Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Mask

I met with some friends the other day. We try to meet regularly to pray for each other and to share our struggles to walk in faith. It is a small and safe group. I know what I reveal there will be kept in confidence. And I know the ladies there will pray for me. Everyone should have such a place, but I know I am among the blessed who do.

Even though my friends are trustworthy and have proven themselves as such, I find that when I lay out the truth about my heart, I often feel fearful. There is something in me that says, "They are not going to like me after they know this about me. They are not going to want to pray for me if they know how self-centered, greedy, jealous, judgmental I am. They are going to run!" I am afraid to be completely real with these beautiful, open, trusting souls that God has brought my way. It is nonsensical. It is foolish. It is a stronghold.

I have been reading a great book entitled, "Relational Masks," by Russell Willingham. He defines strongholds this way: beliefs and thought patterns that are opposed to the knowledge of God

When I read what I just wrote about my fears with my friends, I can see one of my false beliefs is, "If I am honest, I will be abandoned." I feel embarrassed just typing that out for you to read because, well, because if I am honest, I will be abandoned. You might not like what you see. You might stop reading what I write. Better to put up a front (fake exterior) and have it all together, right? The problem with the front (or mask) is that it gets the love and the praise. The real me is hidden from view. And it is the real me that needs others, that needs support, prayer, acceptance.

Some days I wonder if it is worth it. Is it worth the whole fight to be real and authentic in such a mixed up, two-faced, fake world? Wouldn't it be easier to go with the flow and hide who I am so I won't get hurt?

Being real carries real risk: I may get hurt. Let me rephrase that: I will get hurt. Not every time, but sometimes when I open up I will get shot down by someone I thought I could trust. Moments like that can send me reeling. Moments like that seem to shout: "Shields up!" And indeed there is a place for some healthy shields (boundaries) with those who have shown themselves to be unsafe. But that is another blog. The short answer is yes, it is easier to fake it, hide who you are, and wear a mask of "got it all together".

In the long-term, however, hiding who I am and pretending to be someone else damages my spiritual, emotional, relational, and physical health. I am split in two, when God intended for me to be whole. And when I am divided I cannot stand. The emotional work is exhausting and the loss of true relationship leaves me feeling very alone.  

What's a girl to do? Well, I fight the good fight of the faith. I ask God to help me to see these lies that I am believing and to act in accordance with the truth of His Word.

Is is easy? No way! It is a fight, a battle, a no holds barred knock-down-drag-out kinda deal. We are talking strongholds here, not a tiptoe through the tulips. This is for your soul and your the enemy is not going to give any ground without a fight.

But, here is the good news: though the struggle to walk in truth will be as long as this life, each time I show up to the fight I get a little bit stronger. The truth is proven powerful and the power of the lie is diminished. I am not alone. I am not abandoned. This small part of the body of Christ (my friends) do not run away. They pray for me. They hug me. They tell me they are drawn to my openness and vulnerability. I am strengthened and renewed to fight for another day.

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth 
and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. 
We take our lead from Christ, who is the source
 of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. 
His very breath and blood flow through us, 
nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, 
robust in love.  
Ephesians 4:14-16 (Message)

Look at all the gifts of grace God wants to give to me if I am willing to leave my old ways and embrace His truth: Spiritual maturity, growth, knowing the truth, telling the truth, keeping in step with other believers, His breath and life flowing through me, spiritual health, robust love; that is some kind of list.

Yeah, it's worth it. Sign me up for that.

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