Who am I?
Three words asking one seemingly simple question. Fear of judgment causes us to hold back or the need of acceptance pushes us to exaggerate our responses. We wear masks to survive and risk forgetting who we truly are instead of being true to ourselves and honest about our situations. There’s a stigma associated with authenticity. We pretend, we shut out our inner voice, and condemn ourselves for not being as “put together” as the people around us seem to be. We wear down our spirits, think the unthinkable, and ruin precious moments because we’re mesmerized with what meets the eye, foolishly believing that what others allow us to see is all that exists beneath the surface. We believe the lie that something is wrong with us and resent ourselves. Few dare to look at another in the eye and say “I’m imperfect, I’m overwhelmed, I’m struggling in this area, I’m scared, or I’m not sure how to fix this.” Through our bravery we may hear someone say “me too,” we could create a support system; we may even help ourselves by discovering someone else needs our help. It is sad that the fear of authenticity and the need for acceptance causes many to drown in their situations, ruining lives and breaking families apart. It would be amazing if more people would use the wisdom gained from life’s obstacles to mentor one another on the journey of life. It would be amazing to share our struggles and hear someone respond, “Hey sister, fear not, for I’ve been in your shoes and look at where I am now! Let’s sit and talk about the power of prayer to help you deal with this situation” or “Sister, I don’t know what it is to go through what you’re going through if we pray on this together I know God will provide guidance on how to get through this difficult time.”When we surrender ourselves to God and embrace the masterpiece that we are we begin to live freely.
For many years I played the part. I wore masks to please others and to cope with my hardships. It wasn’t until recently while I was leading a retreat for an Emmaus ministry group that I discovered I wore a mask I wasn’t aware existed! That realization scared me! I perfected the art of wearing a mask to the extent that I even fooled myself! I accepted the masks I wore on an ongoing basis because I was aware when I put them on, but to think that for a certain time the person I looked at in the mirror was not really me but this new person I became in order to carry on despite the circumstances around me, the thick-skinned side of me if you will. How is this possible?
This happened because I lost touch with reality. I wore this permanent mask to keep myself in state of denial about certain things I’ve been through, a coping mechanism, to psyche myself into either believing that what happened to me was “ok” when it was not or to completely block off what happened; almost like the memory swipe thing they do in the MIB movies. Facing the reality of the situation was unfathomable. Being honest about my experiences would cause me to look at my wounds and acknowledge the pain I’ve experienced; I sure didn’t want to embrace my “brokenness.” I was scared of how this would affect those that hurt me, in order for me to heal I would need to forgive and acknowledge the pain they caused me. I would have to reflect upon the situations where I allowed someone to hurt me continuously and analyze why I did not stand up for myself.
What scared me most was the possibility of discovering that the labels that petrified me were the reality of my character. For example, acknowledging that I wore a mask meant that something was wrong, meaning that I am the something that’s wrong, it would make the statement I was told long ago, “you’re damaged,” true! I would now be a damaged good and that’s not something I want to believe, but if many facts were pointing in a direction that validated this statement, then it must mean it’s true.
If I wasn’t damaged then why did I become a widow at 21? If I wasn’t damaged why did my father leave my mom and choose to only be involved in the lives of 2 out of his 3 daughters? If I wasn’t damaged why did I spend so many nights crying and praying to God? If I wasn’t damaged then why did it seem that a good portion of my life was spent paying a price?
I thought I had identified the many layers I was hiding under. To prepare myself for an upcoming retreat I submerged myself into the Word of God and studied it more passionately than ever before; I’m a firm believer that we must lead by example and practice what we preach. Anyone that is familiar with studying the Word of God knows how powerful studying the Bible is and the importance of daily meditation. Something happens when we study the Bible; we evaluate our lives and question our own actions. We cannot read the word of God, believe what we read, and not be honest about the changes we need to make to align our lives with God’s will. We may not want to, we may justify our lack of change by explaining that certain things are no longer applicable because the Bible was written years ago, but reading the Word of God makes the voice of our conscience louder and stronger as it steers us in the right direction when Satan places temptations or distractions in our paths. We may be required to do a “clean-up” and assess the people in our lives, the “garbage in – garbage out” method, think about what’s feeding our minds; advice from friends, the content of books, movies, music, etc. This assessment may be challenging. Who wants to step out of their comfort zone? This change may call for a period of solitude, better to rid ourselves of the bad company or those that aren’t influencing our lives positively, than to be surrounded by many people who make poor decisions and have a negative effect on us.
I am a work in progress but I am no longer afraid of being authentic. I am working on letting go of the things that hurt me, on forgiving those who caused me damage and have no interest in owning up to the pain they’ve caused me, and accepting myself how I am, where I am. I will share my story – my journey. I don’t want people to look at me and think I downloaded a “God file” and that my commitment to my faith is something I was born with. My faith is my lifeline. My God saved me. My heart paid the price and God met me at my pain. As one of my favorite songs, Alabaster Box by Cece Winans says:
You weren’t there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt
When he wrapped his love all around me and
You don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box
I invite you to take an honest look at yourself, strengthen yourself with the Word of God, let it all out, stop being afraid of what you see, stop pretending to be something you aren’t, and see yourself through the eyes of Our Creator.
You are amazing – you are loved – you don’t need to hide anymore – be free and remove your mask.
Who can find[b] a woman of worth?
Far beyond jewels is her value.
11 Her husband trusts her judgment;
he does not lack income.
12 She brings him profit, not loss,[c]
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks out wool and flax
and weaves with skillful hands.
14 Like a merchant fleet,[d]
she secures her provisions from afar.
15 She rises while it is still night,
and distributes food to her household,
a portion to her maidservants.
16 She picks out a field and acquires it;
from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength;
she exerts her arms with vigor.[e]
18 She enjoys the profit from her dealings;
her lamp is never extinguished at night.[f]
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.[g]
20 She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
21 She is not concerned for her household when it snows—
all her charges are doubly clothed.
22 She makes her own coverlets;
fine linen and purple are her clothing.
23 Her husband is prominent at the city gates
as he sits with the elders of the land.[h]
24 She makes garments and sells them,
and stocks the merchants with belts.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and laughs at the days to come.[i]
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom;
kindly instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over[j] the affairs of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband, too, praises her:
29 “Many are the women of proven worth,
but you have excelled them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.[k]
31 Acclaim her for the work of her hands,
and let her deeds praise her at the city gates.