Last Saturday in my [first] Vlog post Be Rescued and Rescue — Tell Your Story, I talked about how I learned how to wear a mask. No, I’m no referring to a portion of a costume. 😒 I’m talking about the mask that I’d strategically wear to hide the real me and only display a character — or a piece of my character. This mask allowed me to appear perfect when I was a mess and flawless when I was falling apart. The mask sheltered me from judgment. The mask protected me from those who would see the real me with my real life and real emotions then misunderstand me. The mask was safe, but it was a lie.
As a child I learned how to apply my mask, as an adult I perfected my technique, and here I am in #Chapter29 upping the ante. Don’t get me wrong, I have sought to be an open book in my blogs, and I even recently shared my story of suicidal depression (another blog for another day). I promise, I haven’t been lying to you. The problem is I’ve been lying to myself. *deep sigh*. I’ve gotten so good at applying my proverbial mask and so comfortable hiding behind it that I’ve now mastered the art of hiding me from me.
Recently I’ve been pretty emotional. It’s not just coming from a girly, estrogen filled space. I’ve been “Contemplate your life, get frustrated at the process, cry over what you can’t have, I want what I want how and when I want it, be already or just leave me be, ‘God what are you doing?’, ‘How did I get here?’, ‘Will this ever change?'” emotional. In the moments that I share my thoughts and feelings with my best friend, it becomes a word vomiting session complete with rambled sentences, incomplete thoughts, and uncontrollable tears. No sooner than when I begin releasing these feelings, I follow up with excessive apologies…(unnecessary according to him.) And just as I allow myself to be vulnerable, I throw on my mask and quickly construct a wall. What’s worse is I do the same to myself. When left alone with my thoughts and the aforementioned emotions, I cry long enough to feel then shut off the tears at the valve. “You’re fine, Chris. Stop whining over nothing. Just be content. You don’t have time to cry. Get yourself together.” And with that, I brush aside what I feel and try to move on. Now take a moment and imagine how dumb I would look sitting on my couch watching TV while wearing a smiling Hillary Clinton mask. (That’s no shade to Hillary Clinton, for the record.) In essence, I look just as dumb while in the privacy of my own home with no one around but God, wiping my tears, “fixing my face,” and applying an unnecessary mask. If ever there were someone I could be honest with, it should be ME!
Hopefully in your moments of reading you didn’t judge me too badly. The truth is, I KNOW I am not alone. I know I am not the only Master of Suppression. Many of us have been thrust into the role of always having to be “the strong one.” We are the ones that usually hold it together so that others will either feel comfortable falling apart or can have hope that holding it together is possible. But what is the reward for being strong? Is there a prize for being emotionless or at least non-expressive of emotions? Is there anything to profit from being a stone wall with microscopic cracks? The answer is NO. In my experience, being strong is the fastest way to become weak.
“And then He [God] told me, my grace is enough; it is all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
…And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 [The Message Bible]
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY! I repeat, IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY!
Remember me talking about most of us having to be the strong one, the strong friend, the one who holds it all together for everyone else all of the time? For some of us, that is a learned behavior, and for others of us, that is a forced behavior; for me, it is a little bit of both. Either way, I have been in a position that for the sake of remaining strong, I have began lying to the person who loves me most and knows me best (besides God)…myself. I have forced myself to always be okay, and if I’m not okay, I get okay. But IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY…IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE STRONG! Who said I always have to be resilient and jump back up as if the punch didn’t hurt? Why do I have to put on the mask and the cape and pretend like I don’t see or feel the wounds when the costume comes off? From where did I get the notion that feeling weak means that I’m worthless and helpless? The scripture above comes from a story in the Bible where Paul is sharing that he had visions from God…spectacular visions…ones that he couldn’t even share. So that he would remain humble, it is written that he was given a thorn in his flesh or as The Message Bible says, “the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.” Paul begged God to remove this “thorn” from him then God responded with the scripture above — “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” From that word, Paul found comfort in knowing that God’s strength was so much greater than his weaknesses. As a matter of fact, it was perfected (shining bright like a diamond 💎😉) in his weaknesses.
“It’s okay to feel how you feel.” That is a statement that I tell others all the time but for some reason I haven’t quite accepted it for myself. It’s quite alright to not put on the mask or the cape especially when you are in your safe places where you are allowed to be vulnerable. (I’m directly talking to Christen Diane Rouson.) You may lie and put on a face in public or around those you can ‘t trust, but when it’s just you and your truths, why lie? Why pretend to be strong when you are not? How amazing is it that when you can’t carry it (whatever “it” is), God is not only allowed the opportunity to carry it but to show you just how strong He is? How awesome is it that when we are depleted, He can display just how plentiful He is? You know why (according to Chris) His strength is at it’s full potential when you are weak? Because you are finally out of control. As long as you can conjure up another idea, plot, option, or excuse, God — being the gentleman that He is — won’t overstep you; He’ll let you go forth with your inadequate plan. But when you finally take your hands off and admit, “I’m frustrated, I’m hurting, I’m irritated, I’m confused, and I don’t know what to do or how to feel,” HE can save the day.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 [New International Version]
Mask off, guard down… I am tired, I am frustrated, I am confused, I’m over the process, and I have no clue what God is doing…but I trust Him. Instead of retreating within my feelings just to deny them altogether, I am going to allow myself to be honest with myself, feel how I feel, and trust God enough to give Him my worries. Even when it seems as if His plan makes no sense, I know He cares about me. Today I challenge you to let your guards down and trust both yourself and God. Allow yourself to see you as you are — even if the mirror’s image isn’t as polished as the mask. Then allow God to reveal to you how strong He is and how He’ll apply His strength to your life because He cares about you.
“And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
“God can handle it if you let go of it. He is God, and He cares.”
Lyrics by Pastor Cedric Rouson
I hope this helps.