Currently, I am serving as a certified drug and alcohol counselor and staff member with Captive Hearts Recovery Services.  Even though I am not an addict, there is always a story to tell, and mine has been one of fear.

My mom was physically and emotionally ill my whole life and my father was violent, perverted and mentally ill.  Both of my grandmothers were mentally ill and my father’s dad committed suicide.  My father was evil and scary, and the females in the house were in fear for our lives.  He determined whether or not we were safe.  At around the age of 8 or 9, my mom brought in a woman to help care for us (since she was under the covers in bed sick most of my life).  This woman was a controlling, raging and mentally ill person who was also scary and out of control.  So, staying safe became the ultimate goal and FEAR ruled my life.  The unwritten rules were:  don’t talk, don’t feel and don’t trust.  Fear, I believed, had an important purpose in my life; it would protect me from these crazy, evil people.  Fear became my god, and I was afraid not to be afraid!  Inside, I believed I was innately bad, ugly and stupid and that there was something very wrong with me.  Was there even a reason for my existence?

On the flip side of the insanity, our family attended church every time the doors were open.  My father was a deacon in the church and mom was involved in all the different ladies organizations.  As a little girl, church was where I was always fixed up in pretty dresses, to look perfect and beautiful.  After all, if we looked good, then everything must be okay.  So, I put on a mask which I now refer to as the “Elaborate Appearance Management System” which is a really great term for wearing a mask.  My belief was that no one was listening to my needs and I really didn’t believe that God or anyone else loved me, or that my needs would be met, or that I would be safe.  However, if I was good (meaning if I performed well, stayed very busy justifying my existence, followed all the rules, stayed in control) maybe, just maybe, I would be safe and not rejected.  The fear of rejection and the need for approval from other people was overwhelming.  The problem with this Elaborate Appearance Management System is that beneath it I was terrified someone would see what was really going on.  Even God might see underneath this system and reject me as I had rejected myself.  So, on one hand, I needed to be perfect and, on the other hand, believed I was flawed, broken and could NEVER be good enough.

Some lies that are attached to the Elaborate Appearance Management System are:  1) what I feel is wrong;  2) it is selfish and wrong to have a need or to ask for help;  3) it is wrong to have a contrary opinion;  4) mistakes are NOT allowed (in other words, you can’t be human);  5) the external appearance must be perfect;  6) my best is never good enough;  7) I’m only here to be used (sexually); and  8) I must be good!  Meaning, remember only the happy times, thrive in chaos, never fail, let other people only see what is perfected and processed (not THE process), never be critical, do it perfectly the first time and always make others happy, no matter what!  (Talk about exhausting and unattainable!).

A few years ago, God allowed a very difficult period of intense darkness and heartache in my life, which finally helped to bring me to the end of myself.  A heart cry went up into the heavenlies and I was finally ready to begin the journey of truth and understanding.  This journey has not been easy, but it has been freeing.  For the first time in my life, I am on my own team!  Instead of self-hatred and the absolute overwhelming fear of man, I am beginning to love myself and, first and foremost, really believe that God loves me.  That He didn’t make a mistake.  The deep fear and anxiety that has completely controlled my life has been exposed and is being resisted for the first time.  Denial has been strong and it has kept me in the dark for a very long time.  But (and this is the good news), I am IN THE PROCESS, as we speak of “being transformed by the renewing of my mind.”  Jesus did come to destroy the works of the devil in my life.  Praise God that I have a new daddy, new family and new rules!  Wonderful GRACE.  Shame and anger are dissolving.  My religious beliefs are finally becoming a reality in that I truly believe God is for me.  Being authentic is a relief and it is not necessary to wear a mask and be afraid of what people will see behind it.  The person that God made is okay, just human, and it is okay to make mistakes.  The truth is that I am not horrible and bad.  My desire is to process so I grow and God gets the glory!  The truth is, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to reject me; it is not in His nature.  So, thank God, the mask has finally come off.

Sheila Walsh, formerly of the 700 Club, wrote a beautiful poem after she received some deep inner healing in her life, and it rings so true in my heart.  It says, “Prayers are heard when children pray, though sometimes it takes years to find the strength to listen to the truth behind the tears. Her body grew, as children do; inside she lived alone, a little girl, her spirit bruised and trapped beneath a stone.  But one day in her prison cell, a tiny shaft of light began to burst through bars of steel, and lift the dead of night.  And as the little girl looked up, she saw herself all grown, and the hand she took that led her out looked strangely like her own.”

God longs to do this for so many of us that have lived in the lies of self-deception.  He wants to bring His light and love into the dark, hidden places so we can be free.  He is good and He really is the answer.