There are secrets we all keep hidden well. Masks we wear to look the part, to disguise the mess of a soul buried deep. All in an effort to be known as the woman who has it all together, the man with fearless courage and strength.
What if they truly knew the real me? What if I tore down the walls, broke the chains and allowed anger, bitterness, grief and pride to be unloosed like untamed animals? Fear would grip my heart each time I imagined the thought of coming clean. Who would love me then? Would my reputation be forever tainted? Can life be more than a masquerade?
It all started to unravel for me when I was first introduced to Community, while living on a hill in New Hampshire. She was gracious, compassionate, welcoming and kind. Her presence drew me in right from the first meal shared around the worn, wooden harvest tables. I was captivated by the genuineness of her words and willingness to share her story so freely. Her past was stained by abuse and splattered with addiction, yet she shared it proudly like a new pair of shoes or a stunning outfit. She spoke of grace, forgiveness and freedom with deep gratitude towards her Saviour. There was no shame, no masks, no fear.
The time I spent there walking alongside men & women pursuing healing – a fleeting 18 months – changed me deeply. My masks were invisible, and it frustrated me that others could see the real me so clearly. I tried all the more to hide, but nothing worked. Then one day, I just gave up. I give in to what Community had been teaching and modelling for me all along.
It was a good Friday service, the wooden cross in front of us with an open invitation to come and nail our burdens, addictions, sin and fear. Hesitantly I rose from my seat and made the long walk towards freedom. As soon as I heard that hammer pound, the charade was over and I collapsed in complete exhaustion on the carpet. I heard and felt prayers lifted up all around me, the familiar voices of the women I had come to serve and help as they sought healing. Community sang out the most beautiful version of Amazing Grace I’ve ever heard.
The lie that we must hide from our Maker and cloth ourselves to keep the shame at bay, has been instilled in each of us since birth. Our culture praises individualism, external beauty, elevated social status and emotional muteness. As children we learn to hide our weaknesses and boast of our strengths. This practice grows into adulthood as we become masters of disguise and professional internal liars. All of it in an effort to stay safe, to preserve our image, and keep our mess concealed. I lived that way for 25 years!
The epiphany that came to me through the journey to take off my masks was this:
Grace can only be poured out in full measure, when we confess the full measure of our brokenness.
For years I had only been sampling the riches of His Grace. Even in the presence of an all-knowing Saviour I hid my flaws and shortcomings. I was in effect refusing the gift of the cross by pretending my life was fine without Him.
The beauty of Community – and I pray that you will meet her soon if you haven’t already – is that there is no condemnation. All are welcome to come as they are to her Grace table. Freedom is closer than we think.
By Sue Broshear