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I've been thinking about this story of mine for weeks.
And when I went to find it I couldn't believe I wrote it 10 years ago!
That is seriously crazy!
Anyway, it has lots of Advent themes in it for me especially coming out of our women's Advent study group this year so....
I thought I'd post it.

One summer’s day, a child was born….
She was perfect! Pure in her innocence, perfectly trusting.
Her soul was naked, transparent, exposed and fragile.
Her parents thought she was the most beautiful child they had ever seen and gave thanks to God for the gift they had been given.
She filled their senses, completed their togetherness and brought joy to everyone who encountered her.
For a while, things were rosy.
The child grew and everyday learnt new things about the world and how she ought to live.
The child trusted those around her, gave freely of her soul and delighted everyone with her candid honesty.
But slowly things began to change….
Her parents tried to protect her but the child was like a sponge, soaking up anything and everything into her soul…and she learned fast!
Imitating those around her, including her parents, she began to understand that the world in which she lived was not the perfect and loving place she had believed it to be.
She realised that people could hurt each other by the things they said and did; that exposing herself and sharing her soul with those around her, left her open to being hurt; that sometimes her honesty caused her to be ridiculed and get into trouble; that it was important to be cautious with her feelings and that the more hidden her feelings were, the better.
She needed to become more resourceful and protective of her fragile soul.
But how?
Her parents had always been her role models so she decided she needed to watch them even more carefully.
Getting up very early one morning, before it was light, she crept into her parents’ bedroom.
The moonlight shone softly through the window as her parents slept.
Leaning over the bed she looked into their sleeping faces.
To her astonishment and surprise they looked different, almost unrecognisable.
Lying peacefully on their pillows, their faces were windows that bared their souls.
There were no barriers, no protection….no masks….and the child was mesmerised by her parents true selves.
She discovered things she never knew, feelings and emotions that had always been hidden.
And suddenly she understood!!
She watched as her parents awoke and prepared for the day ahead.
They each opened a small oak box on the dresser and carefully picked up their mask.
Like slipping on a shirt or some protective clothing, they lifted their masks into place.
Gone was the vulnerability, gone was the transparency. All weakness and fragility was hidden. Protection in place to face another day.

As the years passed, the child became a teenager, brilliant and complex. Childhood was beginning to fade in her memory.
She became an expert at using her mask to protect her soul.
She had been taught well and learned even better.
But something else was happening.
Sometimes her heart and soul were so full of turmoil and emotions that the masks would slip and those around her would be startled and gasp at the rare glimpses into her true self. She tried really hard to keep her mask in place but she also learned that she could use these “mask-slipping” moments to effect….and people would take notice! (especially her parents!)
Moments of passion, of rage and frustration, of righteous indignation, of despair, of uncertainty and loneliness clashed explosively together with uncontrollable laughter, silliness, pushing the boundaries, and forming bonds of friendship that could never be broken.
Life was there to be lived as if there would never be another day.

Teenage bravado soon faded as she made the transition into adulthood.
As an adult, it was safer to follow the rules.
She knew how to behave appropriately.
She knew what was expected of her and she complied.
She was brave and hid her tears when she felt like crying.
She bit her tongue when she felt like yelling and screaming.
She was cautious and didn’t let herself get too involved with anyone.
But somehow she felt that something was missing.

In the early morning dawn, without her mask, she would lie in the quietness, contemplating her day. It was during these precious times that she began to remember her creator, and how he had made her. It was just little moments at first but more and more she took time to be still with her God. She realised that if she sat very still and listened, she could hear and feel the faint stirring breezes of her childhood and the wilder winds of her adolescence.
Tears of healing fell as she realised that she had almost forgotten about risking all to love, trust and show honesty.
Little by little she allowed herself to feel again.

One day in the quietness, God spoke.
With stunning clarity she saw her soul clearly in all its beauty just as it had been on the day of her birth.
Pure, transparent, innocent and trusting.
She realised with amazement that she had been created in God’s image and that he had only ever wanted His very best for her.
She felt ashamed that for so long she had covered up her true beauty and missed out on sharing her soul with others.
But most of all she was filled with hope knowing that all God wanted was for her to take off the mask and be….herself!

It wasn’t easy at first but gradually there were more and more days when she would forget to put on her mask….on those days, amazing things happened!
Not only was she able to share her soul, but others, being touched by seeing God’s creativity began to take off their masks and share their souls with her!
Barriers were being broken down.
She was growing and being stretched in her faith.
She was getting to know her God….and learning to be herself all over again!
One winter’s day, a child was born…..
He was perfect! Pure in his innocence, perfectly trusting.
His soul was naked, transparent, exposed and fragile.
His parents thought he was the most beautiful child they had ever seen and gave thanks to God for the gift they had been given.
He filled their senses, completed their togetherness and brought joy to everyone who encountered him.
His mother looked at him as he lay sleeping peacefully in her arms and quietly breathed her promise to God.
There was no room for a small oak box……..there was no need.

Wendy Johnston
September 2003