I am very familiar with masks. I began wearing them at a very young age. I would do anything and everything to become what I thought people wanted me to be. If they wanted funny I gave them funny. If they wanted smart, I would give them smart. If they wanted perfect I practically killed myself trying to obtain perfection. If they wanted remorseful I would act sorry. If they wanted beautiful, I spent hours analyzing my looks and perfecting my image till I met the world’s standard of beautiful.
All this hiding led me to a very dark place where my masks replaced my identity. I didn’t even know who I was without them.
Since I was little I’ve had a love of performing. I lived for people’s praises and for their applause. At first it started out as make believe, Disney princesses and such, but gradually it became my oxygen rather than a little girl’s pastime. I needed it to breathe, to feel alive and to feel accepted, liked and at times even loved. But it was an empty love.
I craved becoming someone else and disappearing behind a character. In high school I started acting and writing dramas, writing stories of characters that I could step into and become rather than offer the world myself. I was way more comfortable hiding behind scripts, costumes and other people’s pain… mine was just too overwhelming to face.
Sometimes at night, when all the lights were out and it was safe, I would slip that mask off revealing my tears. I remember crying out to God to forgive me for all the things I thought he wanted me to be that I wasn’t. But just as quickly as I revealed myself, I would slip that mask back on, because I couldn’t stand who I was without it…I didn’t know that person beneath the fake smiles and sarcastic humor and the friendly face. Underneath it all I hated myself and lived under a constant tyranny of shame and self-condemnation. How could Jesus love me, if I didn’t even love me?
I used food to try and numb my pain and drown out all the negative voices in my head. It became my constant companion and comfort in times of sadness. I hid behind baggy clothes and heavy jackets (just a different kind of mask) and lived a not so secret life chained to addiction. This is a battle I’ve been fighting my whole life and to this day I struggle with these unhealthy patterns.
It wasn’t until about 6 years ago, that I was finally hit with this simple but incredibly profound truth. God loves me. I grew up in church, I have known this since I was a little girl or did I know it? ‘Yea ok God loves me’, but I never understood how he could like me.
Did you know the word Beloved appears over 100 times in the Bible? And most of the time it’s referring to you and me, or God’s Son Jesus? Webster defines Beloved as: Dearly loved. A much loved person. It’s described with words like, Darling. Dearest. Cherished. Treasured. Admired. Adored.
Romans 9:25 “As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ “ ESV
Ephesians 1:4 “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” NLT
God calls us by the same name as He calls His precious Son, Beloved. Understanding what that means, that we are God’s Beloved…His deeply loved daughters…it changes everything.
This truth is continuing to change my life. Every day I am learning to offer the same love and grace towards myself that my Heavenly Father does. Because if he likes me, if He loves me then it gives me the freedom to like me and I don’t have to hide anymore. You see my addiction to food has just been a symptom of a really deep pain. My sin was that I kept pursuing a false self, I was pursuing acceptance and the praises of men, and I was covering up and denying my true self, denying who God created me to be. He’s calling the little girl inside all of us to come out of hiding, just as he called Adam and Eve out of hiding after they ate the forbidden fruit. His love, which called us into existence, calls us to come out of shame and self-hatred.
He invites us to step into the warm light of his unbearable forgiveness, endless love and acceptance just as we are, messy, broken, undeserving; yet, beloved daughters of the King.
So lay down your mask Beloved and be fully known, rest in the arms of the Father who loves you like crazy and calls you His own. He is waiting, hand extended – all you have to do is reach back.