A couple weeks ago the girls and I drove to church in a light rain. Mark was a few minutes behind us, driving separately so he could help with tear down after service (our church meets in a school). As we pulled into the parking lot, I hesitated. How was I going to get the three of us inside without getting soaked?

Finally, I decided that a.) I really needed to buy one of those giant golf umbrellas and b.) I would park by the front door, run the girls in and then go back to park the car. Surely my seven-year-old could corral my one-year-old for the three minutes it would take me, right?

Heh. That was never going to happen, but it was the best plan I could come up with that morning. So I put the car in park and hustled the girls to the front door, scooting them inside as I rattled off directions: Just stand here. Hold your sister’s hand. I’ll be right back. No, stay here. I’m coming right back!

One of the door greeters — and a friend — said good morning right about then. He often looks amused as we bumble our way into church, one of us with crazy hair because she pulled out her ponytail again, one of us with tangled hair because she screams when I get close to her with a hairbrush, and one of us with wet hair . . . because who has time for a blow dry? But this week, the greeter simply smiled and said, “Do you want me to park your car?”

Limp with gratitude, I handed over my keys and stood with my antsy girls as he jogged through the drizzle to my car. In less time than it took me to smooth our hair and clothes, he was back. I thanked him and we were on our way.

When I got into my car after church that day, I looked at my clean floor mats and wondered if my friend had noticed how neat my car is. (Mark and I have an ongoing debate about the required level of cleanliness for a family vehicle.) (Because one of us is a nut about keeping a spotless car.) (It’s not me. In case you were confused.)

Then I turned the ignition and glanced at the dash, and I thought, “I sure am glad I had the radio on K-LOVE!”

As if my friend would have cared if I’d had the radio tuned to the pop station, like it so often is. Um, no. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have thought a thing about it. And if he had, he might have questioned my taste in music but probably not my parenting or commitment to Christ.

And yet my first response was relief that my car made me look good, like someone who is so good? righteous? holy? that she only listens to Christian music.

I thought about all that last week when my daughter was frosting a foam cake. She was playing with a bakery craft kit and wanted some inspiration for her creation. So we pulled up Pinterest, and I showed her some pictures of wedding cakes. Her final product was a beautiful green and white masterpiece. Of course it was, she told me, and it would taste delicious, too.

Thankfully we were just pretending to eat her foam and clay cake, but as we “nibbled,” she asked a question that made me think.

She said, “Have you ever had a cake that looked beautiful but tasted bad?”

The way she asked, I could tell she didn’t believe such a thing was possible. But immediately I thought of a baby shower I attended several years ago. The women throwing the shower had spared no expense — and that included the cake. Covered in fondant and decorated beautifully with modern stripes and polka dots, it looked too good to eat.

And it was.

Fondant tastes terrible, you guys! And for someone whose favorite part of a party is almost always the food, that cake was a major disappointment. It was beautiful, yes, but it was certainly not delicious.

As I told my daughter about that cake and went on to remember other cake disasters and disappointments (strangely enough, there have been a few!), I could feel God whispering and nudging. He was asking, just like a parent who already knows exactly what you’ve done and how you should answer, “Are you a beautiful cake that tastes bad?”

Am I? Am I a beautiful cake that tastes like cardboard? A good mom who listens to Christian music but yells at my kids all the way to church? A Bible study leader who refuses to forgive that person who hurt me? An “inspirational” writer who lets gossip or criticism or four-letter words slip out more often than you’d ever guess?

Yeah, sometimes I am.

I am. I’m a Pharisee on the corner, projecting my (self) righteous prayers for all to hear, a cup and dish that’s been washed clean on the outside but filthy on the inside. Every time I lean on my resume or my list of tasks and titles, but don’t seek and serve and love God, I’m that cake.

When I place more importance on answering questions for the Bible study I lead than actually reading my Bible and letting God use the Word to speak to me, I’m that cake.

When I spend more time scheduling students to serve the next several Sundays than I do seeking God’s will for my next several weeks, I’m that cake.

When I get mad at my kids and husband for keeping me from writing an article about how much I love my kids and husband, I’m that cake.

When I count “write a post about a back-to-school prayer” as my prayer time for the day . . . or week . . . I’m that cake.

I don’t want to be that cake, friends! I don’t want to be so consumed with how I look, with how other people see me, with how I measure up to other moms or other bloggers or other humans that I completely neglect how I really am. I don’t want my outsides to be shiny enough to distract you from my crumpled, dusty, cracked insides. I don’t want to fool you or them or Him.

Recognizing my hypocrisy on that rainy Sunday morning was a wake-up call for me. And the question from my little baker was a reminder not to sweep that conviction under the couch with all the Cheerios and cat hair.

Starting today I’m going back to a closet for my prayers and washing the inside of my cup and dish. I’m going to seek God before people’s approval, ask for wisdom before more time, more money, more friends, more things done and tasks accomplished.

I’m not going to be that cake.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people
in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward
from your Father who is in heaven.”
{Matthew 6:1}

Have you ever found yourself looking like a beautiful cake but tasting like something else?

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  • Susie Longbottom

    Mary, my understanding of a hypocrite is a person that would intentionally jump back in the car to put the radio on K-LOVE; a person that with intent wears a mask to impress knowing full well they are something else. Though I do get your point about needing to be real and humble, I would also suggest to be a little gentle with yourself as a person who is willing to accept loving correction from your Father when your heart has been convicted. Sister love to you.

