[S]upermodels are women we love to love and love to hate.
Some people love them for their beauty, elegance and glamorous appeal. Many dislike them for the same reasons. They somehow seem to perfect, to lofty, to unattainable. So we tend to either love them or dismiss them.
I can’t say I’ve met many supermodels. Only one really. And even then for just a minute. But the encounter surprised me.
The supermodel moment occurred at a book publishing convention in Los Angles. Many famous authors attended the event to sign copies of their latest best seller. I met Melissa the supermodel (not her real name) on the second day of the conference. She had come to promote an inspirational book about her spiritual journey with Jesus Christ. This intrigued me. Melissa is famous around the world as a model for fashion and fitness products. She is also an accomplished businesswoman and charity spokesperson. Though I had seen her picture on many magazine covers in grocery store checkout lanes, I didn’t know she was a writer or a believer in God.
As a big booklover, I would hate to pass up the chance to get an autographed first edition of any book. So, I joined the long line to meet the author. While waiting my turn, I had plenty of time to observe this supermodel interacting with others. Certainly Melissa was beautiful and professional, but her most striking feature was how personal she was. Every person she met received her undivided attention and interest. She took time to chat with fellow moms about her husband and two kids, she gave tips to aspiring models on advancing their careers, she signed magazine covers for ardent admirers, and discussed favorite charities with likeminded supporters. She even took time to praise the spiritual mentors in her life.
In my encounter, it was her courteous manner that caught my attention. As I stepped up to her autograph table, Melissa set her pen down, smiled kindly, reached out and shook my hand. While reaching for my hand she leaned way out over the table in a friendly gesture and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Melissa,” she said. Despite having one of the most recognizable names and faces on earth, she never assumed that I or anyone else knew her name or her fame.
Following her introduction, I responded in kind. “Hi Melissa, I’m Todd.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Todd,” she said politely. “May I sign the book to you or to someone else?”
“Please sign it to my wife, Jeannine.”
While personalizing the book, Melissa asked if my wife liked reading about the spiritual journey of life. I told her Jeannine did and she said, “I’m so glad to hear that.” Finishing the autograph she closed the cover, smiled brightly and offered the book to me with both hands. In many countries this is a symbol of respect. She ended by saying, “Thank you for stopping by, Todd. I really appreciate it. And I hope you and Jeannine enjoy the book.” Only as I turned to walk away did she shift attention to the next person in line.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like an extraordinary encounter. But the experience felt more personal than almost any other book signing I’ve attended (and I’ve attended quite a few).
Perhaps what surprised me most was how genuine Melissa came across. For a world famous celebrity she appeared remarkably grounded, approachable, and spiritual. A woman truly beautiful inside and out. I had convinced myself (perhaps unfairly) that as a fashion icon she would be fake, plastic, or syrupy sweet. Anything but a real human being.
Some may wonder if Melissa was putting on an act. Was she only being gracious to help promote her book? Was she simply turning on her star power to bluff a few more folks into buying her products? It’s possible—though it seems unlikely to me. She certainly appeared serene and sincere. And she genuinely seemed to care about the people she met.
Of course, I don’t know for certain Melissa wasn’t wearing a mask or playing a part that day. But what worries me more is that I often do.
In thinking through my own experience, I find I’m often guilty of hiding my true feelings and putting on a fake façade to fool others. Why do I do it? Many reasons I suppose, but mostly because I want to impress people to like me. I want to feel validated and approved of by others. Plus, what if I reveal what I’m really like and people disapprove. Rejection!
So I hide. I disguise what I really think, how I really feel, and what I’d really like to say. I put on a mask of social acceptability to gain public approval. Sadly, this strategy can backfire. For most people can spot a fraud in a heartbeat. And nobody likes a fraud.
But as unwise as that strategy may be, it’s even more tragic if I’m fake with God.
A phony front keeps me from finding true intimacy with God. I may long to feel loved and accepted by God but find a shallow relationship instead. Shallow because I am keeping him at arms length. I’m not allowing him to get close.
The solution? Get real with God. Be honest and up front.
If I’m angry with God, I need to tell him. If frustrated with life, don’t gloss over it. If sick of being phony, confess it openly. God doesn’t take offense at true feelings. They are the touchstone of trust. The foundation of friendship. The inroad to intimacy. And intimacy with God is the goal of the spiritual journey.
Plus, a deep, affectionate relationship with God has another interesting outcome. The more intimate I am with God, the less need I feel to impress others. When I’m real with God he calms the nameless gnawing in my heart that craves attention, desires validation and longs for external acceptance.
In short, Christ in me is continual intimacy. I can go in grace knowing that whether anyone else chooses to accept me or not—God does. And that leaves me free to just be me. Perhaps that was the supermodels secret of serenity as well. Be real with God so you can be real with others.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV
Fun Question: Have you ever met any celebrities that surprised you with their depth?
Interesting Question: Do you ever find it difficult to get real with others? Or with God? If so, why?
(Share your thoughts in the comments)