I am thrilled to welcome Tracy Williamson to the Unmasked: stories of authenticity blog today. She has written with such candour and bravery – I’m sure it will bless everyone who reads it. Thank you Tracy.
Many of us hide our weaker areas behind a mask of self-sufficiency, serving others or being the joker of the group. We bury our weaknesses behind this capable, strong persona, the only part we allow others to see.
But what if our mask is the weakness and the beauty of what God created us to be is what is hidden? Can we really let that mask be removed or even believe there is anything else to discover?
I know this is possible because for the last 35 years God’s love has been releasing the real Tracy from behind her mask of fear and shame.
My journey began when I was two and became ill with encephalitis and was in hospital for several months. My balance and co-ordination were badly affected but no one realised that my vision and hearing were also damaged. A child with hearing problems is usually diagnosed when they fail to hear the sounds around them or respond to their family’s voices. I did hear all those things but no one realised that I couldn’t understand what I heard because of brain damage. The effects were devastating for when I started school; instead of being given support as a deaf child, I was judged mentally impaired and treated accordingly by both the children and staff.
When I was 12 I was finally diagnosed as hard of hearing (I am now severely deaf) and given hearing aids. Ironically hearing aids are useless for someone with sensory neural deafness and simply became another focus for the bullies.
Anyone who has hidden in the playground trying to avoid gangs of children chanting names – in my case: spastic, mental, deaf ears – will know that sickening feeling of shame and fear that becomes your identity and the writhing feeling inside when teachers call you up to the front and tear strips off you in front of the class. I didn’t know I was deaf so I believed I was stupid as everyone said. And even when my deafness was diagnosed I’d spent so many years believing a lie, it had become who I was.
My dad died when I was seven and, soon after, my mum met my stepfather. He abused me verbally and sexually, compounding all that was happening at school. You only have to hear negative words a few times before you believe them, and he was shouting daily that I was rubbish, mental, perverted, unlovable….
My shame at his actions went deep and, as I hit adolescence, I hated and crushed my budding femininity. My sister, cousins and friends were developing relationships and social lives but I was hiding behind books, stick thin in baggy trousers and t-shirts.
Who was Tracy? The shame and fear mask was all I had to show people as I didn’t even know there was a beautiful, God-created Tracy, trapped inside.
But God loved me and despite me knowing nothing about faith, drew me to believe in Him during my first year of college. And so began my journey of unmasking and healing.
BEGINNING TO EMERGE
Who was Tracy? Step by step through prayer, love, affirmation, the care of church friends, reading the Bible…God’s power and love began to heal me. I had always loved reading but books had been my escape. What I didn’t know was that God had given me a love of words and the ability to be expressive through speaking and writing. I had hardly ever dared share an opinion as it was bound to be ridiculed, yet God’s healing love has, over the years, set me more and more free
I had ministry from committed friends who spoke His words of truth over me that I was beautiful, chosen, created and uniquely gifted by God – a beloved woman and daughter not a thing to be used and destroyed. As they prayed and loved me I began to emerge, to dare to dress prettily, to speak, to laugh and to love others.
One of the most amazing ways that God taught me to drop my mask was through listening for His voice. His word is more powerful than anything else we can ever hear and sets us free from deep within. One day as I walked to college and was feeling very anxious, I sensed I should stop and look around me and listen. I was in a beautiful location with fields and trees spreading out before me.
He whispered into my heart:
‘I made all this so you could know what I am like, but none of this is as beautiful to me as you are.’
I was stunned! It was my first experience of hearing Him and it shattered the lie that I was ugly and shameful. Step by step I began to come out of my chrysalis and discover that I could be feminine without fear and didn’t have to live as an apology but rather, as a blessing.
After college God called me to work in an itinerant ministry with the blind Gospel singer Marilyn Baker and so I went from hardly daring to speak to sharing my testimony, giving prophecies, teaching in conferences and writing.
BEING A BUTTERFLY
My disabilities had been such a source of mockery that it would never occur to me to ask for help. But through working with Marilyn, and through the muddles that inevitably occur with one of us blind and the other deaf and partially sighted, God showed me that it is okay to have a weakness. It is part of me but doesn’t define me and I actually bless others when I admit I can’t do certain things and that I need their assistance.
Now I happily tell people I am deaf and trust they will try to help me, which 90 per cent of the time they do– and if they don’t respond well it’s their problem not mine!. Friends, especially Marilyn, always type on my iPad what is being said in church or in social times and tell me they love to do it – and we all have a laugh over my hearing mistakes! I rejoice in having a Hearing Dog, Goldie (see photo) whose jacket proudly asserts that he is helping a deaf person. He alerts me to sounds I can’t identify but his special gift is simply connecting me to people in streets and shops that normally I would be cut off from. And I now chat with them without fear that being deaf makes me less.
I am still a work in progress but I know that this butterfly is emerging from her chrysalis, for no mask of fear or shame is as powerful as God’s love.
Tracy Williamson lives near Tonbridge in Kent with her friend and partner in ministry Marilyn Baker, together with Tracy’s Hearing Dog, Goldie, and Marilyn’s Guide Dog, Saffie.
Tracy wrote her first book The Voice of the Father (Hodder) in 1995, followed by four shorter books published by New Wine Press between 2004 and 2008. Tracy has recently completed her sixth book, called The Father’s Kiss, which will be published by Authentic Media in October 2018.
Today Tracy and Marilyn still travel the country and sometimes abroad taking concerts and church services and also leading Rest and Renewal days and conferences on Intimacy with God. See www.mbm-ministries.org