On January 6th, my husband and I were home taking down the Christmas decorations. It’s rare for us to be home in the middle of the day, and even rarer for us to have the TV on, but both happened that day. As so, we watched in horror as an angry mob stormed the United States Capitol building. My first reaction was to weep, and then I got angry – very angry – and I wanted to react in anger.
Two things immediately happened. I heard God speak to my heart and remind me that His reaction to my sin EVERY SINGLE TIME is mercy and grace – how could I not react in the same way? In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us how to pray. Matthew 6:12 says, “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Yes, our sins were forgiven when we surrendered our lives to Christ, but our fellowship with God is hindered by unforgiveness.
The second thing that happened was that I saw scenarios in my life where I had sinned against others and a deep, deep repentance consumed me. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). It wrecked me.
If you know me, I’m sure you see a sweet, older lady who loves the Lord and volunteers her time at Grace, and even teaches some women’s classes. And I am all that – I do love the Lord and I do love serving at Grace. What you don’t see is the lady behind the “mask.”
We all wear a mask, and it isn’t always a bad thing. God’s love covers us. Romans 4:7 says, “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
It turns out I didn’t have to do anything. Jesus came and got me.
But in my past life, I had a lot of sins to hide. After I became a Christian in my early 20’s, I married a “good, Christian man.” Except he wasn’t good, and he certainly wasn’t Christian. As an immature believer, I didn’t know the difference. I experienced a very painful divorce that left me shattered, and I decided that if this was Christianity, I didn’t want any part of it. The world opened its arms to me, and I ran into its embrace.
I spent ten years living a very sinful life. I wore a different mask – the mask of a sinner trying to look respectable to the world. After all, I had two children and a responsible job, so I had to look the part. But I was dying inside. And there was that constant voice inside my head that kept telling me that I was meant for a different life. Maybe if I was more rebellious, if I partied more, I could drown it out, make it stop. But every night when I put my head on the pillow, it was there. John 10:27 says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” I knew I belonged to Him; I just didn’t know how to get back.
It turns out I didn’t have to do anything. Jesus came and got me. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” (Matthew 18:12).
I tell you all of this because we all wear a mask. We all have stuff in our past. But when we are called to belief in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven – no questions asked; we don’t have to earn it and He doesn’t ever take it away. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
I also tell you all of this because we can never know this about each other without spending time in fellowship – getting to know one another through serving, through Grace Communities, through classes, volunteering, praying together, and doing fun things with one another. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Maybe if I’d had that type of fellowship, I wouldn’t have run back to the world. Don’t assume that what you see on the outside when you meet someone is the whole story. I looked just fine, but I was on the brink. We are part of God’s body and as such, we need to create a safe space to allow each other to remove their masks; to allow people to share the part of them that carries shame and grief and guilt. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
I know with all my heart that I am forgiven, but on those days when my past rushes back, I also know that I have people who love me, who know my past, who share my faith, and who will speak truth into my life.
What if we all did that for each other?