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      Thanks for your kind words, Susie. You’re right that God offers us so much grace. There are times, though, that I am absolutely wearing a mask on purpose – so I’m thankful for both the Spirit”s conviction and that grace!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I love your honesty and your candidness. You are not that too-pretty-to-eat-yucky-tasting cake…no you are the yummy cake, frosted with beautiful colors, with one big finger licking good finger swipe through the frosting…you are REAL. Your love for Christ shines through your vulnerability. Don’t let the enemy turn conviction into condemnation. That’s not what God would want…He’d just want to be in relationship with you enjoying that yummy imperfect cake…and I think He would say, “Be easy on yourself…you are loved!”
    Love and ((hugs)),

    • Veronica

      I love your heart, Bev. Beautifully said. xox

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Thanks Veronica :) xx

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      Oh Bev, thank you so much for your kind heart and your kind words! I absolutely believe that God wants a relationship for me no matter what kind of cake I am in any given moment. My desire is simply to be more consistently “yummy” on the inside as I try to be on the outside! :)

  • Ivy Corbett

    Love the analogy! My daughter had a beautiful cake for her wedding, but that fondant icing was awful! She had done most of the planning and choosing herself. I was so surprised. I’d never had it before but seen many beautiful pictures. I will mention that to the rest of my girls when the time comes. Such a waste. I surely do not want to be that cake!

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      Lesson learned – steer clear of EATING fondant and BEING fondant! ;)

      • Mikel Ibarra

        Only SOME fondant is yucky. There is supposed to be ample frosting UNDER the fondant- sorry you had a bad pretty cake. Love you post!

  • Kristine Brown MTY

    Such a beautiful post, Mary! Getting beyond what people think and focusing only on what God thinks – that’s a struggle I’ve battled to overcome. I guess we all have. I love your illustration here. Your sincerity shines through your writing! And by the way, my car STILL looks ‘excessively lived in’ and my son is almost 16. The mom car saga continues…

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      MOM CARS – yes! You get it. And yes, the battle to be consistent and only seek God’s approval is just as ongoing as the car struggle!

  • Carol

    I know where you are coming from. Just yesterday got the same message from the Lord about my needing to fight hypocrisy and Pharisaism. Thank you for reinforcing the message.

  • http://www.whatithinktoday.blogspot.com/ Ms. Witi

    Oh this is so good….and I too have been caught being “cake” once and again…

  • Rebecca Tellez

    Oh my such convicting words that I so needed to read and hear. I am more often than not, that cake. Thank You Jesus for wise women who are not afraid to share their hearts so we can all grow in Grace and and truth.

  • Sherrie St. Hilaire

    Oh my! I sure was blessed by your honest appraisal and humorous assessment….but I have to agree with some of the others: we are hard on ourselves! I love your hunger to be pure and true in who you are! That desire shines through beautifully…and inspiringly!

  • Brandi Luiz

    Beautiful! thank you for sharing your own struggle with us.

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      Thank you for your kind words, Brandi. I’m glad I could encourage you!

  • JuneBug

    Mary, thanks so much for your brutal honesty which pierced me deeply. I am not alone. Great post for me.

    • http://www.givinguponperfect.com/ Mary Carver

      You are absolutely not alone. I think most of us struggle with this at some time!

  • Barb Stidham

    Fantastic article and such a good reminder for me. I receive this from the LORD and do desire to be more like Jesus!!! Thanks so much for this exhortation, Mary!! I, too, plan to make some changes in my life!

  • Hennie

    Thank you for this wonderful message!This is such a reminder!

  • Diana Fleenor

    Mary, I am glad for your willingness to admit to us your struggle with the hypocrisy you described. I see that a couple here have been concerned that condemnation was perhaps behind your confession. It’s good for friends to care for us if we are. However, as I re-read your post, that is not the tone I heard. In another recent (in) courage blog, Renee Swope wrote on Convicted but Not Condemned. When I consider the difference between the tone of condemnation vs. the tone of conviction she laid out, I truly thought the way your expressed the process you went through on this matter to be within the tone of conviction. I think the main thing I saw to point to this is how you did not shrink back from the Father who loves you (us), but have a desire and conviction to go to him in your “closet of prayers” and “seek God before people’s approval and ask for wisdom…” This sounds like the Holy Spirit giving you some pretty specific true to His Word instructions. This is the foundation of His love to correct us by directing us to come to Him for cleansing and help, isn’t it? I have had my own struggle with hypocrisy and am glad for the reminder here of how easy we are tempted in this way. May we continue to pray for each other to become fully free from its hold on us. Blessings to all.

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/ Marty

    LOVE THIS POST! What a great reminder that “…man looks on the outside appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

  • Beth Williams


    I love your candidness and honesty. Thank you for being real with us here. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves! Sure we mess up some and act like Pharisees, but God will forgive us if we ask. Quit listening to the evil one and start believing the truth of God. You are a beautiful cake that tastes delicious.

    “Let’s seek God and ask for wisdom before asking for more time or money.” That statement speaks volumes. My husband and I often pray for wisdom when tackling a problem or situation. God honors that more than any other prayer we could offer. He wants us to seek His wisdom and guidance.
    Blessings :)

  • Janet

    This was exactly what I needed to read today.