lifes-tug-of-warMy first church experience in middle school had gone something like this: church bbq, fun games for kids, lots of running around with my bff at the time and then the big sermon by the preacher where he told us we were all “sinners.” I went home and told my mom he had called me a sinner and she told me it wasn’t true.

About the time I was 15 I first heard the redemption story of Jesus. (If you are currently in shock that in the modern US a person can live 15 years, or more, and never hear the name of Jesus, that’s another post for another day. Just realize not everyone around you knows about Jesus…..) I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, or even a religious home. My mom often said she was a spiritual person and someday she would explain to me what that meant. She believed it would be up to us, her girls, to decide for ourselves what we would choose to believe. A good idea in theory, but if you teach nothing then there is nothing to be learned.

Learning about God’s love for me, giving me a purpose, was the greatest gift I could have been given. I am very thankful for the courage of a friend to invite me to church. I had many great influences in my life then. People willing to love the ugly in me, to give when I didn’t give back. People willing to sacrifice, in what I now know, all for the purpose of the Kingdom of God.

It was a tough time in my life. Just like many new christians it was confusing. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t just wake up “good”. I struggled with all the sins of a 15 yr old. My battle with the “good” and “bad” in me was made worse by the freedoms I was given in my home to drink and be sexual active. I would try so desperately to “be” good, to “do” good. Grace is a complicated subject for a seasoned believer but even harder to grasp when first taking a leap of faith.

I wore a lot of masks then. I would be one person with one group of friends, another with the other. A sort of Jekyll-Hyde syndrome. It was literally a tug-of-war for my soul. On Sat night I would be out doing all the things I shouldn’t be doing, just to wake up on a Sunday morning, hung over, guilt ridden and dressed well just in time to make it to service and youth group activities. I would repent, leaving it all on the altar, one more time. Swear, I was never going to do that again. My heart knew better, knew I wanted something better for my life. But, I was too busy wearing masks to find real answers.

I was the girl who was “saved” in youth group. Not the ones that had been there, their entire lives. I was a project. The one with a past, with history. Some parents wouldn’t let me hang out with their kids because they didn’t know my family or where I had come from. I never wanted to disappoint them. I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want to show them how much I struggled. I thought I wasn’t really christian enough by the way I struggled. What would have happened if I had told them I wasn’t “pure”? What would have happened if I told them just how drunk I got on Friday or Saturday nights?

I wore my perfect masks.

A few years into my tug-of-war struggles, things were getting better. I wasn’t making as many “mistakes”. Then, one of my closest friends from the youth, fell off of the pedestal I had put her on. My faith, my beliefs, they fell with her. I had put more of my trust in the way she lived her life than I had on God. When her masks fell off and I saw the real her, I was in shock. “She’s no better than me.” My illusion that Christianity brought perfection was crumbling. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one wearing a mask.

As I reflect on the moments in my life that seemed to be the greatest times of struggle, I have become very aware of the consequences that come with masking who we really are. Maybe, if I had shared with someone my internal struggles they could have shared with me that Jesus died to love me, not to “fix” me. Maybe, I could have learned to rely on God and not put my faith in people. I could have learned how to love people, even in their own imperfections.

I am very aware in this moment, that fear and shame are not from God. My feelings of inadequacy, of self-hatred, they aren’t from God. God desires for us to find freedom in his Love for us. He desires for us to find strength, encouragement and accountability from the “Church”. We do not need to be perfect before we come to God, but the moment we believe in His love for us, we are made whole, already complete in the eyes of God. How beautiful is that? No matter what the tug-of-war feels like, right now, there is hope and a promise and the war has been won.

The tug-of-war between our  fleshly desires and our eternal hope is a battle we all face. Do you struggle with the tug-of-war? Do you hide the reality of your pain and struggles? What would happen if you removed the masks you wear that hide who you really are?

Angela

This April I will be teaching at the Canvas Church Women’s Retreat: Masquerade. My hope, is that as a community we can learn to remove the masks and live a free, transparent life in Christ. There is freedom in truth. For more info on the Canvas Church Women’s Retreat: Masquerade go to http://mycanvaschurch.com or email me at Angela@mycanvaschurch.com.

 

 

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