Undaunted

 

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I was dizzy. Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the edge.

“Becky,” they called, “You cannot jump. Who knows what dangers are down there at the bottom? It isn’t safe.”

So I heeded their voices. I strove to fit inside their tidy boundaries for me. Don’t do this. Do this. And for the love of all that is sane and reasonable, do not take risks. People pleasing had always been an art of mine and so I crafted a careful life, safe from all the unknowns. I was afraid of heights anyways.

Somewhere in my late twenties, married, with 2 kids (and one on the way), I began to seek a precipice. For all the years of obedience had left me wondering: “Could there be more than this flat land existence? Is there a place where I can be me, not always bowing to the confines of someone else?” I longed for it, for freedom from the suffocating rules pressing against me. There had to be a way that I could step off of the ledge and not die.

The longing grew stronger, yet inside me there were always voices, warning me, cajoling me not to want it. In the next decade, I started to see the beauty of grace, the treasure of the cross, my salvation full and free, without regard to any rule following on my part. Those things chaffed against the neat list of expectations I had made for myself: the submissive wife, the godly mother, the dutiful daughter. Conversely, I knew the façade of safety was just that. All the flat land existence was eating me up inside. Gloomy clouds of depression suffocated me.

For the first time ever, I slowly taught myself to stop heeding the voices telling me to not seek the cliff. I began shedding those like layers of skin, each one more painful than before. The better I understood the simple message of the gospel, to believe and be free, to live for Jesus because He died for me, to embrace HIS expectations for my life knowing they come without strings attached, the closer I inched to the edge.

When the clouds of gloom were lifted, I saw that my feet were closer than ever to the rim of the canyon and I looked down into the vastness, its beauty captivating. I stopped reading the “how to” books. I stopped making my husband my god, instead putting purposeful and deliberate distance so that I could be me and he could be himself, all the while loving him deeper than ever.

There was one final rock I was about to stumble on; a rock of momentous proportions on which I would not just stumble, but fall entirely: parenting an adult child who chose a path of life I never could have imagined. Only then did I realize that the very thing I hated, all the man made parameters that had constantly kept ME away from the edge, I had built those very things around my kids to a lesser degree. Deconstructing them took time but as I did, the view became clearer and the canyon beckoned me to come.

Unshackled, I ambled to the edge. There was no fear. I was finally ready, confident,  my arms outstretched and breath bated out of sheer thrill of what was to come. I felt dizzy, light, unencumbered and yet, I felt wrapped in a security I could never contrive myself. This was the arms of my Savior that held me, close to His heart, warmly, gently, and safely. I was enveloped in His love and this assured me of a landing without harm.

I could feel the breeze blowing up from below and I began to totter. Before I could acquiesce to any shred of doubt, my feet left the edge. Air that I had never breathed before filled my lungs and I was in a freefall, sure this was not the last time I would fly.

The Great Masquerade

I am already hot. Sweat beads into the fabric around my armpits and torso. My legs already feel wobbly from these stupid high heals I have on. Something is poking around in my perfectly coiffed hair- a bobby pin must have lost its end. Darn it. My intricate mask, adorned with peacock feathers, is itchy and distracting, making it a bit hard to see. 

I’ve turned a few heads with my entrance and I know that I look good. The dress I chose is heavy and rich, a deep purple with just the right amount of beading detail, and a splash of sex appeal.

On the outside I am picture perfect, ready for the masquerade ball to commence- a bit of a show stopper if I do say so myself.  On the inside though, I am rather unsteady- a mixed up girl with nothing but a shallow outward confidence and a pretty made up face.

Tonight, I am incognito. Veiled behind my mask and concealed under my dazzling dress, I can be who I want to be- and no one will know the difference.

This is who we are- all of us sometimes. We hide behind a mask, our dressed-to-impress clothes or our ability to fake it till we make it, while deep down we are a mess.  {Read this to understand what I mean by the word mess.}

Why? Why do we feel this need to masquerade as beautiful, have-it-all-together people? Are we afraid of letting the world (and in particular the church) see us for who we are- especially THE CHURCH? It is a CRYING SHAME!

The other day, my sweet friend, who is dealing with daily, debilitating panic attacks (amongst other things) said to me, “Everyone wants the answer, ‘I’m fine’ when they ask how you are doing. It’s like the Christian F word!”

It seems that genuine, care and concern are a kind of taboo. Maybe we go to church for more of a fashion show, no?!  I have witnessed the procession my whole life-  snazzy collared shirts, slacks, fancy-schmancy dresses, sling back heals, fine jewelry- and this is just the attire. Plastered on smiles are acceptable too.

Are we so busy with our production of church or reaching out to lost souls (which is obviously important), that we are missing the hollow, grief-laden folks right there, sitting in the chair or pew next to us? Or maybe we have become so adept at the cover-up we have fooled even ourselves? Do you want to give someone a “Jesus band-aid” and be done?

Maybe it is time to strip away the finery, take off the ornate mask and see the real YOU, ME, THEM, US. Maybe it is time to quit shunning the rebels in the youth group who are walking away from truth. Maybe it’s time to cry with a woman you know says her marriage is crumbling to pieces or she actually thought about suicide.

The ability to masquerade AND the propensity towards turning a blind eye or deaf ear to the hurting- I have participated in both- for shame. BUT I am desperately trying to change that.

Here is a beautiful story that illustrates what God thinks of the messy people (illustrated perfectly as Shepherd and sheep):

 The Lord and King says, “I myself will search for my sheep. I will look after them. A shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them. And I will look after my sheep. I will save them from all of the places where they were scattered on a dark and cloudy day.

 “I will bring them out from among the nations. I will gather them together from other countries. I will bring them into their own land. They will eat grass on the mountains of Israel. I will also let them eat in the valleys and in all of the places in the land where people live.  I will take care of them in the best grasslands. They will eat grass on the high mountains of Israel. There they will lie down in the finest grasslands. They will eat grass in the best places on Israel’s mountains.

“I myself will take care of my sheep. I will let them lie down in safety,” announces the Lord and King.  “I will search for the lost. I will bring back those that have wandered away. I will bandage the ones that are hurt. I will make the weak ones stronger. But I will destroy those that are fat and strong. I will take good care of my sheep. I will treat them fairly.”

Jesus resonates this when He, in Luke 15, tells the story of the lost sheep. The outwardly masqueraded Pharisees and teachers of the law are miffed because Jesus EATS WITH SINNERS AND WELCOMES THEM! Gasp! Then Jesus, in truly perfect God-Man fashion sets them straight with a series of  “lost and found” stories (including the one about the prodigal son).

So I say: let’s take off our masks, be willing to bend down and help someone pick up the pieces of their broken life, not afraid to get messy.

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