How often do we go to church or work or school, and when asked, “How are you?” We smile politely and say, “I’m fine” or “doing ok.” Are we really ok? Do people know how hard things have been recently? Probably not. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not fans of revealing our weaknesses to one another. It’s cringe-worthy to many of us to speak honestly about how things really are. In some ways it is easier to put a brave face on and keep going on with life… stiff upper lip, right?
I know, because I am one of those people who wears the “things are great!” mask, trying to be cheerful around others, when inside, I know that I am not. The truth is I naturally hide from others, myself and God when things are challenging or when I’m hurting.
When we hide behind our “masks” we are often trying to self preserve and avoid rejection. What if people really knew what was going on? What would they think of me? Can I trust people with the truth? Those questions have definitely rolled around my head many times before. But things are starting to change for me…
Theres a story in John 4 where Jesus was traveling through a little town in Samaria and stopped at a well to rest. A woman came in the heat of the day to draw water. Jesus strikes up a conversation by asking for a drink. The woman was surprised as Jews and Samaritans were bitter rivals. In the midst of their conversation Jesus asks the woman to bring her husband. She is confronted with an uncomfortable question, and responds, “I don’t have a husband.” A half truth. Jesus goes around her avoidance of the question and presents the truth about her life: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (v 17-18)
Bombshell! I imagine there to have been a pause at this point. Maybe she is squirming inside. She manages to gather her composure and changes the subject, but Jesus has a way of bringing her back to the real matter at hand. Eventually she retorts, “I know that when the Messiah comes, he will explain all things to us,” hoping this will finally bring the conversation to an end.
But then Jesus says to her, “I am He.”
She suddenly realises who Jesus was, and urgently ran to tell the other villagers. These are the words that she said to them: “Come meet the man who told me all I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”
To be honest, I look at her response with bewilderment. This is how she encourages people to come meet Jesus? Surely, six different broken relationships would leave anyone seriously damaged. She might have felt used. The reason she was going to draw water in the heat of the day was because she was aware of her social standing. She was probably ostracised by her community and avoided them out of fear that her shame would be rubbed in her face. She was hurting inside and the desire to stay hidden would be great. So, why on earth would she be so open and willing to share this?
Jesus, in his kindness, confronted the things she was hiding. He didn’t do it to shame her, but rather, to free her from the power of her shame. Jesus didn’t condemn her in her sin and brokenness. He knew ALL, and still loved her. He treated her with dignity and respect. He covered her with grace. She found there was an acceptance unlike anything she had experienced before. This gave her the courage to be honest about herself.
She was free, and she wanted others to meet this amazing man. Perhaps the villagers greeted her with a degree of suspicion? After all, she was “that” woman. How could they take her word for it? But maybe they saw that something was very different about her, and it was pure curiosity that drew them towards Jesus. She became a bearer of the good news that God had come. God used her to change her whole town! They came and saw Him, and Jesus ended up staying for two more days teaching the people. They said to her afterwards, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (v42).
Easter is fast approaching and this story is a wonderful reminder of why Jesus came, why He died on the cross for us and most importantly, why He rose.
He rose to give us new life and freedom in Himself. Freedom in Christ includes being honest and vulnerable about where we are, even if it means exposing those parts of us that we’d rather not. Freedom means we live with confidence in who we are created by God to be, even when we do not have everything all together or perfect. He invites you to take the mask off because only then can the authentic, true self be seen. God can use you the way he used the Samaritan woman. She was freed from the terrible burden of her sin. It no longer restricted her, and it doesn’t have to restrict you either. When we bravely open ourselves to God “in spirit and in truth” (v23), we experience safety and healing that brings freedom to our whole selves. It becomes within us “a fresh, bubbling spring, giving (us) eternal life” (v14), and we want others to experience the same.
Jesus is speaking truthfully and tenderly to me, helping me find freedom from my past and hurts. I think I am starting to understand how the Samaritan Woman must have felt. As someone who has worn the mask and felt the burden since I was little, it feels exhilarating to be free, even if I still have quite a long way to go. I feel less pressure to make myself perfect. I can be more honest with myself and with others. I can look at myself in the mirror and not see the shame or disgust.The fear of being “found out” is gone because I am learning that I have true belonging as His child. I am giving myself permission to be me, the way He made me. This might all seem like elementary faith, and in some ways it is. But elementary faith can often get stuck in our heads without reaching all the way down to our hearts.
This freedom is starting to well up within me, and like the Samaritan Woman, I want to say to people around me, even in ALL my mess, “Come and see the Man who told me all I ever did. He is Jesus. He is the Risen God, the Messiah.”
Hello, Frankie here! Tonight I wanted to use my turn posting on the blog to invite you into what God is doing in my life right now. This post has been whirring around in my head for a while and I’m so glad to finally feel ready to share it with you all.
So I’m sure you’ll join me in being glad that the storm that was life towards the end of last year has calmed and I’ve found my balance again; just! I remain forever thankful I no longer cry everyday, dread leaving the house or find it exhausting just putting on a brave face. I have (with incredible support) completed the hardest days and the hardest tasks- but hey, I’ll be honest; I still haven’t decided what to do with my beautiful, unworn wedding dress that is still hanging in a kind friends house. And the wedding rings- they lie in a plant pot in my and Chana’s living room, because that’s the only place I can bare to keep them for now. Those decisions are hard and they aren’t for now. But the wounds aren’t fresh anymore, and to be honest I don’t even remember they are there most of the time- praise God! But as all wounds heal; they itch. They itch as if to remind me it’s okay they’re still healing, and some days they hurt more than others.
