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Smile all the while

By Ann Mann

With a new year is an opportunity to reflect on the year that we leave behind. I have finally gotten started unpacking the boxes that have lined the walls of my home since the day my husband and I moved to Barnesville. The best part of the unboxing is the pictures.

As I look at these photos, the smiles tell the story. Since my husband passed away, the heart deep smiles are not as frequent as they once were.

If I look closely at the pictures from these last several months, and compare them with the older pictures, I can see both grief and gratitude. I see both heartache and hope. I see both sorrow and joy. And I see that I am smiling all the while.

Perhaps you have the same dichotomy of emotions. We smile, when sometimes we don’t feel like smiling.

My favorite pictures are the ones with the genuine smiles. I had plenty of those at Christmas, having my daughter and my son by my side. My smile is heart deep when I am holding my grandson.

My heart smiles when I spend time with God. As the Psalmist promises in Psalm 1, I experience delight in God’s word and meditate on Scripture day and night. As a recent devotion reminds me, happiness comes from what happens to us. Blessing is what happens to us through knowing and meditating on God’s words.

This blessing is what God wants for us. God wants us to live authentic lives. It is okay when we cannot muster a smile. And it is okay when we can’t stop smiling. Through it all, God is with us. That is the beauty of the Incarnation. We love and serve a God who came to be with us.

Jesus was not concerned with appearances. He didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Instead, he was authentic. God wants the same thing for us. To live authentic lives.

So, friend, are we being authentic? Do we truly believe what we read in the good book? Are we living what we believe? Or are we faking it?

There is a popular saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” But does faking it actually work? If you fake having a medical license, you would not be an effective doctor.

I think whoever created this saying had good intentions. There are things we do in life for which we lack confidence. Will we be a good parent? A good teacher? A good artist?

I think this phrase is meant to remind us not to entertain doubt. If we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually we will gain confidence. Sadly, most of us get stuck in the first half of the saying. We fake it.

The same is true of our life as a Christian. We say we love Jesus, but we don’t spend any time reading the Bible. We say we love others, but we don’t spend time on our knees in prayer for the lost who need to know the love of Christ. We say we want to transform the world, but we aren’t willing to take the risks that requires.

I believe that God can transform our lives to such a degree that we can experience heaven right here on earth. We do not have to be slaves to our flaws and our selfish inclinations. It takes time. And it takes work.

When we are honest with ourselves, we can stop faking it. When we admit where we fall short, we open the door to growth. We simply need to be who God created us to be. When we are living authentic lives, we are more likely to smile all the while, and the smile comes from the heart of Christ.(

Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is annmann@comcast.net.)

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