To tell the truth

Catfish is the purported documentary of a young New York City photographer named Nev Schulman who becomes involved online with a family from Michigan. It begins when he receives a painting of one of his own photographs, the handiwork of an eight-year-old named Abby, supposedly an artistic prodigy. They correspond through the mother’s Facebook account. Nev is soon captivated by this sweet, gifted child, not to mention her beautiful mother, Angela. Then he’s introduced to another family member – Megan – Angela’s older daughter, who also just happens to be drop dead gorgeous and incredibly talented.

They communicate for a year through messages and phone calls. Circumstances and distance preclude them from ever meeting face to face, but his friendship with Angela and Abby thrives. Nev and Megan fall in love. She continues to amaze him with her accomplishments and abilities. Until one day Nev, his brother and a friend discover that Megan is literally too good to be true. He has fallen for a fantasy. The three men decide to visit Michigan and confront Angela with what they’ve learned.

Angela (who bears very little resemblance to the svelte diva on her FB page) is shocked when she opens the door and lays eyes on Nev. To his credit, rather than bludgeoning her with the facts, Nev patiently pries the truth (or most of it) out of her. Despite his hopes being dashed against the stark reality of her life, the two remain friends as he tries to understand her motivation for such a grand hoax. Angela had represented herself as Abby, Megan and an entire network of Megan’s friends. All it took was two cell phones, 16 FB accounts, countless pilfered images and about 1,500 messages.

In real life Angela is wife to Vince and mother to Abby and two special needs stepsons. She appears to be genuinely kind, intelligent and quite talented (the paintings attributed to Abby are actually hers). The big question remains – why the deception? What was so bad about Angela’s life that she needed to create this complicated other world?

Sadly, Angela didn’t think her life was enough, or that she measured up somehow, even to her own expectations. She cobbled together this illusion using what she refers to as fragments of her past – things she used to do, wishes she had done, never could do – sort of an emotional mosaic of nostalgia, unfulfilled potential and broken dreams.

It’s extreme – but is it that unusual? Don’t we often wish we were more than we are? And failing that, do we attempt to lead people to believe we’re smarter, nobler, more heroic, or more successful than we actually are?

That all falls apart when we’re confronted with the ultimate truth. There is One who knows more about us than we know of ourselves, no matter how much we try to fool him. He pares away the pretenses, strips the layers of lies and leaves us fully exposed in the glaring light of his all-seeing gaze. And that’s when something truly amazing happens – instead of condemnation, we receive pardon. He expunges our shame with his unconditional love. Instead of throwing us away, he redeems us and promises to accompany us through all our struggles. We no longer have to obsess about our shortcomings. Our calling now is to fix our sights on his fullness and glory and simply reflect that glow.

We finally know who we really are and we’re able to tell the truth to the whole world. It’s the truth that sets us free. All it takes is a Triune God and a lifetime of faith. 


  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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