what women want: to shed their masks

On Fridays, I have opened my space to feature short essays by women about what they want from the Church. The guidelines are wide, purposefully, inviting either an answer to the question itself or to argue for a better question altogether. These essays have been curated for quality, not for content, and not all views expressed are necessarily my own. It is my hope that these posts are beginning places, that you will be sent on to spend time with the words of these women in their own spaces and houses of expression, and they have been asked to interact with you in the comments. (I'll be less active there, accordingly.) Many thanks to my good friend Preston Yancey for beginning this series.

Women want to shed their masks. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

When you nod and smile but actually you disagree and want to scream. 

When you apologize for your kids acting up in church when you really want to say, “We had a rough morning and the fact that we even made it to church is a huge success.” 

When you agree to serve on a committee even though you really feel like your life is too full and too exhausting as it is. 

When you continue to sing every hymn, pray ever prayer, and show up at church every time the door is open even when your faith is parched, uncertain, or borderline non-existent. 

When you wear a smile and pretend like you have it together while privately you struggle day after day with depression. 

I could go on. My point is that I think women often feel the pressure to be perfect. We are expected to put forth a perfect image. I realize that we usually talk about boys being told to be strong, but girls are expected to be strong, too. We have to be good at nurturing and organizing and cooking and sex. We have to be able to handle difficult situations without upsetting the balance of the family. We have to be constant multi-taskers, remembering every folder that has to be signed, bill that has to be paid, and errand that has to be run.  On top of all that, our culture tells us we have to be beautiful and cool to be accepted. It’s exhausting to wear all those masks. 

It’s also suffocating. For years I have been afraid to say what I really think. Instead, I have said whatever makes everyone happy and have done whatever was expected of me. I used to long to find my authentic self, because I’d almost lost track of who that was. My spirit was shriveling. 

I am sure I’m not alone when I say that the song “Let it Go” from the kids’ movie Frozen is my new theme song. 

Couldn't keep it in, Heaven knows I tried.
Don't let them in, don't let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal don't feel, don't let them know.
Well, now they know!

Let it go, let it go.
And I'll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand, in the light of day.

It’s sad that Disney gets me more than the church does. 

I listen to women a lot. They tell me their stories. But they rarely say them out loud in the church. Instead, they tell me their stories late at night on the phone or over margaritas at Chuy’s. They tell me how hard it is to make it to church because of an illness that nobody really knows they have. They tell me how stressful their jobs are. They tell me how hard it is to balance everything they are trying to be. They tell me how lonely they feel.

What do we want? We want to be able to tell these stories out loud. We want to let go of the need to hide. We want the freedom to peel off those masks and show you our real, scarred, beautiful skin.  

Let us be authentic. Let us be real. Let us cry if we are hurting and for goodness’ sake, don’t call us emotional! (Newsflash: Every human on this planet is emotional. Some people show their emotions more readily than others. But everyone feels.) Let us scream if we are frustrated. Let us disagree if our opinion is different. Let us say no to the extras because we feel the need to protect our family time. Let us admit that we don’t have the answers and we don’t have it together and we don’t like to fake happiness. 

I am convinced that if you take off your mask and I take off mine, we will be better able to love each other and to love Jesus. You only have to read the gospels to realize that Jesus reached out to people who were imperfect and who didn’t have it all together. In fact, the people who were the strictest rule-followers often angered Jesus the most. Jesus loves and values our raw, scarred, authentic selves. We should love and value them, too.


Karissa Knox Sorrell is an educator, writer, and blogger from Nashville, Tennessee. She is almost finished writing a memoir about her childhood as an evangelical PK/MK and later converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. At 4 AM, you will find her writing. At 1 PM, she's training ESL teachers. At 6 PM she's wrangling her two adorable children. At 9 PM she's asleep. Follow Karissa on twitter @kksorrell or read her blog at http://karissaknoxsorrell.com 

Posted on April 11, 2014 .