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I watched my first horror movie in elementary school. It was a field day and we could either go outside and (be charbroiled by the Az sun) play, or stay inside and indulge in what we’d never be allowed to watch at home.

Three cheers for the glorious ‘80’s.

The room was darkened and so were our virginal eyes. Fear, blood, and sounds that were as paranormal as the eighties hair styles, started as a low murmur from a violin, crescendoing to the shriek of a teenager being attacked by her braces. Or something like that.

When it was over and we were shooed to the next diversion, I felt like I had grown up a year. I saw something only older kids were supposed to see. Except many of my peers had already seen it, so maybe not older kids—just kids with less than strict parents, or kids who saw those movies at the houses of less strict parents.

When I finally let the whole movie sink in—plot, acting, story—it was really just meh. The exciting part was watching a forbidden movie. At school. Okay, that made it a little less fun, but after the thrill wore off, I decided that a person just liked what they liked, forbidden or not.

I wonder how many other kids really liked the movie and how many kids faked it for the joy of the thrill.

The other day, I talked with an elderly man who had just lost his son. Wanting to bring him a distraction, I asked him why he didn’t show off more by doing pushups for his friends. Did I mention he’s in his eighties? And does push-ups? He smiled like he always does, shrugged and said, “I just fake it. That’s what we do—we fake and smile our way through life to get through it.”

He went on his way, after I gave him an awkward smile, knowing he wasn’t talking about the pushups.

So a recent night ago, when I noticed my daughter faking a prayer to please me, I stopped her mid, “Thank Y—“, and told her no.

“Don’t fake a prayer. Just talk to God. Thank Him for what really makes you happy and tell Him what makes you mad. Ask Him for help.”

“Oh.” Her performance mask slid from her face and she just stared at the wall, silent. She declined her prayer that night.

The next night: “Please help me to stop worrying about——, God. Thank you for funny Noah. And help me to stop being scared at night. Amen.”20150829_135921

It wasn’t eloquent. It was disjointed. But it was the deepest part of her gut, grabbing hold of genuine gratefulness and reaching out from her greatest need.

She started laughing, and talking about funny Noah (brother). The next day, she told me she thought of Noah’s funny faces  that night, and was able to laugh herself into good dreams.

Perhaps we need to fake it sometimes. To get through the crowd, to get through the day—to reach out for a thrill.

But I’ve never found real joy there. Have you?

I’ve never found real joy in religion, but I’ve found it in God. He opens His arms wide to catch the prayers from my deepest needs, and answers it by pouring out boundless streams of grace. Like He did for my daughter, He’ll do that for anyone who sends Him a genuine prayer.

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