The Land of Not as it Seems
The Emperor is naked as a Jay bird! Most know the story. The one where the 2 weavers were actually shysters pulling off one of the biggest heists in all the kingdom by propagating a lie and then shaming anyone who dared question the lie. Welcome to the Land of Not As It Seems.
Stay with me, readers, this is important!
For the reader who may not recognize the fable, in 1837 Hans Christian Andersen published, The Emperor’s New Suit. It’s an incredibly relevant story about an Emperor whose particular brand of narcissism demanded opulence in his royal attire! Aware of his flare for fashion, 2 weavers of cloth…ah, swindlers, devised a plan. Pretend to be working long, hard hours to weave the most beautiful and brilliantly colored clothing ever known to man. The swindlers sold themselves as skilled, master tailors and added one important line to the story: their exquisite clothing line is made of material of such a unique, invisible quality that any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid would not be able to see them. And nobody wants to be declared incompetent and certainly no one wants to be considered stupid.
So, dignitary after dignitary visited the 2 looms that had been erected to “weave” the Emperor’s new clothes. Each observed the swindlers working hard at the looms but that there were no clothes. Aware that only unfit and stupid people would not be able to see the clothes, none were willing to admit that there were, in reality, no clothes to be seen on the looms! Each left, boasting of the brilliant colors, exceptional tapestry and finest cloth that were being woven into each article of clothing for the king. They bought into the illusion. Upon seeing the operations for himself, even the Emperor bought into the lie. After all, he was about to be declared unfit for the throne and wear the crown of stupidity, if he did otherwise! All had visited the Land of Not As It Seems!
The story goes on to describe the grand procession whereby the Emperor unveils his new clothing. All the kingdom is overcome with the beautiful colors and masterful tapestry. Everyone except for one small child who declares “but he has nothing on at all”. The crowds are aghast and quickly dismiss her honest, true appraisal of the situation. The word spreads through the crowd but no one dares to go out on the limb of reality. Even the Emperor took note and was in agreement with the child’s observation. But he did not relent and “the chamberlains walked with even greater dignity”. It was the Land of Not as it Seems in full display.
I don’t think that today’s world is so different.
We continue to walk in the Land of Not as it Seems. It is exhausting, requires incredible discernment, faith and most of all, stamina. The message that the “colors are brilliant and the clothes are exquisite” is crammed down our throats even though our experience tells us otherwise. But something doesn’t feel right. Things are Not as They Seem!
You say, The Land of Not as it Seems? In 2010, my wife and I adopted a sibling group of 3 boys. After a year or 2 of the pure frustration of trying to find something, anything, to connect and attach meaningfully, I spontaneously began a series of bedtime stories about 3 unlikely friends who journeyed across America, the world and Outer Space. It worked and the boys would eagerly await bedtime to hear the adventures of Melitus, Ernest and Ivan. In 2015 stories focused on a place called "The Land of Not as it Seems". During the early days of the COVID pandemic, I became acutely aware that many of the things that were happening were part of the Melitus stories, particularly the series called the The Land of NAIS. Cruise ships, a monster locking the trio into clear portal chutes where they could not have contact with one another, scenes from an unruly wild, wild west. The stories seemed to parallel the early days of COVID.
Invalidating Environments. So how do people get to this point of buying into the illusion that is clearly not reality-based? Its called invalidating environments. This dynamic operates in situations where people have been traumatized and abused. An invalidating environment is one whereby an individual (usually a child) is emersed in a constant environment of “no honey, the emperor’s clothes are beautiful! He’s not naked!” In reality, it sounds like this: “no sweety, daddy didn’t do that” or “you see Mr. Social Worker, little Sally has such a vivid imagination, she tends to make stuff up!” and of course, little Sally is sitting in the corner absorbing the entire conversation, as she begins to question her own experiences. This is, in fact, the goal. The idea is to invalidate one’s own experience and get them to question their ability to discern reality and understand truth. It’s the ultimate Land of Not as it Seems!
So, what’s the point? I’ve been praying and meditating recently about the state of our country, the world and my own heart. As I pray, I keep hearing “the Land of Not as it Seems” and it connects me to the concept of the invalidating environments. I have come to believe that this is the dynamic and mechanism by which the Adversary is attacking the Body of Christ today.
What’s God saying to us? Return! Return to the truth of His word. Stand on it. God’s word declares that we are not ignorant of the Adversaries devices (II Corinthians 2:11). We do not walk in darkness (John 8:12). God has declared His children are overcomers (I John 4:4). God is reminding us to be aware of our identity, know His word, and to be convinced of our faith. We are being bombarded constantly that the Emperor’s new clothes are beautiful and we are hit with the “shame” message if we disagree. Its designed to make us doubt our experiences with the Lord. It is designed to make us question truth itself, especially God’s truth.
Tips for walking in the Land of Not As It Seems.
Be the child. Its funny that Hans Christian Andersen penciled in the child as the purveyor of truth. Makes me think of Jesus’ words “unless you become as a child”.
Know God’s Word. “thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:104)
Seek Him! This isn’t a passive effort. It is an intentional, sometimes intense, pursuit of God. (Psalm 42:1…as the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you”)
Constantly declare the Truth! Shout it out, whisper it, speak it, stand on it. God’s truth as known by His word. Its how Melitus and his buddies got out of the Land of NAIS and its how we will overcome the darkness that tries to settle in our souls. (Psalm 54:5 He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in your truth.