Since I was five or six, I’ve been fascinated with Matryoshka dolls. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you probably know them by their common name: Russian Nesting Dolls.
I remember when my mom received her two sets of dolls. I would stare at them in awe as they were displayed in my parents’ room, and I would ask if I could play with them. A few years ago, my heart leapt for joy when she generously passed both sets on to me. I’ve since acquired more, and I absolutely love them!
Perhaps the most-identifiable feature of Matryoshka dolls is their ability to fit within one another. In a set, each doll is capable of being opened and “nesting” the smaller dolls within it. Hand-carved and painted, each doll is uniquely made. The largest dolls in each set are the most vibrant and detailed, with the inner-most and smallest doll being nowhere as “beautiful” as the largest doll.
As I was recently looking at my dolls, a thought came across my mind. How often do we attempt to present a beautiful, flawless version of ourselves to others — and not just to other women and men — but also to God?
Perhaps we feel shame or guilt for something in our past. Maybe we feel inadequate and unworthy of His attention. What about the fact that there are so many major things going on in the world, that it feels like He couldn’t possibly want to know about the smallest details of our life? Have you ever had one of those moments? I know I have.
So what do we do? Oftentimes, we present ourselves as nesting dolls. We fear that God couldn’t possibly want to know the “real us” with our sins, hurts, and flaws. And like the smallest doll in a Matryoshka set, we hide this “less-than-ideal” version of ourselves in the different shell layers. We create an outer shell that we’re confident is “beautiful” and “acceptable,” and once we’ve achieved this, we feel that we can finally approach God.
How far from the truth this is!
God is the perfect Creator and craftsman. He created us uniquely and beautifully, and desires to have a deep relationship with us. When we present these false versions of ourselves to God, we’re actually trying to separate ourselves from Him.
Honestly, God isn’t fooled by our “outer shells.” He sees right through them, straight to our core. This shouldn’t be a discouragement to us; rather, it should be an encouragement! God is almighty and all-knowing, and nothing can surprise Him. The following Bible verses couldn’t be more true:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. […] For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-14).
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
Jesus also said the following about prayer:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not babble like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him“ (Matthew 6:6-8).
These verses are not an excuse to treat prayer and our relationship with Christ lightly. Rather, it shows that we can be genuine about who we are with God. He knows our hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes. He knows the sins we’ve committed, and He knows all the sins we’ll commit in the future. He knows what we love the most about ourselves, and He knows what we wish we could change. Because of that, we don’t have to present a “perfected” version of ourselves to Him.
What we view as the smallest, least-desirable version of ourselves in a nesting doll set, God views as His creation. He desires to transform us into something more beautiful than we could ever imagine!
Simply, we must begin by revealing our real self — one shell at a time.