I was struck yesterday by the brokenness of people. So many of us are masking our shame, tucking our sins under our outer layers of sunshiney perfection. We struggle to maintain this facade of picture-perfect Christian while we are so broken inside, we’re barely held together. Why? How did we get here?
I spoke with a mother yesterday who has two little children and is expecting her third. During the past year or so, she has slowly been falling apart. Bits of her have been chinked away by the physical demands of nursing, sleeplessness, and pregnancy and by the emotional demands of discipline, training, and loving. Her hormones have been up and down. For thirteen years she was a professional career woman, organized and efficient, in-control and highly-praised. Suddenly, she is having her third baby in three years. Her home is in disarray; her emotions are frazzled; her schedule is interrupted. She just wants to take a shower and brush her teeth!
While this mother was fighting against thoughts of running away, seriously running away and leaving her husband and children, she was plastering on her smile and pretending everything was hunky-dorey every time she left her house. Inside, she was broken, wounded, hurting, weary. But outside, she was a have-it-all-together mother of two little ones. She was involved in church and another organization. She was a leader, a volunteer. And she went about her duties with a smile on her face.
I saw her; I shared smiles with her; I commented on her pregnant glow and her adorable belly. And I was fooled. I never saw her brokenness. I never knew what pain was tucked away beneath her smile.
Why did she feel like she had to be perfect? Why did she feel like she couldn’t measure up to the rest of us?
Another mother shared her life story. My heart broke as I heard about all our gracious Father has brought her through. My heart rejoiced as she told of how He has truly brought beauty from her ashes. And, I must admit, I was shocked at her revelation. She had been through so much: unplanned pregnancies, adoptions, divorce, suicidal thoughts, addiction, poverty, heartache, heartbreak. I don’t know her well, but I had smiled and briefly spoken with her in the past. We’d played board games together and laughed. All the while, I had no idea what pain lurked beneath the surface of her life.
Last year, while I smiled and greeted her, she was struggling with alcoholism and her family was held together by the sheer grace of God. She was depressed and shame-filled and weak. And she thought she had to put on a mask, pretend to have it all together. This mom also felt like she couldn’t measure up, like she was less-than every other mother she met.
As I listened to these moms, I had this picture of all of us walking around with these beautiful full-body masks, pretending to be good, hiding our sins, pushing deep our shame. I pictured beneath these masks, written all over us were words like “unfaithfulness,” “addiction,” “abortion,” “selfishness,” “impatience,” “stubborn-ness,” “hatefulness,” and “anger.”
And then I pictured each of walking around, looking at each other’s masks and thinking, “Wow, she is so beautiful! She has everything under control. She has a fabulous marriage, well-behaved children, gorgeous clothes. I bet she has a perfect house and is a great cook. I bet she never loses it all like I do. I bet she never yells at her kids. I bet she never goes to sleep with her back turned to her husband. I bet she has never done anything half as bad as what I have done. She’s better than I am. I am less of a mother, less of a wife, less of a Christian than she is!”
And while one of us is thinking that about someone, someone else is thinking that EXACT thing about us! Because they don’t see the real me, they see the mask I meticulously put on before I leave my home.
I wondered yesterday if Mom #1 looked at Mom #2 last year and thought how together Mom #2 seemed to be, while Mom #2 looked at Mom #1 and thought how together and perfect Mom #1 seemed to be.
We are all broken. None of us are righteous. No, not one! We are all a big falling-apart mess without Jesus. Why are we so afraid to admit that to each other? Why do we carry around our brokenness tucked deep inside our layers, afraid that our brokenness makes us less-than everyone else?
I wish we could be real with each other. I wish these women didn’t feel the need to pretend. My heart is broken that they may have looked at me and felt worse about themselves. Because I know how broken I am! I know my own heart, my own sins, my own shortcomings, my own shame. I am not perfect. I do not have it all together. Without Jesus, I’m a mess.
I challenge you. Be real. Take off your mask.