The Tension Between What is Seen and Unseen

by | May 19, 2021

A few years ago, I was living a double life. The “seen” Valerie was a leader in ministry, friendly, engaging, and seemed to have it all together.  Then there was the “unseen” Valerie who was acting out in fits of rage toward her family; battling anxiety, depression, and negative self-talk; and overwhelmed by shame, while ensnared in marital crisis. Living in this incredible tension left me feeling hopeless. 

Enter grace…

It was God’s amazing grace that freed me from this double life. God used His forgiveness, the forgiveness of others, the love and grace of my family, Biblical counseling, and medical intervention to help me take off the masks that were hiding my sin, shame, and despair so that I could be freed from living the tension between what was seen and what was not seen.

It is only by God’s grace that we can lay down the mask of disgrace.

I wrote the poem below during a time when I was starting to surrender my masked reality and receive the truth, grace, forgiveness, and freedom God had for me. I pray it will give you hope and courage to take steps toward living as God created you to be…unmasked and free.

If They Only Knew….

By Valerie L. McMahon

If they only knew… how easily I have lost my temper and yelled at my family.

If they only knew…how much I have disrespected my husband, fracturing our unity.

If they only knew… how often I have run away, leaving my loved ones fearfully wondering.

If they only knew… that I have spent hundreds of dollars on frivolous shopping.

If they only knew…I have lied, gossiped, and blamed.

If they only knew… how critical I am and how much I complain.

If they only knew… anxiety and depression caused me to cancel plans.

If they only knew…how my neediness is driven by my desperation for them to understand.

If they only knew… the doubts I have about what I believe.

If they only knew…WOULD THEY STILL LOVE ME?

Conviction beckons me to confess, yet Shame bullies me into hiding. Another mask goes on; this one, more than the previous, is a little bit more convincing.

Who is THEY I can’t face without feeling disgrace?

It is my parents, my friends, my husband, my kids, and my church I have often avoided because Shame hides the TRUE me that longs to be truly accepted.

So why then do I get angry when THEY don’t detect the disguise, patiently perceive the problem, or persistently pursue the why behind the behavior they see and receive?

Because of the IDOL of PROVING, I keep trying to make myself more pious, while expecting others to protect me from all things unrighteous.

A life lived behind masks may be deceptively believable.

But when the clock strikes twelve and the masquerade ends, and I return to my rags where it all began, will acceptance of my TRUE self be attainable?

ONLY in THE THRONE ROOM OF GRACE, have I been told, in the palace of the KING of KINGS who KNOWS my name, am I welcomed to come unmasked, in sackcloth and ashes, where the King says I am already APPROVED and made RIGHTEOUS.

It’s scary to take off my mask which will reveal my resistance to receive this GRACE, because of the belief I have to PROVE my worthiness, my value, and my place.

But the King’s Son you see has already CHOSEN His bride, and it is ME.

He knows all about my dirty rags I have so brilliantly hidden, and even still, He tells me, “You are LOVED and FORGIVEN.”

This space of GRACE that the King invites me to PURSUE living in–with Him– is perplexing since it’s nothing like the vexing PERFORMANCE race I’ve been running alone in. You know, the race where YOU are trying daily to prove you are improving your score of being less of a sinner so you can please the King more?

This GRACE, I am learning, is more like a river, flowing FREE over my rocky relationships, my shame-soaked soil, and my bank of bitterness. It rushes into my soul to SAVE me from my sin, washing over me WORTHINESS and RIGHTEOUSNESS.

This GRACE cannot be achieved or earned, but it will not be fully grasped until all my masks are removed and surrendered on the altar of TRUST, along with the idol of the need to PROVE. It is on this altar of TRUST that a sacrifice has already been offered ONCE and FOR  ALL.  

For no one is righteous, not even one, except the Holy One, the King’s One, and Only Son. He laid down His life for His Bride to be FREE from the need to PROVE her worthiness and from masking her reality. 

The King offers His hand and lovingly says, “Daughter, lay your soiled rags of Shame aside, and put on your spotless dress of WORTHINESS made brilliantly white.” UNVEILED, I take one step of faith at a time, with His Merciful Majesty by my side, down the aisle of GRACE, to the Prince of Peace, lovingly awaiting His radiant bride. 

Reclaiming Our True Selves Together,

 P.S. We have a community of women who do real-life together, no masks, no pretending, real-life. We would love to have you join us! You belong here! Join our private group on Facebook HERE.


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