Last week I told you about the amazing friends the Lord gave me and how they were right with me during this very hard season. In the past, if I had read such a story, I would have been sad and envious of someone who had such good friends, who had relationships where they could be real and not have to perform. It occurred to me, that some of you reading this might feel the same way, so I want to share with you about the three friends who have walked so closely with me the last few months.
Before I tell you about the friends I have now, let me tell you about the friends I haven’t had. Honestly, until a few years ago, I could not have identify a “good friend” for you, little less a “best friend”. There were people I did things with, people I loved and still do, people who loved me and my family. However, there was a lack of realness there. I won’t say it was their fault.
Believe it or not, I’ve never been good at being transparent. When I was growing up, I learned acceptance came from performing well. I learned to perform very well. Instead of being the road to acceptance, it became a prison. One never performs perfectly, so one is never perfectly acceptable. Being analytical in nature, I knew well what not performing meant. No one had to tell me. I simply knew. Perform well, you are acceptable, but what about days when I didn’t?
Any actor or actress knows what you do. You keep the audience at a distance and cover the imperfections with smoke and mirrors. I was very good at what I did.
Except, I wasn’t. I was good at performing but horrid at being accepted. The very thing I performed to receive eluded me. Instead of finding a place to be myself, I just kept finding more places to perform.
Friendships were based on things others liked to do, not true common interests. In fact, I had no interests I could call my own. I just sort of followed everyone else and did what they wanted. I didn’t have wild friends. Nothing they did was immoral, so it didn’t hurt anything.
And yet, it did.
When my dad died six years ago, reality slammed me in ways I don’t think I can articulate. The harshest reality of all was that I had no one I could talk to about it. I had created such a lovely façade of a life that I had no one to take behind the scenes. There was no one to talk to when I took off the mask because no one even realized I wore a mask. I was stuck in solitary confinement of my own making.
One thing I have found, though, when I am totally alone, I’m really not. In my solitary confinement cell sat Jesus.
In Isaiah 61, we are told Jesus came to set the captives free. I was a captive, and all I knew to do was pray for Jesus to set me free. I confessed what I knew held me captive—arrogance, pride, low self-esteem, fear, low self-value, rejection, lying (about who I was and having it together), and other things. I asked forgiveness, and I asked that He would do for me what the angel did for Peter in Acts 12.
In Acts 12, Peter is in prison, and an angel wakes him up. The angel says to get dressed and follow him, so Peter does. Peter assumes this is a dream until he is standing on the street, and the angel disappears. Then Peter runs to his friends, tells them the story, and escapes to freedom. I needed that kind of jailbreak.
It wasn’t enough to get out of prison. I needed to know how to walk and live outside the cell. Which way was I supposed to go mentally and emotionally so I didn’t end up in the same prison again? What was I supposed to do to remain free? What did freedom look like anyway?
I had no idea. But Jesus did, and in the next few posts, I’ll share how He set me free because He wants to do it for you, too.
Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009