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Lesson 3: Unmasking Grace

When we begin to recognize the masks we wear in life, it is important to understand why we choose the masks we wear. What happened that caused us to need a mask, to need that specific mask? What need is the mask filling? This is an interesting observation about human behavior: when we do something—healthy or unhealthy—we do it because it meets a need.

At one point, our mask may have been necessary to keep us safe. If we had an abusive parent, we may have worn a Pleaser Mask to avoid harsh punishment, but now, as an adult, we can’t figure out how to function without it.

Masks provide a disguise. Masks are convenient. Masks create the illusion that they will keep us safe. They hide our insecurities and give us a false sense of control. Masks can be impressive: concealing more than they protect, hiding our weaknesses, loneliness, and fears. With the masks we wear, we create a sophisticated facade in hopes of being loved and accepted—hoping no one will discover what lies beneath.

Our need for acceptance motivates us to behave in a way that opposes our core values. We seek unhealthy toxic relationships under the false belief that they will bring happiness and reveal the control we have in our life. The pressure to meet perceived social expectations drives us to cross harmful sexual boundaries.

I was raised with parents who were lenient with rules, so it was easy to be sexually promiscuous. My parents were not home much and I often felt lonely. My parents had big plans for my future that included college and a strong career, so getting pregnant was not an option. At one point, I hid an unwanted pregnancy and, with the help of my boyfriend, had an abortion. I tried to be more careful with my sexual behaviors, not wanting to get pregnant again but this didn’t last long. Unfortunately, because of unprotected sex, I contracted a lifelong sexually transmitted disease (STD).

I committed my life to Christ, then met and married the man of my dreams. We tried for many years to have children, but realized the abortion and the STD led to my inability to have children. We were devastated, but began thinking about adoption. I realized I had to process the grief of the choices I made many years ago.

As I began to process my grief, I prayed for a child. I held onto the promise of Jeremiah 29:11-12 (NKJV):

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

God miraculously provided a way for us to adopt a child. Adoption usually takes years, but within months, we were told that a young woman who had considered abortion, decided instead that she wanted a Christian couple to adopt her baby. As I held my newborn baby for the first time, with tears of joy I declared: “her name is ‘Grace.’”

Mia

Want the good news? God loves and accepts us regardless of past choices. Like Mia, we have amazing possibilities in our future, but we have to commit to the healing process. We have to recognize how our masks allow us to hide and ignore painful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we want to experience the fullness of God’s grace, we have to be willing to let go of our masks. We have to learn how to live authentically, without hiding who we are behind the mask; otherwise, only the mask receives the love and acceptance.

Last week, we identified the masks we wear and the distorted belief connected to that mask. Removing our masks is a scary process, but it is one that has to happen if we are going to pursue lifelong healing.

When we live behind a mask, it allows us to live in denial. We don’t have to face our fears. In many ways, this creates a lose/lose situation. Keeping our masks securely in place may lead to negative consequences, but so could removing them. It was fear that caused us to put on the mask in the first place. Making the brave decision to face that fear will help us remove the masks.

Here are some things to consider: when the time is right, what masks will you remove first? Which mask is heaviest and the greatest burden to carry? Which mask is light and might come off easily in the safety of this group? What fear will you have to face in removing the masks? Use the following table to explore these options.

As we begin to explore what life could look like without our masks, we need to stay focused on the healing path before us. We cannot allow our past behaviors—no matter how devastating we think they are—to hold us captive any longer. Instead, we need to face our fears and trust God’s grace in our healing, allowing Him to do what only He can do in us and through us.

We may feel unworthy—as though our past behaviors forever taint us (contaminate, infect, or ruin us)—keeping us from experiencing the refreshing favor of God’s grace. However, this is not how God works. Even in the genealogy of Christ, God used unlikely women to fulfill His plan. In Matthew’s account of the genealogy, only five women are mentioned and all had been soiled by a fallen world.

• Matthew 1:3: Tamar posed as a prostitute and tricked Judah into having sex with her (Genesis 38).
• Matthew 1:5: Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 2:1).
• Matthew 1:5: Ruth, the Moabite, was a Gentile (Ruth 1).
• Matthew 1:6: Bathsheba had an affair with David while married to Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12).
• Matthew 1:6: Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose reputation was questioned (Matthew 1).

God constantly moves in unusual ways to achieve His purpose, even within the lineage of Christ. God can use anyone: empowering the most unlikely of us to become His supernatural agents, using us to bring about His glory through His unbounding grace.

RECOVERY ACTION PLAN

Prior to joining this group, many of us didn’t have the tools or an appropriate level of awareness to navigate our relationships. Since we are beginning to learn why we have been stuck in our previously unwanted and problematic behaviors, the Recovery Action Plan will help us gain accountability for new, healthy behaviors.

The Recovery Action Plan is a valuable tool for any of us wanting to take a proactive approach to our recovery and relationships. It will help us identify reasonable and necessary steps to take in response to relapse: when we engage in a behavior or find ourselves in an area we promised ourselves and others we would never go again.

In the past, medicating our pain through unhealthy methods was a way of life—a means of survival. Now, as we learn to walk in sobriety, the Recovery Action Plan will give us a new tool to help transform our addictive and harmful behaviors, eventually changing the negative consequences we experience.

When creating a Recovery Action Plan, it is important to identify the logical and natural consequences if relapse occurs. Natural consequences are the inevitable results of the addict’s own actions. Logical consequences happen as a result of the addict’s actions but are intentionally imposed by the addict (their group or spouse) as a means of changing future behaviors. These consequences are not meant to be punitive, but designed to help us:

  • feel safe and learn to respond, rather than react to the relapse;
  • understand the natural and logical consequences if we choose to act out;
  • stop trying to recover from relapse in an unhealthy way; and
  • rebuild trust in relationships.

Whether we are single or married, creating a Recovery Action Plan will raise an awareness of how our behaviors affect us and our relationships. As we work through the process of creating a Recovery Action Plan, it is important to be intentional and thorough. This will be a foundational step to our healing.

When we are intentional about making the necessary changes to live in health, it changes the way we think, feel, and act. It begins to change the way we perceive our world. It changes our behaviors toward relationships.

Looking Ahead

Complete the Group Check-In, Self-Care lesson, and Change & Growth Analysis in your
Unraveled: Weekly Tools before the next group meeting.

Assignments