I used to be a pretender. The past few years have taught me that there is no reason to be. Hiding from the truth is an excellent way to avoid fixing problems. I spent the majority of my life hiding behind the mask–you know, the one–the “I’m OK, fine, good, great, fantastic, etc.” mask, the Sunday morning, “We were all fighting in the van on the way to church, but you’ll never know that because we are gonna grin and share the joy of the Lord with you” mask, the one that acted like everything was fine in my marriage, though in reality it was falling apart. That mask. Some of you know that mask because you’ve worn it, or because someone close to you has worn it.
I got tired of wearing that mask a couple years ago. I had worn it all my life. As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACoA), that’s all I really knew to do. When circumstances finally allowed me to see the neon sign that had been flashing in my home for decades, the one that read THIS IS NOT NORMAL! THIS IS WRONG! TRUST YOURSELF! YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! YOUR KIDS DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! DO SOMETHING!, I pulled off the mask and stopped pretending. It was liberating.
“You shall know the truth,” Jesus said, “and the truth shall make you free.” Lord, yes, I want to be free. I am free. I am free from the oppression under which I consented to live for most of my life.
Now it’s my children’s turn to be freed. There are factors that negatively influence their freedom, but those things often are not in my control. Their own free will plays a part too. But as far as it depends on me, I choose to take off the mask and to take away any pressure to look good for the sake of looking good, to perform for appearances sake.
I want my children to feel safe and loved in every way, and I want them to feel free to be themselves. I don’t want them to feel pressured to conform to society’s arbitrary or pointless expectations. I want them to live up to God’s expectations, and His alone. I long for them to understand the peace that surpasses all understanding.
But as long as I’m willing to pretend, even just a little, to wear a mask, even a small one, I’m robbing them of that opportunity. I have to be willing to be vulnerable. I must be honest and open. I need to accept myself for who I am and my children for who they are, without reservation, shame, guilt, or an agenda. This is grace. This is the key to peace and joy. This is the key to healing.