But God has has led down an interesting path these last few months. I suppose I expected a whirlwind new plan, new calling and new adventure. And while I remain expectant for the whirlwind seasons of the future; currently God has been showing me something quite different. He has continued to quietly whisper ‘Be still’ , Do your duty’ and prompted me time and again to ‘choose abundant life.’
One morning not so long ago, while lying in bed God prompted me to turn to Proverbs 31 in my bible. Jackpot I thought, hoping for a verse about a new calling, new path or maybe even some more out there instruction to start weaving (v.13). But I felt God draw me to verse 27:
‘She suffers nothing from laziness’
Basically God said ‘Frankie don’t be lazy.’ Great. Off I went and told my friends- Gods telling me to be tidy and less lazy. Again. And a few days later God prompted me again to read proverbs 31, drawing me to verse 15 which reads as:
‘She rises before her household’
I’d never heard (or had chosen to ignore) of God telling anyone to get out of bed earlier- but apparently it’s a thing; I checked with A LOT of people. Then it got really hard; God asked me to turn my car radio off and commute home in silence. A whole hour in the car. In silence. What even is this God?!
But He said it, so I did it.
I tidied my life. I went to bed earlier (affectionately known among my friends as #10.01) and set my alarm earlier (#6:30). I decluttered my chaotic routines and found a new motivation for work (in a moment of madness even agreeing to a spot of guest lecturing?!). I try my best to commute home in silence at least once a week- often on Tuesdays- and have been embracing taking life at a slower pace than perhaps I’d like. And after I made these changes, I began to wait for that new adventure from God. Where was this obedience taking me? What is He doing with this stuff? But surely God kept saying quietly and gently only ‘Frankie, be still.’
But now I know exactly what He was and is doing. God was slowing me down; not allowing me to ignore, mask or distract myself from engaging in a process of allowing peace to return to me. In these silent spaces and tidier, quieter moments He is helping me process- and not just the events of last year but things from years ago that I have never taken time to deal with. I’ve come to understand this time as a beautifully hidden season that has impacted every part of my life but remains, mostly, uncomplicated by chaos and something I only have to invite others into when it’s felt right. Last year was messy and so very uncontrollably public that this hidden season is soothing beyond compare; a sweet sanctuary for rest, reset and recovery.
The quiet spaces have prompted me to pursue therapy to help those fresher, niggling wounds. On Tuesdays I turn up and tell my therapist about the tangible fear of my life falling apart and how it brings paranoia and over analysis of every conversation I have and every single decision I now make. I tell her how hard I now find it to trust people not to reject and abandon me with no warning. I tell her about the sickness in the pit of my stomach when I think about being vulnerable and pursuing new relationships. I tell her about my deepest fears, how I don’t want brokeness to be my life song. She listens and sometimes she validates my thoughts and other times she challenges them. But most importantly she helps me towards the point of navigating into the future, all with God at the centre.
I try hard not to cry and I laugh awkwardly as I struggle with being the one being counselled and not the counsellor. And believe me this process is harder than I ever imagined. Often I don’t sleep well afterwards and the terrifying nightmares I had just after I received the news that changed this part of my life are back. But that’s okay- unsettling things that need healing is going to move the sediment right at the bottom of those stormy oceans! And after counselling I go home to a calmer life with established routines and a steadfast support network. And I am still. And all is well because He is there.
He is healing me through prayer, conversation and prompting me to say my fears out loud so I can acknowledge and work through them to a place of healing. He’s teaching me to call out my fear as fear, abandonment as abandonment and not to diminish experiences for fear of the judgement of others. God is teaching me to give my psychological healing a name- the name of Jesus! The extent of this healing is vast and it’s life changing. He is telling me that with Him, no matter what the future holds- abandonment or not; He will never leave me. For me, feeling truly free to hold on to this promise of God’s faithfulness has been profound. Profound healing, I wouldn’t have felt within a hectic routine, a loud commute or without obedience to God.
Silent commutes home have helped me work up courage to make phone calls I’ve avoided for months and to make financial decisions I have been putting off. But silence has also led me over and over again to a beautiful place of forgiveness of those who have hurt me, true repentance for the minor and the major and time and again to the overwhelming knowledge that God is good.
This calm sea feels strange. I certainly don’t wish another unforeseen storm, but a small calm wave of excitement might be welcomed with open arms! I’ve had years of moving around (6 moves in four years) with new jobs, new friends and planning for the future. Adjusting to routines and no end date for how long I plan to stay in a job or city is new for me. But the faces of those around me who excitedly tell me the ‘best is yet to come’ is enough to keep me going when the quiet, calm waters feel a little lonely.
And perhaps I dare to dream this time of obedience, simplification and healing is God preparing me for a huge family of messy children of my own or preparing me to contend with a busy married life, a new career or anything and everything in between. And that really is the most beautiful thing about my current season; I have slowly and tentatively began to dream again.
And over this season I declare ;
Lord you are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand- I will NOT be shaken. -- Psalm 16:5-8
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.