There used to be a time when people had to perceive me as having life all together. It was far from the truth, but the mask I cleverly wore was one of being "all together" in a tremendously broken life. Emotions were haywire, desires often overruling any sense of conscience, and mouth engaged when it ought to be otherwise! Sound like anyone you might know? If I am to be honest about how Christ has changed my life, I have to be honest about what needed changing!
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14 The Message)
Just like Paul, I can now freely admit - I don't have it all together. I don't have to hide behind a mask anymore. I found out the "value" of the mask was only "skin-deep" anyway! What was deep inside really had a way of working its way past the mask - I just did not realize it at the time!
Probably one of my biggest struggles in life was coming to a place of accepting just who I was - exactly the way God made me. This may seem trivial to some, but it you struggle with "liking" yourself or feeling like anyone else in this world could possibly find anything of value in you, then you understand what I am saying. God's image of me mattered more than my image of myself, but I had a hard time ever grasping this truth. I kept taking my "clues" about what made me acceptable from the people around me. As long as I did this, I never measured up!
I did not dress like the crowd - so I struggled with my image of myself. Today, I still don't dress like the crowd - but I am comfortable in how I dress. You may find my closet filled with more polo shirts and jeans than others, but what you find there is the "real" me. I am a down-to-earth kinda gal. I like casual - not that I cannot dress to the nines, but high heels and short skirts are just not me. I had to get comfortable being me before I could ever stop comparing myself to the crowd. You know, the way we dress matters, but not in making us righteous or more acceptable to God. When I finally realized this fact, I was able to break the mold of the world and be who I am totally comfortable being - ME.
I did not do some of the stuff the crowd did - so I struggled feeling accepted and like I was "part of the crowd". From the time we are little human beings until we go to our grave, we will struggle with trying to "fit in" with some group of people! As children, we wanted to be liked by the most popular girls or boys in our schools. If they seemed to take a shine to us, we were delighted with our new-found status. If we were shunned or ridiculed, we just acted silly to attempt to make them think their opinion of us did not matter. All the while, we struggled inwardly with the sense of rejection which did nothing more than fuel our sense of insecurity and value. It wasn't until I began to reap the consequences of "fitting in" that I realized the real lack of support this "in crowd" gave me! When I began to get "labeled" as "one of them" - the label hurt. What I thought would be the height of my life actually stung!
So, here's the hard reality of it all - no one can bring me value. My value (worth) is correctly identified in my connection with Jesus - plain and simple. Nothing, and no one else, can possibly make it possible for me to no longer hide behind a mask. Today - what you see is what I am - at home, or in public. I like to go barefoot. A good book or a challenging word puzzle can keep me entertained for a while, but I have a hard time sitting still, so I tend to do more than one thing at a time! I do my puzzle while cooking a meal. It is who I am and I make no excuses for it!
Most importantly, I am an emotionally broken girl redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. My inward desire to measure up to someone else's standards left me crushed, rejected, and feeling like a total failure more than I can count. I sought attention in all the wrong ways - thinking no one could ever love me as I was. In reality, the more I "tried" to fit some mold others demanded of me, the more miserable I became on the inside. The good news here is in the thing I could not do for myself - the removal of the masks behind which I hid.
It took the love of Jesus to begin to peel the layers of masks away. He had to help me be honest about how my past had left scars beyond my ability to heal. It was his "estimation" of my worth which mattered the most - it just took me a long time to see this! Once I began to lay hold of the truth about how much Jesus loved me (the real me), I began to sense how much I mattered. I have a purpose, as do you! We are at our best when we are fulfilling the purpose for which HE created us! We can look for all kinds of other things to give us purpose in life - but they will only leave us carrying a lot of tightly-packed baggage and a whole lot of layers of masked failure!
Paul's statement rings true - we have only begun! The starting point is the hardest - the first time we give someone a peak behind the mask is the hardest! We have to be wise in just who we allow our masks to be "off" with. At first, we may find it hard to trust anyone, but hear this clearly - God is never more real with us than when we are real with him! We can trust him to see behind the mask. In time, the mask will no longer be what defines us - his grace evident in us will be the defining glory of our lives. In the determination to "fit", we find our best fit is always when we are free to be just who he created us to be - free of any masks! Just sayin....