So I’m reading this book.
It’s hitting home. Big time. I highly recommend it.
But be forewarned: it will probably make you uncomfortable.
In the chapter I just finished, she quotes Sarah Young: “One of the worst consequences of the Fall is the elaborate barriers people erect between themselves and others.” (From Jesus Calling, one of my favorite devotionals.)
Barriers like being the strong one. The responsible one. The always-on-time one. The one everyone can count on.
Instead of showing weakness. Instead of thinking failure is the end of the world, as is being late. Instead of being the one that never shares about themselves and their struggles but is only willing to be on the receiving end of others’ brokenness.
Am I the only one who has lived this try-hard life? Striving for perfection, holding it all together, keeping all the broken messy stuff inside and I will never ever let you see the real me.
I will say this. Seven plus years of serious health problems have destroyed many of these masks of mine, because the perfection I’ve always strived for has simply not been possible. The outside messy I just can’t hide, although I would have preferred it and lived it for umpteen years. Those masks are shattered. Not because I wanted them to be, mind you, but because I had no choice.
I can be a bit dense at times, and God has certainly used the hard things to break down some of the barriers to those important things. I am thankful, although I would never have chosen it.
But letting people in is not so easy. To the inside messy of me. I’ve kept the “I’m holding it all together” mask pretty firmly in place, although it slips once in awhile. I’ve learned to take it off temporarily, for just a few people, and I find I can breathe so much more easily when I do. That mask is hot, uncomfortable, and, well, stinky. (Remember trying to only breathe through your mouth because your Halloween mask was hot and stinky?) And the longer I wear it the sweatier I get; thus, the stinky.
I’m pretty weary of being hot and uncomfortable. It’s really hard work to keep the I-can-only-give-to-you mask on, but to receive from you? Then I must admit I need. I need you, I need your compassion, kindness and love.
So why? Why in the world do I keep putting it on?
I am afraid if you know the real messy broken me, you might not like me. Or you might see me as a failure. Or look down on me somehow. And I can’t stand the thought of that.
But this book is helping me to realize that living behind this mask is all about what I do instead of who I am, and my perception of myself is all tied up in what others think of me. I let my identity be determined by whether I feel like I please other people.
That’s a pretty heavy mask. Made of iron or something else unbearably weighty. And even though it’s shiny, I am completely hidden and see that chain? Yeah.
What if you knew I struggle with self-image? What if you knew I fight depression, all.the.time? What if you know that I feel like a failure more of the time than not? What if you knew how often I cry? That I’m crying just writing this? What if you knew how desperately hard I have to work to feel like I please you? What do you think of me now?
My guess is, although I admit the fear seeping in, my guess is that you already know I’m messy on the inside. Because we all are, somehow. It’s just that my own particular brokenness feels too dangerous to share. My own ridiculous impression of myself thinks my inner messy needs to stay hidden, while I welcome yours.
Because God. He knows my messy and broken, yet he loves me anyway, and he doesn’t want me to hide. The saddest thing about hiding behind masks is that I sometimes believe the lie that I can hide from him too.
Which prevents me from seeking him out to make me whole, from making myself vulnerable, from feeling his approval even, maybe especially, when I mess up. When I get it more wrong than right. That kind of thinking puts up a barrier that prevents me from accepting his acceptance, from believing that he loves me just the way he made me.
When I believe this lie, that I’m hiding well from God, there’s no possible way to take down the barriers between you and me. But when I take that mask off before God, I’m learning that I can leave it on the floor. (It needs to go in the trash, I know, I know! I’m getting there, but at least it spends most of its time on the floor now and I’m not nearly as sweaty or uncomfortable (or stinky) as I used to be. That chain has been broken, at least.)
I will believe that because he takes me as I am, a lot of people will do the same. And I can admit that I need you. And I can invite you into my mess. And soon, soon, I will take that mask to the big trash can in the garage and wheel it out to the curb on trash day.
Do you have a mask? What does it look like? What might it be hiding?
Trying not to try so hard,