A recurring theme in my life is that I meet a friend of a friend, or someone who has heard of me through the grapevine, or a 3rd degree connection that has only seen my online presence, and they’re shocked that I’m approachable. Like actually genuinely nice and human.
While I don’t take offense of those confessions (or honestly, I don’t remember exactly who has said that to me), the pattern has made me acutely aware that I have this public image of untouchable confidence.
To my advantage, it’s gotten me this far in life. And it’s not a bad image to be blessed with.
But to my massive disadvantage, it creates this false expectation of me that disappoints people, especially myself, when I don’t live up to ‘me.’
I know that this image of me isn’t all of me. It’s only a part of me. And I also know that people are far more gracious and understanding than I give them credit for. But this confident and perfect Grace is an image.
Images fall apart because they have no substance.
And I don’t like it when things fall apart.
Something that I’ve always loved about theatre was mask and puppetry.
In Year 9, my drama teacher first introduced masks into my world. It’s one thing to put on a mask and put on a show, but what he illuminated in my life is that everyone wears a mask for all occasions – a mask for work, for school, for family, for friends etc. Since that theatre unit on masks, I haven’t stopped thinking about how much we perform in our everyday lives, why we perform, and our true selves when we’re not performing.
And if you think about it, puppetry is the ultimate mask of all: you get to hide yourself behind an entire character’s persona, project all of that onto another being that is not your body, and you hide behind it and control all of it.
Some days this facade is something I slip into naturally, like it’s a God-given gift that helps me conquer each day and end the night as a winner. But some days, this image is a burden – it feels like a performance I have to do for the 8th time in one week.
But today, as I write this post, it’s not just a burden. This image feels like something that binds me into submission, that I have to submit to still being perfect, or else I lose my job, I lose my credibility, I lose my friends – I’m a loser.
It’s just really hard to keep up an image when your body refuses to cooperate. The whole work-from-home-quarantine is both a blessing and a curse because while I’ve been able to lie down whenever my back or shoulders start giving out, the flipside is that I have no routine that keeps me grounded. Then you add on repeating symptoms of an unknown cause, with a new level of sleep problems due to headaches or weird stomach things, and here I am dialing in late to phone call meetings because I couldn’t wake up at 11AM… or 4PM.
It’s also really hard when you feel like you’re the only person going through this. Aside from the work isolation due to the Coronavirus, I don’t really get to see most of my friends in Hong Kong that often. Even then, Hong Kong is a place where I’m still figuring out my roots as this is a city I was born in but never grew up in. The only two people I get to see on a consistent basis are my parents, and while they have been giving their full effort and total patience in taking care of me during this time, they can’t ever understand the kind of loneliness I experience because they’ve always had each other, and they still do.
Here’s the thing, I’m not writing for sympathy points or for pity. I’m not doing this for the potential responses that might come to comfort me. This post isn’t a cry for help.
This post is a reminder for you reading this, for myself editing this a little later on or re-reading this in the future, that there will be days like this.
There is no amount of “Christian” catchphrases that can fill the void. There is no amount of human wisdom or advice one can write or say that can cure the hurt. Anything without substance won’t be able to be nourish the soul.
Having a relationship with God can fill the void, cure the hurt, and nourish the soul. And sometimes knowing this truth is enough.Tweet
If being a Christian was all about feeling, I’d get an F in being a Christian. I’ve never been one to ‘feel’ things or get all emotional, but somehow in this trying season, all I want to do is feel secure in God.
However, while ‘feelings’ are a form of knowing, I’m reminded that knowing is enough.
It’s not that I have to feel that God is there, that Jesus rose from the dead, that the Holy Spirit is living in me – I can now rest in the knowledge that all the above is true.
And if it’s true, then God has always been the substance that fills up my image of confidence – the Man behind my mask, the Spirit controlling my actions. After all, it’s not me that is actually confident – He is, especially when I’m not.