Recently at church, our pastor was talking about the afflictions we all have. Addictions. Illness. Compulsions. Abuse. Shame. Secrets. The burdens we carry. He has such a beautiful, genuine way of speaking and you could see visible raw reactions among us. I looked around and had this clear, strange thought… what if we all just wore our “labels” instead of hiding them. We all have them. Each of us carries pain from past and present that affects us daily. It pierced my heart and I began to cry… to know all the pain and brokenness that exists just breaks my heart.
My daughter is obsessed with this show, The Masked Singer. It’s a quirky show with celebrities, fully dressed in these incredible costumes from head to toe, who then perform songs while judges try to guess who they are. The entertainers share some personal background info as clues. What’s gotten me, are the stories they share of being afraid to sing, of the insults they’ve received, of taking a chance by coming out on stage to perform. We all tend to hide behind those masks, don’t we? Some are just as elaborate as the Masked Singer, although they’re invisible.
Brene Brown talks about masks and armor in her book, Daring Greatly. If you haven’t read that book, go get it right now. Amazing. She says, “Masks and armor are perfect metaphors for how we protect ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability. Masks make us feel safer even when they become suffocating. Armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary from dragging the extra weight around… Our protection mechanisms may be more sophisticated now that we’re adults, but most of us learned about armor during these raw impressionable years, and most of us can be brought back to that place in a heartbeat.”
I think that it’s easy to get caught in that pit of being stuck in life. Repeating old patterns and bad habits. Resisting vulnerability and ownership of the part we each play in the mess we create. I certainly have. Pastor Randy says, “if you want to change your life, change your choices.” Ohhhhhh… that hits home, doesn’t it? There’s so much of life that’s beyond our control, but there’s also a lot that we bring on ourselves.
For me, it’s been dating and relationships. My closest friends have all seen that other areas of my life were pretty much in check, but relationships were a complete disaster. And not just once or twice, but for as far back as I can remember. My affliction is feeling unworthy, unlovable, disposable. It’s a message I received at impressionable ages that has shaped how I’ve viewed myself. It was then solidified by just about every man I’ve been involved with. I’ve had two failed marriages, both of which crushed my spirit. Self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps?
In a session with my therapist, I talked about the negative tape that loops in my mind… constant insults that cut me down. I hear it incessantly. She asked me, “who’s the voice that has your back? Who sticks up for you?” I weeped and realized I didn’t have one. How could I possibly expect someone to love me when I didn’t have a clue how to love myself. I started praying for God to be that voice and He absolutely sent a few people in my life so I could hear it clearly.
I’ve searched for the man who would prove the rest wrong. Who would love and accept me just as I am. So, I kept looking (and looking) outwardly. I did work on myself as well, but mostly sought out the next relationship, if I’m being honest. It was a cycle on repeat… trapped in my own troubled ways of thinking. I didn’t enter relationships from a mind space of how this person would support and care for me, I was in it whole-heartedly from the beginning and had high hope for him to be “the one.” The anxiety this caused was massive… crippling. I would label myself as a hopeless romantic, although just plain hopeless was probably more accurate! I was arrested in my affliction.
Running has helped me to build confidence, find endurance, and has certainly helped me to get through the tough times. My daughter and I have started running together and I keep telling her, “you are stronger than you think!” It’s easy to cheer someone else on, but hard to know it for ourselves. We all need to hear that… to find that voice. I hope she will hear that voice as she gets older and goes through her own trials.
In the past few years things have started to shift. After my second divorce, I began turning back to my faith. I had wandered off for years and ended up in a church that has led to a spiritual transformation. In the past few months, even more so. I’ve finally started to look up! To stop trying to force a relationship to fill the void in my heart. I’ve been blessed with amazing friendships with people that have become my Church Family. It’s been life changing for me. To finally feel some peace in my heart. I’m definitely not cured, but I’m open to recovery. I’m focusing on trusting God’s plan and healing my heart. I know God alone can arrest my affliction, but He needs me to do my part. To change my choices. As I’ve started to do that, I’ve definitely felt the shift toward serenity. I know it will be a journey, but I’m keeping Romans 12:12 in mind… “To be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”