My kids are always asking me to tell them stories about when I was a little kid. And around different holidays they want specific stories that pertain to that holiday. So my Halloween story usually consists of this…
It was Halloween morning when I was in about 4th grade, and we woke up to a blizzard! Yep! Snow covered everything! We had so much snow that school was cancelled!
I spent the day at my neighbor Melissa's house. I remember she had just learned to play The Entertainer on the piano, and she played it over and over. Even now when I hear that song, I think of her fondly. We did our best to stay warm on that cold day wondering how in the world we were going to trudge through the snow to collect candy that night! Early in the afternoon they made an announcement…HALLOWEEN WAS POSTPONED!
I had no idea that Halloween could be postponed…so we waited until the next day to go trick-or-treating. Even then as we walked from house to house collecting frozen candy, we were bundled up to the point that no one even saw our costumes…they were completely covered by our heavy coats, moon boots, stocking hats and mittens.
But at the end of the day, after we thawed out from our adventure, we had accomplished our goal: CANDY!
Raising my girls in Arizona where they have never seen snow fall from the sky, they can't imagine wearing a coat over their Halloween costumes…partly because they don't own coats!
Here in Phoenix, it is still nearly 100° outside. We are at the other extreme where, as one of my friends says, “It doesn't cool off here until the make-up melts off the kids' faces at Halloween.”
Which brings me to today's topic…taking off my mask!
I believe there is a lot we can learn from our commercialized version of this holiday.
1. Pretending to be someone you're not can be fun…for a while.
It can be fun to put on a costume and step into someone else's life temporarily, but hiding behind the mask can also be exhausting!
I remember walking into my local weekly support group for the first time. It was super scary. I told my friend on the way there that I was nervous, but I also told her, “It can't be worse that anything I've already been through.” As I opened the door, I began to cry. As I looked around the room, I saw woman after woman who shared my story. I can't tell you what a relief it was to walk into a room without having to pretend anymore.
When the masks come off, we open the door to authenticity. And what a gift this is. To be loved for who you are rather than always feeling like love is earned by being perfect…or at least pretending to be. I can't describe the freedom that comes when someone accepts you just as you are. This is how Jesus loves us. Allowing others the opportunity to love us in this way can take our relationship with Jesus to a deeper level. What a gift you are giving yourself when you take of your mask and let others love the YOU that God created!
2. It often seems easier to hide behind the mask of who you think you should be rather than to be your authentic self.
For years I hid behind my smile. When I went to church and people asked, “How are you?” I always answered with the correct answer, “I'm fine.” At work no one knew my pain for years!
In my head, I knew I was working endless hours at a struggling business, my marriage was falling apart at the seems, and as a business owner I was missing so many milestones in my babies' lives. I was not fine!
And although my inner dialog was saturated with negative thoughts and beliefs, on the outside I always wanted to appear to have it all together. I wanted people to believe that I was a strong woman who could tackle any storm. I thought maybe if I could convince other people of this, that I would eventually begin to believe it.
But finally, I gave up. I gave up trying to impress everyone else. I gave up trying to appear to be the perfect mom, business owner, wife, Christian. OH MY GOODNESS! It was such a burden off my back to FINALLY be me. As I began to share my story with safe people, I found that I wasn't judged or even seen as weak or a failure. Instead, I was encouraged, supported and for the first time, I felt connected. Which leads us to the third insight.
3. It can be scary to take off the mask and let others see who you really are, but it is freeing.
The first time I shared part of my story with someone other than my close friends, I thought, “Here we go…she's going to think I'm crazy and we are never going to talk again.” But I have found that when I am honest with where I am in life, it opens up the opportunity for others to be honest about their lives, as well.
The truth is we all have ups and downs. We all have unexpected chapters in life. Unfortunately, we often try to run and hide from these chapters trying to avoid embarrassment or shame. But when you begin to embrace these chapters, you open up the door to the next level of connectedness with God, yourself and others.
I thought sharing my story would make me feel more isolated. Instead I have found a deeper level of connection in my relationships. Sure, not everyone has embraced me and my story, but that is okay. The friendships I have now are deeper and more meaningful.
If you are longing to learn how to take of the mask and begin embracing your story, I invite you to jump into my online devotional, Loving? My Life: Embracing God's Story for Me. In this devotional, I'll walk you though the exact steps I took to embrace my own unexpected chapters in life and learn to live the abundant life Jesus promised.
I would love to walk with you step-by-step along the way as you move from surviving this chapter, to conquering this chapter with grace and truth. For more information and to purchase the study, click here: Loving? My Life Study.