you know you’ve built well?
I want to challenge you to put the materials God’s given you to use to create a house that is not only beautiful on the outside, but strong, and solid, and clean on the inside as well.
1 King James Version
2 Matthew 23:27 (NIV)
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright © 2011 by The Family International