“I didn’t let myself fail.” With those words my tears flowed freely. I had been numbly staring out the window while sitting on the couch next to the man I hope to one day marry. Two hours into a conversation about our future plans those words slipped out of me. The tension between us evaporated. He pulled me close and let me begin to talk through the tears. I finally could admit to myself and to him what I had been trying to ignore.
I had moved to Japan two years before. Moving overseas was quickly followed by my life coming completely undone. It finally had become clear to me where everything had begun to go wrong. I had never given myself the freedom to learn, make mistakes, or adjust. I had placed the expectation on myself to be perfectly competent in the culture from day one. I put on a smile to mask my fear. I made sure no one saw evidence of my tears. I didn’t want to cause more trouble to people who were already busy. I wanted to be seen as competent not as a burden. The culture I was living in praised those tendencies and magnified my resolve not to fail.
On the outside I created a façade to make people believe I had it all together. I was going to grit my teeth and not show anyone how hard it was. Eventually, I figured, my inside would match the outside. Except it didn’t. It never would.
On the inside I was dying. Stress was taking its toll physically. Spiritually, it was a dark time. As a result of spending so much time lying to myself, my relationship with God was no longer based on honesty. Emotionally and mentally, I was a shell of my former self.
By God’s grace, the man sitting next to me that day has seen through my façade from the beginning. He knew the face I was showing the world did not reflect my heart, yet there has never been a hint of condemnation in his words or actions. He gently and persistently has refused to let me settle for less than what God intended. His unwavering tenderness has given me the courage to be honest and to begin to change.
Honesty was like ripping off a bandaid. Change is a lot more painful. I can finally admit I have constructed an elaborate façade. If I stop there, I have achieved nothing. In fact, I may be doing myself even more harm. If I stop there, I am acknowledging the lie without showing anyone the truth.
What I hadn’t anticipated was how many people had come to love the same façade which was killing me. When I started to deconstruct the illusion I had created, many started encouraging me to put the façade back in place. I do not fault anyone but myself for this. I had so convincingly constructed a distortion of reality it was hard for many around me to believe it wasn’t authentic. I am learning to be okay with disappointing people.
If I could write a happy ending right now, I would. I’m not there yet. Change is a slow process. It has meant saying “yes” to certain activities which intimidate me. I have also had to say “no” to responsibilities others were confident I would take on. I have become a tourist in my own city and explored sites I had never gotten around to visiting. I have had to humble myself and ask for help. I have needed even more humility to admit how far I had gone from where God wanted me.
I don’t know if I will ever get to a point where I won’t struggle with the desire to put the façade back in place. I do know something has changed deep inside of me. The part of me that was dying has found a spark of new life. When I began to pull down the façade, this new life was allowed to grow.
I will fail. I will never be perfect, but I have hope in the God who makes all things new. He will not abandon me where I am. He will continue to give me the strength to change. I can not help but be filled with joy, for He is faithful.
What response have you gotten if you have tried to dismantle part of your façade?