Making the Invisible Visible

If you’ve followed my writings you already know that I am willing to be transparent, to open myself to others’ scrutiny. I told God years ago that I did not want to wear a mask. I realized that I had worn a mask most of my adult life. I liked the image my mask presented. From all indications I had it together. I lived a good life; I had a wonderful family – what more could a girl want, right? I wore the mask of the wife and mother of a picture perfect family: educated mother and father, boy, girl and a dog or two. When we went to restaurants, strangers walked over to tell us how beautiful our family was. My mask smiled and I patted myself on the back. We moved to Ohio to follow my dream of teaching college and my husband went back to graduate school. The mask remained firmly in place. In fact, it became decorated by my new position. In that first year, in this new place, strangers on every side, the mask began to slip. There were a few meltdowns but at the end of each, the mask was put firmly back into place.

Eventually, a series of events forced the removal of the mask and I vowed never to hide behind one again. What I did not realize twenty some years ago is that the mask was but one part of the armor I used to protect myself.

Let me bring this a bit closer. I had something of a meltdown this morning with our eight year old. I’ve been working hard on a second book in the Hezekiah Loves Music series. This book is quite different from the first and I’m really excited about it. I’ve had a few people, including children, read the book and the feedback has been tremendous. One lovely child told me it is among her favorite books. I’ve been trying to get the subject of the book to read it. Beyond working with me on the music that will be included, he seems to have little interest. That just did not go over too well with me this morning. One thing led to another and we were both nearly in tears.

After putting him on the bus I began to question why his seeming disinterest should bother me so. He is only eight, after all. The discovery may be surprising to those who know me but – deep breath – here it is. For much of my children’s lives, I felt invisible. Ok, I said it and the world is still revolving. We traveled the world together; we spent quality AND quantity time together as a family. Yet, I often felt separate from the inner circle the kids shared with their Dad. The fact that I was the photographer on most of our adventures means that I am in very few family pictures. This realization still brings tears to my eyes if I dwell on it too much. This led to the understanding that my sense of invisibility did not start when my darling babies were born or even when I got married. No, it’s been a quiet demanding, freeloading visitor all of my life. It’s gone with me everywhere I’ve gone. It’s attended every celebration. It’s patted me on the back at every heartache.

invisible womanRevelation is a good thing but only if it is useful. So, my prayer this morning was about how to circle the issue of invisibility and examine it from all angles. I wanted to know how to shake its hand and bid it a forever farewell. In other words, I wanted to know how to heal the places that contributed to feelings of invisibility.

Healing is not an easy road to travel. It is certainly not for the cowardly. It requires willingness to strip away layers of protective armor. When we are wounded in any way, the body has an amazing capacity to send defenses to that place. That is easy to see in the physical but is much more difficult in the emotional. Feelings of abandonment, insecurity, fear, or loss set the body’s natural defense system in motion. When we do not process these emotions, when things continue to pile up, what was intended to be a short-term response – let’s call it a sheer layer of protective armor – becomes a hardened prison that thwarts growth and health.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 9.40.20 AMTo access those things buried beneath is not a passive endeavor. Some will need to be chipped away, bit by bit. As you chip, you will feel pieces of you pulled away, too. It hurts!! This is where we often give up. I mean, we’ve all read the sign ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ There have many times when it did not take much for me to declare a thing ‘good enough.’ The problem with living beneath armor is that while your conscious self might not know something is wrong, the subconscious does and demands attention. This creates inner dissonance and feelings of unrest and dis-ease…. which often leads to physical disease. Yes, chipping away costs something but the beauty is God created the body – physically and emotionally – to renew itself. What feels like the pain of death truly is but a ‘light affliction’ in the scheme of things. It’s like giving birth. Those babies we love cause serious pain yet most of us would do it all again just for the joy of holding that precious one in our arms. Likewise, giving birth to the whole, healthy person God created you to be will require a sacrifice of pain. BUT, when it’s done you will come forth as pure gold.

Some things need to be chipped away. Others must be soaked away. When a wound is covered by gauze seeped in caked on, dried blood, it must soak before it can be, oh so gently, peeled back. Removing armor from wounds that have been opened and reopened for years is perhaps the most difficult process of the two. The process of soaking is one of vulnerabandaged handbility and is counterintuitive for people who are accustomed to their armor. Heck, some of us LOVE our armor! Although it sounds passive, it is not. Soaking calls you to let go of the familiar. It requires you to allow yourself – heart, mind, spirit and wounded places – to be covered by the ointment of the Holy Spirit. It means acknowledging that you have wounds you simply cannot reach by your own works. It means partnering with someone who can help you get beneath the covering.

In this place of total submission, the healing balm of the Spirit gently covers the armored places. And, like a loving Mother, the Holy Spirit very carefully begins to reveal – inch by inch, issue by issue, pain by pain – the brokenness, heartaches, fears, tears, memories – hidden beneath. Like a child, you open, first one eye, then both to take ever-lengthening looks at what is being revealed.
And as you are emotionally ready, you lay aside these weights.

It is crucial to know that the Holy Spirit can work anywhere. So your soaking may have to occur in the office of a mental health professional. Yes, God is capable of zapping you, waving one hand and swoosh, the armor is miraculously peeled back and your entire world is righted. But what I’ve learned is God often requires our participation in the healing process.

Chipping, soaking or both, whatever it takes to be whole, that is my heart’s desire. And I’m going after it!  Won’t you join me?

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