Numerous, unexpected responses to the Brokenness post, followed some special one-on-one conversations blessed me. Thank you. It suggested ‘masking secrets’ is a prevalent, deeply personal issue many of us grapple with.
At the risk of being annoying redundant, I ask your forbearance in posting this partial Brokenness addendum. Hopefully, perhaps it might encourage someone, somewhere that they’re not alone in this battle.
Brokenness shared how a passage in Fil Anderson’s book Breaking the Rules wistfully reminded me of the futility of struggling to mask guilty secrets.
Fil wrote how a talented artist friend was asked by his church to exhibit a self-portrait of a special event. The artist’s completed painting portrayed his authentic conviction that there’s no room for pretending in a Christian’s life to change their appearance among other Christians to ‘fit in’ and be accepted. His portrayal, A Broken Mask, drew the startling rejection of the pastor, who deemed “…it was too honest…”. Dejected, the artist sent Fil the following dispirited e-mail:
“We are told that Jesus loves us as we are, sin and all, ugly bits and worthless bits. We are quoted cliches like “Come as you are.” We are offered relief from the burden of hiding in our guilt and shame. We are offered ultimate acceptance.”
The problem begins when we step through the doors of many churches. Suddenly we’re confronted with an endless stream of things that are wrong in our lives, things to repent of, things that need changing. Meanwhile, the Bible instructs us,
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you can live together whole and healed.”–James 5:16
Yet nobody does it because that would mean taking off our mask of holiness. Therefore, we live our lives jumping through imaginary hoops to be accepted by the very people who invited us to “Come as you are.”
Fil’s artist friend concluded his email with this bold pledge:
“I refuse to wear a mask any longer! I will not pretend, not even for Christians. Wearing a mask will destroy you, even if it’s a socially acceptable Christian mask.”
As one who has been there, I pray reiterating this artist’s story may reveal to someone who may be ‘masking secrets’ that, in doing so, they are placing themself under the defeating bondage of seeking the approval of others. May they find the liberating freedom God, Who knows our every ‘secret’, graciously offers to everyone who genuinely’ fesses up’ with“…a broken and contrite heart…” – Psalm 34:18
The unfiltered eyes and minds of children see things adults have forgotten to notice, and perceive the simple beauty of their significance.
I’ve shared this story at Easter before, but some stories are worth re-reading. Jeremy’s Egg portrays Easter’s meaning through the eyes and mind of a child with a precious understanding that no sermon has ever revealed to me. May it bless you as it has me, and continues to bless and humble me to strive to have the unfiltered vision and simple trusting faith of a child.
“Let the little children to come to me, and do not hinder the, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. – Jesus
Thank you Jeremy . . . Thank you Jesus . . . Happy Easter!
Ida Mae Kemple
Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School.
At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises.
At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher. One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Theresa’s for a consultation.
As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!”
Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there’s no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.”
Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy would be a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?
As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. “Oh God,” she said aloud, “here I am complaining, when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family! Please help me be more patient with Jeremy.”
From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him.
“I love you Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’s face turned red. She stammered, “Wh – why, that’s very nice, Jeremy. Now please take your seat.”
Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Miller!” the children responded enthusiastically – all except Jeremy. He just listened intently; his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises.
Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’s death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris’s kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they had completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.
In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh, yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that Spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.
The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that is new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine!”
Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. “My daddy helped me!” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, of course, he did not understand the instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.
Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?”
Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy – your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’s tomb was empty too!”
Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?”
“Oh, yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!”
The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the school yard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.
Three months later Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.
+ ^ Keep Looking Up . . . His best is yet to come!