To celebrate the launch of my book, Taking Off the Mask, and to continue to promote authentic community here I have started a blogging series called Unmasked: stories of authenticity. I am inviting guest bloggers to write about their own experiences of God calling them to be more authentic. I am delighted to welcome Tiffany Montgomery as the first blogger. She has a very powerful story – and I am blown away and humbled by how God has used my book as part of the process (I didn’t know that until I read her review and this post once she submitted it.) Thank you Tiffany for sharing so openly and honestly…
My two Little Blessings share a room in our home. It has to be the messiest place on the planet! Whenever I am missing something (a hairbrush, my favorite flats, the cute sweater I bought last week) I know where I have to go to find it. And inevitably, as I search the room I get hotter and hotter about the mess. Can you relate?
As I get angry they begin their excuses. “Mom, I was about to put that away.” “Mom, A did that, not me.” And on they go digging themselves a hole there is no getting out of. I give them an ultimatum, “Clean this room or lose your screen time for the rest of the week!”
Can I be honest with you? I hate when they clean that room. It gets so much worse before it gets clean. The mess spills into the hallway. I have to referee bickering and step in to teach them new cleaning things…it is hard work.
Has God ever called you to clean up something in your spiritual life in the same way? Here’s how He called me to start removing my mask…
I am the controller, the peacemaker, the fixer, the go-to gal to co-ordinate a new ministry, the jack of all trades when life gets crazy, etc. Those are some of the names my mask might carry.
Is it wrong to wear my mask?
Well I can’t really say. It’s what has worked to keep me ‘safe’ in life. Comfortable in life. Un-noticed as I suffer.
You see I suffer from anxiety. My doctor calls it ‘High Functioning Anxiety’, which sounds like I am a very capable person. In reality I was just setting myself up to fall apart hard.
That’s what I am doing in life right now… falling apart.
I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of it was at age eight sitting nearly hyperventilating in a closet – hiding.
My anxiety is not the result of a chemical imbalance or neurological issue, but from the trauma of my past.
The past is not something I can change.
I just celebrated my birthday in the midst of a year of running from God about my anxiety. You see, He has been relentlessly calling me to dig deeper and find true healing all year. It started in March at a women’s retreat. He began to reveal the deep wounds that I cover up with my mask.
Deep wounds never stay covered for long.
My wounds are as deep as they are wide and I have been trying to run from them for so many years… and for the most part I have succeeded. But God said dig deeper. Did I? Nope, I ran.
Have you ever tried to run from God?
Let me tell you it doesn’t work well. He has been so patient with me…because I am scared. He’s good that way. Never pressing faster or farther than He knows I can handle.
‘But it’s time,’ I’ve heard Him whisper over and over again.
When I was a young woman, trying to make sense of a distorted, warped life, I knew nothing except trauma and Jesus. I don’t even remember when the word came to me, but it is in every journal since I was 15. Hope.
- Hope that God would miraculously heal all the broken warped pieces of my life, heart and body.
- Hope that I could sleep through the night without the nightmares.
- Hope that no one would ever pry deep enough to see the wounds and pain that live deeply inside of me.
- Hope that I could live a normal life and be happy one day.
In my twenties God gave me another word. You see I never found happy. Happy always seemed to be so far out of reach. Even with doctors and medicine, counselors and Bible studies I always had the anxiety.
I always had a smile too… but it was a mask. My smile was rarely heart deep.
I made a friend in college who had a serious health issue – yet always seemed happy.
He explained to me that he was not ‘happy’ at all, he was actually in pain daily. What he had was joy. He knew Jesus and embraced the Holy Spirit in a way I’ve never seen before. He focused on God’s love when days were hard and it filled him with joy.
I was in pain every day. Sleepless every night. Fearful of the trauma that wounded my past. I took his advice and began to read the Bible like a woman with an addiction. When I could not sleep I poured through the psalms. When anxiety became crippling I memorized verses. I found joy.
For years I have clung to hope and joy like a lighthouse.
But I still wear my mask.
I cling to hope and joy while I hide behind my mask. Why? Fear. Some fear that is based in reality. People in my past who knew my condition and the cause of it were hurtful. I have had to learn how to forgive and move past.
I’d love to share the pathway I found to truly forgiving the pain, abuse and betrayal that stole so many years of my life. I was stuck, unwilling to forgive. I had to learn to release people, so I could walk in freedom! My story is available in a free download here.
But I still keep my mask on to prevent a repeat of that pain.
In March I heard God calling to take the mask off. I have run for months all the while pursuing the last thing God called me to. In October as I journaled through my birthday and this year’s work I heard a new word. I had to be brave because God has a new work for my life. He gave me Isaiah 43 to hold onto as He worked through it all.
‘Bravely take off the mask.’
God has said that to me so many times this year! When Claire mentioned her book I was just eager to help a friend and learn about publishing a book. Honestly it was just something on my list to do because I plan to publish a study in 2018 and I have so much to learn. It didn’t even register to me what the book was about until I sat down to read last month.
As I sat fuzzy socked at Starbucks I began to inwardly cry. The words began to fly off the pages as my journal filled with quotes and resources to help me in this journey. God put the right resource in my hands to find practical steps for taking off this mask and moving from hoping to healing.
To get healing from my anxiety I have to be willing to let everything fall apart. Since reading the book I have begun to step back from leadership in almost every area…because the attacks will get worse before they get better. I have found time to go back into counseling because I have to let myself remember the horrors of my past. I needed courage to let God into those broken pieces to begin healing them.
‘Without a mask on…everyone will see.’ ‘I am so scared’ I pray over and over to God.
Taking off the mask
I don’t know where you are in your story. Are you hurting? Have you dealt with things that are still unhealed? Claire’s authenticity has given me the courage to bravely begin taking off my mask and seek help.
Brave. Such a small word. But God is gracious enough to give such inspiration to underscore that work in my life. He will do the same for you if you let Him.
I know it feels scary. But I also know that the messiest room can be cleaned. It will certainly get messier still in the process, but when you pull everything out into the light you can identify it and put the pieces back where they really belong. You may even find things you didn’t know were hidden in the mess. Just like I found my lost hairbrush 😉
Tiffany Montgomery is a Jesus lover, wife, mother, blogger and homeschooling gal who is passionate about equipping and encouraging wives and mothers in Biblical discipleship! Find out more about her at http://hopejoyinchrist.com or connect on Facebook or Pinterest.