I’ve been hosting life:unmasked for a year now. It isn’t the most wildly popular link-up ever, but I think that’s understandable. Not everyone is ready to take off their mask. It takes courage and a certain amount of confidence that being real isn’t going to wreck you.

life: unmasked

In some ways, it hasn’t changed my writing. I like to think that most of the posts I write are naked. At the same time, I need a good weekly reminder to write real, even when life gets messy.

That’s a nonsense sentence, right there. “When life gets messy” implies that sometimes life is not messy. I can’t remember a time with no mess. Even if things are neat and tidy on the outside, they are jumbled and jumbling on the inside. The crazy selfish jealous discontented inside distorts and blurs everything outside, like wearing a pair of smudged dirty glasses.

I’ve discovered in the last year of life:unmasked that it’s easier for me to write about the messy outside. I don’t mind you knowing what a disaster my basement is or that I still haven’t formed good tidy-up-the-house-every-day habits. It’s scarier to expose the ugliness inside – the petty jealousies, the things I want that I can’t have, the things I don’t want that I have.

I am not sure what to think about this. Sure, I’ve written about inside things, like the total gutting and rebuilding of my faith, grieving the loss of our daughter, and the fear I battle for our surviving children. Many of the comments I’ve received indicate that even in a writing prompt like “life:unmasked” people don’t want gratuitous displays or shock-jockery (I reserve the right to coin a new term at least once a month). Taking the mask off should be redemptive in some way.

Don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand pat answers and pretty bows on top. That isn’t how God works. Redemption is painstaking and hard and the opposite of a cliche, and we may never actually see it. But a story that is looking for what God is going to do will have a completely different tone than a story that is looking for attention.

That’s the kind of story I want to tell. Stories of looking for God and for good, in spite of the mess and the pain and the ugliness. Even when I can’t see God or good at that moment. Even if I don’t see God or good at all.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this writing prompt. How have the posts helped you, as a writer or a reader or both? How has this concept hurt (if it has)? How have you struggled to take off the mask in your own life? Have certain areas been tougher for you, as they have for me? What have you learned?

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On Wednesdays, I host a link-up for anyone willing to step away from the pretense that all is welltake off their mask, and write nakedWhen we’re brave enough to be real about our hard days, we can offer real encouragement to others who are struggling. Life isn’t perfect all the time, but we can help each other get through the tough times when we acknowledge that things aren’t good and come alongside.

If you’ve written anything unmasked, link up below! Please link back to this post (here’s the link: http://wp.me/p2n5xv-Bq ) so your readers can learn and maybe join in too, and then make sure to visit at least two others and leave them encouraging comments.