“Oh, I’m doing great!”
“Things have been wonderful.”
“Oh yeah, things are awesome on my end, too!” *insert fake smile*
Have you ever caught yourself using one of those statements? I have—many times. When someone asks how you are, you automatically know that they don’t want to know the reality. They just want a quick, “Great! And you?” Thus, we shy away from telling the truth, from saying, “Ya know what, actually, things have been tough. I could really use some prayer.”
Instead, we put on a mask—maybe it’s a smiling mask; maybe it’s a mask that looks tired but has the determination to keep going, even if you run out of steam. We often have quite a time admitting that we’re struggling, especially when we’re not sure if the person we’re speaking to believes in mental illness or understands the extent of our physical illness(es) or grief.
Are you bearing your load alone? Of course, as many will say first, it’s important to note that the Psalmist said God carries our burdens for us (Psalm 68:19) and that Jesus said His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). However, it’s important to realize that we need people and community around us. We need support systems. We need to be real and vulnerable with other humans, which, yes, means tearing off that mask that we very well may wear 24/7. And when we tear off those masks? Inevitably, some of our own skin is going to come off. It’s not a question of if it will be painful to be real with people, but rather a question of how much it will hurt. As the skin comes off with the masks and we begin to unburden our very hearts to another human, parts of our heart will leave, as well. This is often the hardest part.
We armor our hearts–in truth, the very essence of our beings–sometimes so well that when we begin to chip away at walls and pull apart armor and reveal even a bit of what lies within, we, in fact, have to give up pieces of ourselves. We can no longer protect those pieces—they’re in the hands of the people we’ve befriended or been befriended by, the people we’ve decided to trust with the innermost of our beings.
In all honesty, as well as an amazing friendship displays such acts, there is truly no greater relationship than that of marriage to show how this plays out. And since marriage is a picture of Christ and His church, you don’t need to actually be married to understand. Simply being one of God’s children allows you to see this relationship, though, admittedly, it’s more imperfect when there are two humans involved, as opposed to one human and one God.
However, for the sake of illustration, I will use marriage between a husband and wife—it just doesn’t get more real that that! It’s the end of a long day. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom, and the kids have been getting under your skin all day. No doubt, they’ve seen you without your mask, because you’ve probably snapped at one—or all—of them, at some point. And then your husband comes home. He, too, has been wearing a mask all day at work, but he drops it the moment he comes in. You can see the level of fatigue in his eyes as he takes in the laundry that’s still piled up and the number of dishes in the sink. “What have you done today?” he asks.
It very well may be a perfectly innocent question, meant simply to inquire, but you take it personally. I kept the kids alive! you may want to scream. Oh, and I did wash the counter…once. Your mask may come off, and you may say just that. You may refrain. It changes daily.
Or maybe you’re in my shoes: homemaker due to being disabled; struggling with infertility; lying, depressed, on the couch, near daily. You feel like a failure—a broken wife and human. Your husband comes home from work to see the same pile of laundry and dishes you’d have if you had three kids, but it’s just you, save the weekends your stepdaughter is with you both (and you feel that you have life)…and he asks the same thing. Maybe you didn’t keep the kids alive, but you kept yourself alive. And you want to scream that, but you’re too tired.
Either way, both your masks will come off. Sometimes, that results in fights; but, if we’re more intentional about removing the masks and the armor and the walls, we can have beautiful fellowship with our spouses. We can cry or rejoice…or both! We can be real. We don’t have to pretend that it was a great day. We can tell the truth. We can be raw. And we should be.
May we, if married, practice this within our unions. If you, dear reader, are not married, find a good friend with whom you can be yourself—vulnerabilities and all. Tear off those masks and tear down those walls. And when the pain comes with it, welcome it and shed those inevitable, but cleansing, tears.
Alyssa is an author trying to break into the field, but willing to go where God wants her to with her writing. She writes Young Adult Christian novels in an effort to bring the truth back into the lives of young people in which it is often so severely lacking.
She has overcome 13 brain surgeries, 4 spinal cord surgeries, and countless others since 2009 alone, and battles two organic brain issues, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), Bipolar II, two different anxiety disorders, and more mental illnesses. Her goal is to reach others with the Gospel and what God’s taught her through her ailments.
Alyssa lives in Central Florida with her husband, part-time daughter (a blessing that came with marriage!), and three fur babies.
Check out Alyssa’s blog: http://teacupsandpaperroses.wordpress.com/
And check out her author Facebook page: http://facebook.com/teacupsandpaperroses