I am sitting in an empty auditorium as I write this.
My daughter is part of the cast of “Little Women” that our homeschooling co-op is presenting this weekend and I had to have her here three hours before the performance for hair, makeup, and last minute rehearsal.
The stage is lit, awaiting the players. All is quiet on the set.
I can hear the muted sound of laughter and excited chatter backstage as the kids prepare for the big moment.
In another hour, my 13 year old girl will be transformed into a young lady from the 1800s, complete with flowing purple dress, cream-colored shawl, and high heels.
Two of the seniors who play older, wealthy, distinguished gentlemen just walked onto the stage and took their seats in the center of the set. Their stage makeup is on—which they are complaining about :)— but they haven’t changed into their costumes yet. They look like typical high school seniors: jeans, T-shirts, and one is wearing a baseball hat. Their conversation is about sports, finals, and the after-party later this evening as the cast celebrates a successful run.
This is not what the public will see when they arrive for the show.
I thought back to opening night last evening when they were in full costume, convincingly acting their parts.
But that was just make-believe.
I can’t help thinking of how often we play roles in real-life.
We wear masks, covering up our real selves, searching for the right “character” to play for whatever the situation requires.
I have a vivid memory of when I did just that a little less than a year ago.
I was having a terrible day. Everything that could go wrong did and the stress felt like it was a physical weight, crushing me beneath a merciless load.
I had to go pick up my daughter at a birthday party. I had never been to this home before and I have a terrible sense of direction, so that added to the stress. It was over 90 degrees that day and even with the air-conditioning blasting, the air felt thick and oppressive.
I called my mom on my cell phone as I drove, hoping that the GPS wouldn’t let me down.
I needed prayer and as I choked out my situation to her, I fought back tears, refusing to let them fall. I didn’t know how many moms would be at the home when I arrived and I didn’t want to look like I had been crying.
I ended the call with my mom just as I pulled into the driveway, relieved to see that I was the first parent to arrive.
I took a deep breath as I walked to the front door and rang the bell.
The mom of the birthday girl came to the door with a big smile.
I made sure mine was bigger.
The performance had begun.
For the next 45 minutes, I smiled. I laughed. I joked.
To anyone there that day, it would have appeared that I did not have a care in the world.
I could have won an Oscar. Maybe I missed my calling. Rather than studying my way through graduate school, perhaps I should have been pounding the pavement in Hollywood, awaiting my big break.
When Julia and I were finally in the car headed home, all of that energy required to play make-believe disappeared, like air being let out of a balloon.
I was exhausted.
I have to admit that I listened with half an ear to Julia’s running commentary of the party as I ruminated on what had just happened.
No, I should not have unloaded on that mom. In that instance, I did the right thing by keeping my troubles to myself. It was neither the time nor the place. However, it did get me thinking.
How many women cross my path on any given day, doing the exact same thing I had just done? What heartache lies behind the bright smile and cheery words?
I have learned not to judge by appearances…the woman who looks like she has it all together may be the one who is falling apart inside.
Remembering how desperate I felt that day, I have compassion on the women who cross my path. Only God knows what battle may be raging in their hearts.
He reminds me to be kind, to not assume that I know the whole story, no matter how pulled-together she looks.
I am also grateful beyond words that I have a Savior from whom I never need to hide.
One who knows me better than I know myself.
One who will never turn away, despite the ugliness He sometimes sees.
One who continually offers beauty for ashes and joy for despair.
One who gently whispers a reminder that I can remove the mask because in the presence of His constant, unfailing love, I am safe.
One who longs to show a watching world what He can do with one broken, messed-up life.
He is a master at transforming the ugly into the beautiful.
The world doesn’t need another Christian wearing a mask.
The world needs to see someone real, whose confidence comes not from herself and her abilities but from her perfect Savior.
A watching world needs to observe Jesus shining through the cracks in our lives…because it is through those cracks that His Presence is shown to be most powerful and beautiful.
So, let’s not be afraid to drop our masks when appropriate and leave the make-believe to the actors.