Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Dangerous Masquerade

The cosmetics industry in the United States brings in over $170 billion annually. Women everywhere are constantly searching for the latest mineral make-up to enhance and even out their skin tone, or the best creams to minimize lines on their face that scream "I'm aging!" Whether it's a little blush, a quick dab of gloss, or light coat of mascara, most women today wear some product on their face to enhance their beauty.

I am one of those women. I will admit to waking up in the morning and engaging in the ever-so conforming ritual of covering up blemishes and imperfections that I would never want anyone to see. At the same time, I am also the same woman who finds it offensive when my good (guy) friend refers to make-up as my mask. How inconsiderate, right?

I would never tell him this, but he is actually right. The same ritual that we believe to enhance our beauty is one that ultimately allows us to mask our true self.

Outside of make-up, the mask most people wear everyday is the one they want others to see. Not one of us can walk around and say we have never put on this type of mask. Personally, I engage in this almost everyday.

My go-to mask consists of: confidence, humor, being outgoing, sarcasm, collectedness, strength, intelligence, a grounded faith, and not having a care in the world, among many others.

I walk around, masquerading myself, hoping others can't see through my disguise. Because, especially as Christians, we have been groomed and taught how to act, we can go about our days without having anyone truly know who we are. But, when I go home at night, who am I? who are you?

Unfortunately, this part of my life became such a habit that I began attempting to, not only masquerade myself from friends, but also the Lord. While at my Christian school I was the person mentioned above; the confident, strong, outgoing, Christian athlete. I was the person I was convinced God was seeing. I was sure nobody saw the sinful, destructive behavior going on outside of campus. As Casting Crowns would put it, my "performance was convincing." Little did I know, over a period of 6 months, both my worlds would come crashing down.

After getting caught breaking school rules, underachieving in the classroom and an unbelievably destructive, sinful relationship, and other various quiet steps I reached the breaking point. This September (2010), I sat in my room, completely broken, and took off my mask. I cried out to Jesus, who took me in with open arms, and I began a journey of redemption.

There is no mask with God. Pslam 139 reminds us that we cannot flee from his presence; he knows everything we do. I was a drunk, deceitful, adulterer, living a disobedient life while claiming to know Christ. I traded in eternity for a life of blemishes and imperfections, but HE CHOSE to love me anyway.

"I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine and I will finally know you as Lord." -Hosea 2:19-20 (NLT)

When I finally stopped wearing my mask and allowed the Lord to work in my life, I saw his faithfulness, love, and compassion. I began to know him as, not only the Savior of my heart, but the Lord of my life. I immediately EXPERIENCED FREEDOM from confessing the disgusting nature of my sinful heart and the desiring to repent and be forgiven.

God won't force us to have a desire for redemption. In fact, Romans 1 talks about how God allows some of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness (me) to be given over to their shameful desires and sinful behaviors. Although he loves us, he will not coerce us, rather allow us to choose our own way. The above verse shows us how, when choose God, he will show us a forgiving, just, compassionate, redeeming love, unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Once we reach complete transparency in our repentance and relationship with the Lord, we must also carry it over into our relationships with each other. It is unfortunate that so many Christians portray themselves as completely put together. Too often we feel as if everybody else around us is strong, and has their life in tact. This creates an inferiority complex that triggers us to put on our masks and fit in. We need to STOP BELIEVING THIS LIE. Even as I sit here and write, two beautiful women of the Lord are having a conversation about the freedom that comes from not only confessing our sin to the Lord, but also to each other. Now, I am not asking you to run around telling everyone you know your most appaling secrets. Rather, I am encouraging you to realize that the battle of wearing a mask is something we all go through. We were all born with a sinful heart full of insecurities and struggles. Whether big or small, those things can eat away at your heart. We need to realize that those who truly love us, and Christ, will not pass judgment on us. Through Christ working in us, we can open our hearts to each other, without judgment, and walk together in our struggles. This can give us a small, real glimpse of Christ's redeeming love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quiet Steps

I was a pretty mischevious little kid. There were often times I would tip-toe by my parents, whether they were sleeping or in the other room, to do something I knew I would get in trouble for. I snuck cookies and candy, took peeks at Christmas presents, and did things they told me not to. As I got older, the behavior contiunued. I dated before age 16, took my sisters clothes, then lied about it, and even snuck out of my bedroom window in 8th grade.

I have come to realize two things about my behavior from those days:
1. It was always a poor attempt of self satisfaction.
2. It was an attempt to avoid trouble, but always resulted in consequences.

Early this fall, I was listening to my itunes when "Reasons Why" by Nickel Creek came on. I didn't know a song that I had heard over 100 times could rock my world like this one:

"Where am I today I wish that I knew. Because looking around there's no sign of you. I don't remember one jump or one leap, just quiet steps away from your lead." "With so much deception, its hard not to wander away..."

I quickly realized that the same quiet steps I used to avoid trouble when I was younger, were the same ones I was taking in my walk with the Lord. My life was full of sinful, deceitful behavior. Much of what I was doing was looking for fulfillment in things that I thought I wanted or needed. I was pursuing destructive relationships and behaviors that did not reflect the beliefs I stood for and the faith I claimed to have. I was constantly wondering why God refused to move in my life. I didn't even notice that I was the one moving; And might I add, in the wrong direction.

As I mentioned previously, I was a living, breathing version of Romans 1:

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." v. 21-22

In this story, it wasn't Gomer, but I, that was the unfaithful wife running in the direction of sin.

To understand our need for redemptive love, it is imperative that each of us identifies the quiet steps in our lives. Any one step we are taking toward our own desires takes us one step away from the Lord. Being human, humility is not our strongest suit. However, if we are unable to humble ourselves enough to pin point our struggles, we will never truly understand what it means to be free from our sin.

As an encouragment, any one step we take toward our father and heavenly bridegroom, we are taking away from ourselves! As we change the path of our quiet steps and begin to move toward the Lord, he will move toward us! He will help carry our burdens, allowing us to overcome the sinful nature of our flesh. As you drink from the deep well of Scripture, the Lord will refresh you and cleanse you, mold you and re-create you through His Living Word. We, together, will be one quiet step closer to truly experiencing his redemptive love.