Looking Behind The Mask


“Looking Behind The Mask” By Jennifer Dukes Lee   {Years ago, a stranger took the risk of walking across a room to find me, right in the middle of my brokenness. And now, her gift of friendship to me is a continual reminder to be on the lookout for other women who are trying to hide behind their disguises. If I’m looking closely enough, I might spy an opportunity to be Jesus to someone, to be the answer to someone’s prayer. Here’s my story.}   The country church near our house was hosting an ice-cream social. My husband and I weren’t members of the church, but the event was open to the public. Short on offers for Friday night fun, we decided to go.   Before we left, I stood in front of the mirror, thinking I could cleverly hide my flaws. Our youngest daughter had been born six weeks earlier. I was an exhausted mom, and tried to cover up all of my postpartum blah with concealer. I slipped a striped dress, two sizes too big, over my head. I hoped it would hide the extra weight, which I carried on my body and on my very soul.   I was still trying to figure out … behind_mask who I was, as a wife, as a mother, as a woman. On top of being postpartum, I had recently left my job as a metro news reporter, and was groping my way toward a newfound faith in God.   I was also incredibly lonely. I was longing for a real friend in a new community—someone who would accept me as I was. I felt so very … outside. I was outside of everything and everybody, and I even felt outside of my own self, like I couldn’t recognize me anymore.   I had come from a successful career in the newspaper business, where I was respected and valued. But now? I just felt like an outsider in a community where everybody knew everybody, except me. And I felt really, really tired.   I didn’t know it yet – when I was standing at that mirror – that that was the night when I’d begin to find Jesus right out there with me — on the outside. That was the night I would begin to see through the gray haze, and find Jesus coming toward me, when a woman walked across the room.   It happened shortly after our family found seats at the end of a long table in the fellowship hall. A woman named Michelle sat down beside me and asked to hold the baby. That night, Michelle saw someone whom no one else saw. She saw underneath the fiction I had tried to manufacture at the bathroom mirror.   I thought I had been convincing. “Umm, no,” she told me years later with a chuckle. Not even a little. “God kept whispering to me, asking me to reach out to you, but I kept saying no. I wasn’t brave enough. I’d never done anything like that. But He kept saying, ‘Go.’”   Michelle remembered how a woman named Elaine had reached out to her years earlier, when she was a pregnant teen in a small town where people talked. Michelle hadn’t forgotten what it meant to be shown Jesus’ love at a time when she felt particularly flawed. So she reached out to me. The next day, Michelle and her husband invited us over for dinner.   Soon, we became best friends; later, we joined that country church.   Perhaps the greatest gift Michelle gave me that night was the reminder of who I am in Christ: not overlooked because I no longer had an impressive job title, not judged because I couldn’t yet fit back into my old jeans, not expected to have it all together.   “Real” had become our new black. And “real” is always in fashion. And there’s more: “Real” pays itself forward. Real is always on the look-out for others who are broken and lonely – and feeling on the outside fringes of everything and everybody.   And behold: One day, you’ll turn around and find that the outside was the very place where Jesus found you. And you don’t have to be scared anymore. Because Jesus comes to the broken right where we are, not where we think we should be.   {This essay includes a partial excerpt from Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.}






Jennifer Dukes Lee is a storyteller and grace dweller who lives on an Iowa farm with her husband and two daughters. She is author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval–and Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. She blogs at www.JenniferDukesLee.com. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @dukeslee and on Facebook.





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