Apr 23, 2018 | Erin Ford
Do you ever struggle with being vulnerable – even with those closest to you?
Particularly in big cities, it’s not uncommon for people to hide their emotions and lack vulnerability with others. This can present a barrier in entering deeper conversations about the heart and faith.
For some of us, it can be easy to wear emotional ‘masks’ even with their closest friends. We may fear vulnerability thinking, “What if my friends know that I’m not perfect anymore? Will they still accept me?” Even among our own families, it may not be common to share deeper emotions and feelings. On a recent trip to Denmark, we found this to be true among Danes as well.
Danes really want to be accepted so if they share something that’s different and open up it may change the way others view them. – Katrine, a local Dane
Even though there’s pressure in both Canadian and Danish cultures to present a ‘perfect’ image to others, Jesus sees the depths of all our hearts. He invites us to come to him with our weaknesses and imperfections to find healing and restoration.
That was Louise’s story.
Three years ago Louise met Jesus and her life started to change significantly. Struggling her whole life with hiding her true feelings and presenting ‘masks’ to others, Louise has found healing in the gospel and freedom to be herself, knowing that she’s loved, embraced, and accepted for who God has designed her to be. The comfort she’s received in the gospel she’s now able to share with others.
Louise: comforted by God to comfort others
Growing up in rural Denmark, Louise was an average Dane. Even though her home life was filled with stress and brokenness, she worked hard to make it seem like things were perfect. Her only exposure to Jesus was occasionally attending church at Christmas, but Louise’s first real introduction with faith came from a Christian classmate in high school.
“[My friend] saw right through me and would ask me honest questions, but I felt afraid to share. I spent my whole life living behind a mask trying to protect myself, but yet I wanted to be known and I wanted freedom from that.” – Louise
When that Christian classmate married Louise’s older brother a few years later, things started to change in her family. After moving to Copenhagen and attending church he decided to follow Jesus, and then so did her older sister. Wanting the rest of their family to experience the gospel, they invited Louise but she initially resisted. She shares her story:
“At first I was afraid because I didn’t really know what church was and what they were doing. Then to start believing that something that had been written in the Bible had transformed [my siblings] lives, which I could see that it had, I got curious. I also had all these feelings in my own life that I didn’t know how to handle. I had moved away from home and didn’t know anyone.
I wanted to meet other people my age who could accept me for who I was. But I didn’t really know who I was because I was so used to pretending. I was the girl who would make fun of others to make myself look better. But then I came to an end of myself – I felt like how can I go on like this?
When I first went to church I cried the entire time. I felt all these emotions that wanted to burst out. I had to keep a straight face because it was all new to me. I had conversations with my brother and sister to know about what had happened in their lives – and it’s exactly what I needed.
I was used to trying to prove myself to others and my family. It was nice to be somewhere where you didn’t need to live up to any expectation. I didn’t know what it meant to become a Christian but I felt it deep in my heart that I needed to do that.” – Louise
Deciding to pray and follow Jesus was the first step on a long road of discovering healing, joy, and peace. In joining a small group at church she began to read the Bible with a group of girls, realizing she was loved more than she could ever imagine. She felt lighter, like a weight was lifting off her shoulders because she didn’t need to wear a mask anymore.
Louise’s parents have also discovered healing and restoration from the gospel. Their family dynamics have transformed whereby they can now be honest and open up about their feelings.
Wearing masks and being emotionally reserved can be a common trend in Danish culture.
I remind myself how much I need Jesus because without him I would go back to being the unhappy Louise I was two or three years ago. – Louise
It’s an ongoing struggle trying to learn how to be vulnerable in a culture that is known for being private and guarded. But the healing and comfort Louise has received in experiencing and knowing Jesus personally, is helping her share that same healing and comfort with her friends.
“I used to feel intimidated how to talk to my friends about my faith at the beginning, but now I feel my friends are curious about what’s going on. Now we can talk about what has changed in my life. I can tell them that I believe in Jesus without them looking at me in a strange way. And when they feel hopeless they come to me and ask me questions they have never before – and I’m not afraid to point them to the Bible.” Louise
From a place of empathy and compassion Louise is able to share, “I’ve been there. Let me show you the difference Jesus makes.” When we met Louise I was so encouraged because as we heard her faith story and how she’s journeying with her friends, we were seeing The Engagement Model at work.
This was the ministry approach we were focusing on during our most recent missions trip to Denmark, along with doing ministry in Canada. It places value not just on a person deciding to follow Jesus, but acknowledges that along the journey there are multiple points of ‘engagement’ with Jesus. Each point of taking a step closer to Jesus is to be celebrated!
As Louise built trust with her Christian friend in school and trusted the impact of her siblings as they followed Jesus, she became more curious about faith and church. When she asked questions and experienced faith for herself, she recognized areas of her life that she wanted to change and find healing in. She sought out Jesus and decided to follow him as her Lord and Saviour. She’s now able to journey with her friends as they build trust, become curious, desire change, and seek Jesus.
As Louise experienced, when we take off our masks we are seen by Jesus and loved for who God has created us to be. His immeasurable love covers our fears of rejection by others. His comfort allows us to comfort others. There is no greater love to be found.