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Don't wear a mask

Don't wear a mask.

I had to chuckle last week as I read these words in one of Katie's journal entries in her book. Masks (as we know them) were not a thing when she wrote this, and it made me wonder what she would say about all of our mask-wearing these days.

But Katie was referring to a different type of mask. The type we all wear at times. Not a mask that covers our nose and mouth, but rather one that covers our brokenness, our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities. And, in similar fashion, these masks are slightly different in appearance for each one of us.

For instance, instead of telling you about the difficulty I am having in parenting my teenager, I may share a story that makes our relationship look harmonious. That is a mask. Instead of talking about the hurts of my past, I may paint a picture-perfect description of my life. Or I pretend it never happened. Either way, I refuse to acknowledge how my yesterday is affecting me today. I wear a mask so you cannot see beyond the surface of my life. Or perhaps I pretend to be happy all the time, and I avoid feeling angry or hurt or sad when I am with others. Maybe even when I am alone. Those emotions make me feel weak and out of control. So I wear a big, brightly colored mask all the time. So much that I sometimes even forget what I look like without it.

Why do we wear masks? Why do we try so hard to cover the parts of our life and our self that we perceive as ugly? Maybe I think another person doesn't want to see that part of me. Or that it gives them power over me. Or maybe I feel "less than." Or shamed. Exposing the deeper parts of myself makes me feel unprotected because I don't know what you will do with what you can now see of me.

Vulnerability. I remember when my counselor suggested that I learn about vulnerability. I pushed back, thinking I already understood it. Shoot, I was vulnerable. I told stories about myself all the time. Way too many actually. Yea, most of the those were to puff myself up, but occasionally I told a self-deprecating story. That was vulnerability, right?

Oh... I had so much to learn.

Vulnerability is openness. And revealing what is deep inside my heart and my life and my past. What I feel. Who I am. Vulnerability is not pretending or covering up. It's raw and real and honest. But what will you say to me? What will you do? How will you respond or look at me? What will you think about me when I expose myself emotionally? What will I think about me when I reveal myself? I don't know. And that's what makes it so scary.

A few years ago, I started taking my mask off. A little bit at a time. I learned a lot about myself as I looked at my naked heart. I learned about introspection. I learned how vulnerability allows people to identify with each other. I learned about boundaries and knowing when and with whom to share myself. And I learned about the antithetical force of shame that prevents the connection that vulnerability encourages.

I'm still learning and growing in this. But the most beautiful thing I see when I take off my mask is grace. Grace is favor... kindness... honor that is unearned. Grace is what allows for transparency. When I expose my brokenness, God's grace shines through the cracks of my life. I see it when I look in the mirror. I see when it is reflected back to me by others. I am learning that my vulnerability does not require me to feel shame. It can allow me to feel the fullness of grace.

And I'm all for that. Because living in grace is courageous. And powerful. And beautiful.

Which is exactly who I want to be.

God says to me, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, NLT.

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