Last Friday I had one of those days. Perhaps you know the kind … when pressures and concerns weigh heavy, the children bicker and everyone has a pressing need all at the same. To top it off, I had a pounding headache, which also made me nauseous. All I wanted to do was climb into bed and pull the covers over my head. But moms don’t get a day off, we can’t call in sick.
By 10 am, I texted my husband to say I was anxious, then I stepped into the closet, closed the door and cried.
Looking back now, it seems a bit silly. But at the moment, everything compounded to create a morning ripe with tears from me and a few harsh words spoken to my kids. Stress was high, tension was thick, and I was in the middle of it all.
As moms, we’re guaranteed to have days like this, days when there aren’t enough hands and there are too many demands. Days when you feel like closing the closet doors and shedding a few tears. Those tears are a tangible expression of the difficult, refining, sanctifying work that comprises motherhood.
But all too often, those tears are also counter to today’s standard for motherhood. We’re not supposed to crawl into our closets and cry. We’re supposed to design well-appointed homes; craft Pinterest-perfect meals; tend polite, engaged children; balance work and motherhood; and the list goes on. In short, there’s immense pressure to have it all together.
As a result, we’re inclined to put on masks, paint our lips, paste a smile, pat our kids and pretend like we fit the bill. And you know what? I can masquerade with the best of them. I have a feeling you can too.
But what if we rebelled against that expectation? What if we took off the masks and released the unattainable ideal of perfectionism? What if we embraced authenticity and welcomed others into our reality? And what if we covered that reality with a big dose of grace that freed others to do the same?
In John 4:1-26, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who is trying to remain masked. As He is resting at a well, weary from traveling, a woman occurs to draw water. It is noon, an uncommon time to attend the well. Some scholars believe she chose that time in an effort to avoid others because she was ashamed of her marital status. She’d had five husbands, and she was currently living with a sixth man who was not her husband. She had a lot to mask.
But then Jesus…
Jesus sees this woman’s reality, and He gives her grace in abundance. He reveals that He is the Messiah, and He extends the gift of salvation to her personally. He doesn’t require her to clean up, to put on a mask, to make herself presentable, to hide the pain of her reality. He loves her just as she is, meets her right in the middle of her mess and offers her life.
And you know what that woman does in response to Jesus’ gift? She leaves her jar and runs back to town to share the good news with the very people she was trying to avoid. Because when you become unmasked before Jesus only to discover that His grace covers, you can’t keep it to yourself.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him. … Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.” (John 4:28-30; 39-41)
Do you see it, friends? This woman’s mask falls away, undone by grace, and she becomes a conduit of freedom for others. Lives were changed that day, chains released because a woman took off her mask and let the grace of God cover.
I wonder what lives might be changed if we were to do the same? If we—as women, mothers, friends—chose to take off our masks and embrace authenticity? If we chose to invite Jesus into the midst of our mess so we could experience and then reciprocate grace? In doing so, might we give others the freedom to do the same? The masks fall off, chains release and healing begins.
I dare say it’s time that we stop masquerading, stop perpetuating the myth of perfection in motherhood. Let the masks fall, and let us pick up abundant grace.
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