A Call to a Higher Standard
We touched on this a little last week, but I think it deserves a little more of our attention.
If you missed last week's post - go back and give it a read. We talked about the masks we wear - we get really comfortable in these masks, so it can seem daunting to cast it aside and...
Eek. I know, that's a scary thought.
A few years ago, authentic was the word I chose for my word that year. Maybe it chose me. Because, it's not a word I would naturally gravitate towards.
To say it another way, it intimidated me. It challenged me.
But, I'm thankful God led me to this because I wouldn't be the woman I am today, the one writing to you and sharing my vulnerabilities with the masses, without it.
Yeah, the power of one little word.
I could write only about my highlight reel, but it wouldn't last. First of all, I'm not that exciting most days. I mean, I get excited about crossing things off my to-do lists and hearing my little niece say my name and watching a magnolia bloom. I can't describe the excitement I feel for these things!
As much as I like words, they seem to leave me in these moments.
So yeah, I'll probably write about those things, too, but in and of themselves, probably not something that will encourage or inspire you.
Secondly, no one wants to read only highlight reels. We long to relate. And maybe it's just me, but I can't relate to someone having their best days every single day.
Let's be real, I can't trust someone who only speaks of sunshine.
I need to hear about the rain - the gentle drops and the monsoon downpours...
I need to hear about the wind - the easy breeze and the blistering feel-it-in-your-bones kind...
I need to hear about the night - the unsettling darkness and the isolating loneliness...
...before my heart will see a kindred spirit and truly relate.
You and I can be completely different, but once you start telling me about the real you, suddenly I start to connect. Our circumstances and personalities may be entirely different but the human heart, not so much.
Bottom line, I need to relate to someone before I trust their encouragement.
That year was a journey of embracing authenticity. It didn't happen overnight. But, there was one moment in particular at the beginning of that year that made me stop in my tracks.
Phone a Friend
My phone rings. I pick it up as I'm putting away a few things around the house. Turns out to be a friend from church named Colin.
Seemed a bit random at first but he always provides a good laugh, so I answered excitedly, thinking whatever it is, it will be good. He didn't know it, but God used that phone call to call me to a higher standard.
Nothing he said would give you that impression. He was simply calling to learn more about the company I work for. We spent the next few minutes talking about work and what he could expect if he were to interview.
Then, it came. Before ending the call, he asked, "Wait, I forgot to ask, how are you doing?"
Okay, time-out real quick.
What's the big deal about "How are you doing?"???
I, myself, use this phrase and answer this countless times a day. It's my go-to. It's on the tip of my tongue.
And you know what else is?
Comfortable behind my mask of always-got-it-all-together-even-if-I-don't-at-all-just-smile-and-wave, I brushed it off and gave him my go-to, tip-of-my-tongue response, "Oh, I'm good. How are you?"
See how quickly I deflected the attention?
Like I said, I have had plenty of practice with this. So no questions asked, he was convinced. Call ended. Moving on.
Not So Fast
I looked at my phone and one word came rushing to the forefront of my mind.
Yep, you guessed it.
Truth was, I wasn't "good" or fine or okay.
It would've been more revealing of me to say "fine," because we all know when a woman says she's fine, she ain't fine. She's stressed, maybe hurt, probably overwhelmed and barely holding it together.
Yeah, that was me. I was "fine."
Someone I care about was walking through deep, dark pain. And I was walking alongside, heartbroken and helpless in my own might to fix it. I so badly just wanted to be a rescue. But I couldn't.
Adding to the pain of feeling helpless was the realization in that moment that I had lied to my friend. He didn't ask me how I was at the beginning of the call. Perhaps then, I could have brushed it off as a routine greeting. No, for some reason he came back to it before hanging up as if he remembered how he unintentionally jumped in without much small talk.
Gosh. Why did he have to do that? I could have skipped all of this self-awareness and stayed buried under my comfortable mask.
Yeah, maybe a little white lie but a lie nonetheless. I wasn't okay. I was far from it. I heard a question - not spoken audibly - but clearly directed to the depth of my being.
"So are you going to be authentic or not?"
I mustered up all the courage I could, set aside my pride, and called Colin back. He probably thought I was calling to tell him one more interview tip, but instead I said...
"So a minute ago, you asked how I was doing and I said I was 'good.' I'm really trying to be intentional to be authentic this year, so I'm calling you back to say I'm not good. Not at all. Life sucks right now. It hurts watching someone I care about hurt so much. I don't want to burden you with the details, I just wanted to be honest rather than pretend it's all okay."
He expressed kindness and words of comfort.
You see, I find this friend in particular genuine, and even hilarious, much because of his own authenticity. He learned how to be honest at all costs, and now he walks in freedom of who he is now and not who he used to be.
His stories of his wayward past would bring me to tears of redemption and even rolls of laughter. That might sound crazy, but I promise it isn't heartless. Everyone in the room is laughing during a Colin story. They're epic.
I'm struck by these stories mainly because he isn't hiding the ugly parts. He isn't masking it and showing what he thinks we want to see about him.
He actually talked about those painful, ugly moments the most! And he's a goofball, so everyone is intrigued and laughing along.
Accepting the Challenge
I don't know where you're at on the authenticity challenge. Maybe you're Colin and able to embrace the ugly, not-so-good parts. Maybe you're where I was at the beginning of that year - hiding behind "I'm good."
I believe every effort towards authenticity is worth making.
Let me say that again.
Every effort towards authenticity is worth making.
Even if it's a small effort. Calling my friend back may seem like a small effort, but it took everything in me in that moment to do it.
Taking off the mask wasn't like the facial masks we've all become accustomed to, where you just pull it off from behind your ears. Nah, this mask of having it all together is more like the Bioré skin strips.
Those of you who flew through puberty without a blemish, well pin a rose on your nose. Meanwhile, I'll work on cleaning my pores and eliminating unwanted blackheads on mine...
Yeah, these strips - kind of like the mask - they go on easy. You just wet a washcloth and pull off the plastic and press it to your skin. But like the mask, these strips are painful, even tearful, to pull off. They leave red marks.
When these strips are pulled - much like the mask - I feel clean and empowered! I'm amazed at all of the gunk I was able to get out of my pores in just 15 minutes!
So yes, it's time. Take off the mask.
And you know what will happen? You will see evidence of the Lord's work in you. He wants to remove the gunk we're holding onto. He wants to use you.
But the thing is, before you can inspire someone else to take off their mask, you have to take off your's first.
Paul knew this. It's not about how great we are, it's about how great our God is and the grace He lavishes over us. Paul writes,
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. - 2 Corinthians 11:30
Don't you think it's time to pull off this mask? You might be a little embarrassed at first. The redness might show for a couple minutes, but you'll be empowered to do it again. Then again.
And then, maybe one day you'll see this mask of have-it-all-together or whatever it is for you, sitting on your entry table next to your car keys, and you'll be brave enough to walk out without it.
Take some time to think about what this mask is for you. And then, think about what your one word is for this year.
Find strength in the promise that God knows you - all of you - and loves you just the same. Find joy in taking off the mask. Find peace in seeing the evidence burst forth all around you that God's grace is indeed enough for you. Find rest in leaving the mask off.
Because walking around with a Bioré strip, it just looks ridiculous in public. I'd rather see the blemish on your T-zone than the white strip pasted to your face.
So, take it off.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!