Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: marriage

Taking Off The Mask

We all have a tendency to wear a mask. There is a need to hide who we really are. Maybe we have been badly hurt by someone we trusted in the past. Or perhaps we’ve been told at some point we were no good. Whatever the reason, we put on a mask to try and fit in and make ourselves acceptable or protect ourselves from further hurt.

As we hide our innermost self from others, we can end up hiding even from our own self.

Taking off the Mask by Claire Musters is a helpful new book dealing with this whole area of hiding who we are from others and ourselves. Claire talks openly and honestly about serious problems in her marriage and church life that arose because of wearing a mask and were made worse by continuing to wear it. Only when she was prepared to let the mask drop and face who she really was could she experience freedom to be the beautiful woman God made her to be.

We need to realise that it is what God thinks of us and says about us that is important, not what others think and say, or even what we think about ourselves. Our own thought lives are often so damaging to us and are indicative of deep pain hidden inside, keeping us trapped behind a mask.

Claire opens the book with her own story before, in subsequent chapters, taking the reader gently step-by-step through a process of learning to see where and in front of whom we hide ourselves and how to work through that to freedom. At the end of each chapter are searching questions designed to help the reader gain insight and benefit from working through the book. It would be possible to read and work through this on your own, though probably better with a trusted friend or counsellor.

I found it helpful to journal my way through the book by making a note of particular points that spoke to me:

Spidergram of Taking off the Mask…too often we can act out a part that we believe is expected of us, rather than truly living in the freedom that God’s love brings.

He [God] delights in us and wants us to enjoy the experience of being ourselves, and yet so often we can be trapped in an unnecessary cycle of pretence.

Let go of the fig leaves of shame and guilt. Accept God’s covering of forgiveness and righteousness.

We need to learn to stop looking to others for validation, and spend more time gazing on our Father’s face.

…sometimes we …can look at the difficult circumstances we are in and allow them to colour our view of God and ourselves.

The adventure of embracing all that He [God] has called me to is really liberating.

I have given Taking off the Mask 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch today.

 

Rahab’s Journal: Presence

Boaz burst into the house this morning in such a state! I’ve rarely seen him like this.

He had been working late threshing the grain and decided to sleep in the barn. He frequently does this at harvest-time, it’s such a busy period on a farm. This year has been no different.

‘Boaz, be calm. What has happened?’ I asked him, sitting him down to bread and olives. Whatever had excited him, he needed to eat.

‘Oh ima, you’ll never believe it. I worked late last night as usual. When it got too dark to see, I ate supper and went to sleep. Around midnight I woke up. There was a presence in the barn with me, a woman lying at my feet.’

At this point he stopped, almost overcome with emotion.

‘Go on,’ I said, refilling his cup.

Boaz took a breath.

‘I asked who was there. And her reply…. Oh ima, it was Ruth.’

‘Ruth?’ I smiled to myself. This sounded like one of Naomi’s ideas.

‘She’s so wonderful ima. When I spoke to her in the fields weeks ago, I praised her for coming under the wings of the God of Israel for protection. Her eyes lit up at the time, it must have meant something to her. Last night she asked me to spread my wings over her.’

I gave a little gasp and reached for a linen to wipe my eyes. Ruth must really love and respect my son for her to ask him to marry her. This marriage will be a demonstration of God’s covenant love with His people. She’s taken hold of God’s kind heart not only toward His people but to strangers and outsiders.

‘What did you answer?’ I said.

‘I couldn’t get over how amazing she is, that she would ask me. Ima, I’m so much older. Yet she hasn’t run after a young man. I’ve loved her since I first saw her gleaning in my fields but kept it hidden because I didn’t think for one second I could ever hope for a relationship with her.’

‘Why not?’

‘This is a levirate marriage. Whoever marries Ruth must give her children to carry on her dead husband’s name, and must be someone within the family. Jethro is closer kin to Naomi than I.’

‘Oh.’ Even after all these years, I still come across customs in this culture that are new to me.

Boaz got up. ‘I’ll go and wash and change, and then I’m off to meet with Jethro and the town elders. I promised Ruth I’d get it sorted today.’

I pressed my hands together. Oh what will happen? Please Lord, work this out for Boaz and Ruth.

Rahab’s Journal: Free

Elizabeth and Jonathan couldn’t have been happier or more welcoming when their son Salmon married me. They have been so kind, knowing what I was and where I came from. Not everyone would want an ex-prostitute for a daughter-in-law.

And Salmon. Words can’t begin to express how I feel about him. I never knew the relationship between a man and a woman could be like this…. It’s more than just a physical action. I had no idea what an amazing gift from God sex is when I worked in my brothel in Jericho; I was cheating myself and my customers by misusing something so precious. 

At first I found the physical side of our marriage difficult. I felt so ashamed and dirty. But Salmon was gentle and kind. He spoke truth over me: that I am one of God’s people now, that I’ve been forgiven and accepted by God. He assures me of his love by his words and actions. He’s so affectionate. Salmon’s nickname for me is Ruby because he says my worth is far above the price of rubies.  

I’ve realised that the more I believe truth about myself, the freer I am to be the woman God made me to be. It’s a process. God has a plan for my life, and He is good. His plans are to give me a hope and a future, not to destroy and pull me down. The Lord rescued me because He delights in me.

Covenant

Almost seventeen years ago, Adi and I entered a covenant of marriage. We made each other promises in our wedding vows that we would stick together through tough patches and good times. We’ve certainly had some moments together….

Redundancy followed by six years of Adi self-contracting meant times of being quite well off followed by very lean months when food got more and more boring.

Being told we were physically unable to have a baby of our own, going through a failed IVF cycle and losing our tiny twins. That was tough.

My being ill for more than a year with cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue.

Then there are the little things that annoy. For instance, I like the air con blowing warm air on my feet in winter in the car. Adi prefers it blowing on his face.

Yes, there have been times when thoughts of divorce have crossed our minds. We’d hardly be human if they hadn’t. But we don’t entertain those thoughts. We made promises and are committed to keeping them. That brings each of us a deep sense of security. We know that neither one of us is going to walk out of this marriage lightly. We work at spending time together, listening to one another, talking things through and just enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t just happen and it would be easy to drift apart – Adi to his computer, me to my books.

Marriage is meant to be a picture of our relationship with God. He has made a covenant with us that if we trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, He will be our God and we will be His people. This means He is utterly committed to us. We have to work at our relationship with God, making sure we spend quality time regularly with Him, and growing in our love for Him. But He is crazy about us and delights in being with and knowing us. God will never walk away from a relationship with us. This covenant is binding and will last for ever.

 

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