Cardboard Cake

Jesus calls us to a much richer existence, where we can find freedom from the superficial clutches of the world and discover our true identity as believers by allowing Him to define us from the inside out.

by Kurt Petersheim

My wife once showed me a Pinterest page full of beautiful wedding cakes. As I looked at them, she told me something surprising: They were all made of cardboard. Outwardly, these were extravagantly decorated, multi-tiered cakes. Yet underneath that fondant facade was nothing but cardboard. This idea was created in order to give one’s wedding guests the impression of a luxurious culinary experience while simultaneously sparing the expenses of the happy couple. To complete the illusion, these cakes have an edible top-tier, which the couple eats in front of everyone. The rest of the “cake” is then wheeled into the kitchen, where a sheet cake is cut and served to the unassuming guests. 

Let’s be honest: We’ve all been like those cardboard cakes at one time or another. On the outside, we put on as much “decoration” as possible. Our jobs, families, clothes, stuff, skills, personalities—all of it can be used to simultaneously show the watching world what we want it to see and conceal from it what we do not. Just scroll through Instagram for five minutes. There’s a lot of smooth frosting and buttercream roses. Rarely does anyone post the cardboard underneath. This is human nature; we would rather be pretty than real. Jesus, however, calls us to a much deeper life.

“Jesus must be the very center and substance of our lives, defining and directing our affections, thoughts and actions.”

Kurt Petersheim

Jesus once said to His disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me” (John 14:6). In these words, Jesus is telling us that there is an alternative to a cardboard life. He is peeling back all the decorative layers of our lives and getting right at the very heart of the issue. The issue is this: If we want to be the complete person God created us to be, then His Son, Jesus Christ, must define us from the inside out. 

When Jesus says, “I am the way,” He means that He is the One we must follow in order to know God. Therefore, our outward actions must be in line with His model and teachings. However, that is just icing on the cake. Going deeper, He says, “I am … the truth.” Truth lives in our minds, and it determines our actions. We may be tempted to think of truth as a subjective thing that we make up for ourselves, but Jesus says He is “the” truth, not “a” truth. In other words, He is the objective reality of the universe, so we must not only follow Him but also believe in Him for who He really is: the eternal Son of God and Messiah. Still, He goes even deeper, saying, “I am … the life.” Not only must we follow and believe in Him, but we must find our identity in Him. 

Jesus must be the very center and substance of our lives, defining and directing our affections, thoughts and actions. Then we will know God and experience the true life that He has for us, and we will finally be free from the fear and facade of just being another cardboard cake. 

Kurt Petersheim is the campus pastor at Eastridge Church in Covington. For information, visit

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