anxiety, devotional, encouragement, healing, holidays, lessons learned, midlife faith

The Mask of False Happiness

As we wrap up 2020 (who’s breathing a sigh of relief with me?), it’s a good time to reflect on our emotional health. One of the masks we women tend to don frequently is the mask of false happiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with faking it till you make it occasionally, but we’re not meant to live that way. We’re meant to live authentically, sharing our true selves with each other in community.

When we drop a bowl on the ceramic floor, and it shatters, what do we do with it? We toss it in the trash can, of course. When the Japanese break a piece of pottery, on the other hand, they repair it with gold (do they sell that kind of superglue in WalMart?) and proclaim that the piece is even more beautiful than it was originally. Their idea is that by embracing the brokenness and flaws, the piece becomes even stronger and more stunning. This is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” or kintsugi, which is “golden joinery.” Wow! 

What if we treated people like that? What if we reframed our emotional scars—instead of judging ourselves as failing at the Christian life, how about we see our scars as battle wounds of winning warriors? What if we saw those made fragile by life’s circumstances and emotional upheavals as those who needed more care—not judgment and rejection?

Then, perhaps, we would be able to take off the masks of happiness and perfection that have become so a part of ourselves that we hardly recognize ourselves without them. With the rise in mental health issues and social media comparisons, we’ve all become quite adept at putting on a happy mask. But behind the mask of “fine” lies a multitude of “not fine.” Good news: God cares for the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What if, instead of hiding behind the mask of our fake smiles denoting a nonexistent, perfectly happy life, we put our authentic selves on display? Scary thought, I know. 

As noted by poet ee cummings, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

But here’s the thing. The emotional connections and emotional health we all long for do not lie behind the mask of perfection. They lie in wide-open authenticity. In order to be truly loved, one must be fully known. The reverse is also true; in order to truly love others, we must fully know them.

The other side of emotional health is what we believe about ourselves, which is largely based on how we talk to ourselves. So often, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a struggling friend. Instead, we need to pretend the woman (or man) in the mirror is a good friend across the table at our favorite cafe. 

What we think—about others and about ourselves—matters because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). 

Instead of trash talking to and about ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and right and lovely. Instead of sowing discord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we need to reap the fruits of the Spirit by being as gentle and patient with ourselves as we are with treasured friends.

Remember what God says about us: we are his masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10)! Not practice pieces, not discarded, broken bowls. Masterpieces to be treasured!

When we can fully embrace God’s proclamation of value and worth about others and about ourselves, then our brokenness will become beautiful, and we would no longer feel the need to hide behind the mask of perfection and false happiness. We would embrace others and ourselves with the art of kintsugi. 

Call to Action:

Pray and Reflect on the following passages in light of this week’s sermon:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)—But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
  • Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)—For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
  • Philippians 4:8 (NLT)—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What emotional masks have you been wearing lately and why?
  2. How can you embrace your emotions in order to become more comfortable with them and then be willing to share them (judiciously) with others?
  3. How can you make yourself a safe place for others to be their authentic selves?
  4. Make a list of your characteristics and thank God for making you the way you are—a masterpiece. 

*Note: This article was originally posted to my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sunday.

healing, lessons learned, reinventing

Brokenness Made Beautiful

                                                                                 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

     I’m broken. What good is broken? A broken bowl lands in the recycling bin. A chipped glass loses its place in the cupboard.

     Broken is ugly.  I kick a broken seashell aside instead of adding it to the sandy collection in my pocket.

     I’m so glad that God doesn’t have the same attitude. Instead of casting aside broken people, he lovingly gathers up the pieces and brings them into his workshop.

     Gold, on the other hand, is valuable in all its forms. It can make even ugly things beautiful. But before gold can become useful, it has to be refined. The refining process cleans away the dross and makes the gold malleable. The refining process is painful for the gold, but it’s necessary. It’s the same way with our lives. We’re a rough nugget of gold, and in order to use and beautify us, God has to refine us. The painful trials and challenges we go through in life have the potential to make us pure, malleable, and beautiful, if we allow them to.

     God then takes our broken pieces  and refined gold and turns them into something even more beautiful, strong, and useful than before. This process is beautifully illustrated in the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, which means golden joinery. The gold adds value and strength to the ceramic piece. The vessel then becomes more valuable and desirable.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. ~ Malachi 3:3, NKVJ

     Life’s trials and challenges, while seeming like a hammer swinging in a china shop, will eventually turn us into vessels of beauty for God’s glory.

     Lord, help me to remember that your purpose is to take my broken pieces and to perform kintsugi with them.