Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Discern (08/12/10)
TITLE: Beholding the Heart
By Rachel Phelps
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My disguise was impeccable. I’d spent a lifetime perfecting it. Even those within my family never guessed the truth. To them, and the rest of the world, I was an exemplar citizen – kind, thoughtful, generous, patient. In the workplace, I garnered praise for my stellar work ethic and people skills. In the rest of my life, my welcoming, nurturing attitude blinded everyone to the truth.
Beneath my elegantly crafted façade lay a person others would not recognize. A cold, manipulative monster who was as empty of compassion and kindness as my disguise was of greed and malice. This was the part of me that delighted in my ability to deceive those around me, that despised those pathetic imitators who attempted to create a similar shield around their hearts and failed so utterly. Their disguises were so easy to penetrate.
Beyond this layer lay another part of my heart, a hidden room I rarely visited. Here rested the core of my being – all the vulnerable parts I dared not show. It was littered with the refuse of my outer layers. Emotions I never fully experienced. Criticisms I never forgot. Accusations I leveled at myself. Failure. Idiot. Mistake. Waste. Only in my weakest moments did I venture there.
I would sit in church and smile, hug, sing, perhaps even cry at the right moments, carefully managing impressions of those around me. It was there, in the pew, however, that I often felt the eyes of the only one who ever made me fear discovery. I could feel him, always nearby, sometimes stepping within the boundary I set up around myself.
Oh, how that knowledge terrified me. I could sense his gaze searing past my smiles and kind words. Still, it took only a well-placed joke or conversational feint to be sure he kept his distance. Safety lay in thwarting his attempts to get close. I devoted much energy to developing this particular skill.
Then, one day, I was alone. I had no joke to tell, no friend to hail.
“I know who you are.”
I controlled the racing of my heart, remaining as calm as possible. He couldn’t possibly…
“Oh?” My voice trembled. I flogged myself for the betrayal.
He stepped nearer, extending a hand. I stepped back, and hit the wall with enough force to jar my teeth.
“I know about that room.”
Anger shot past my façade. “You know nothing. I haven’t let you…”
He smiled, but there was pain in his eyes. I watched them, waiting for the condemnation to surface. Surely he, too, was masking his true feelings.
“Dear child, your greatest fear is failure. You fear discovering that your mistakes and failures outweigh everything else.”
I clenched my jaw, refusing to respond. The hot shame was pushing at the door to my room. He was close to it. But he hadn’t touched on the clutter that blocked the threshold – the baggage I still stepped over rather than put away. Deep within, I defied him to try. No one could fix that secret ache.
“You fear failure because you’re afraid of finding out that the mistakes of two people are the only reason for your existence.”
My stomach hollowed out with a fear that exploded from the very place I had avoided so long. I tried to back away yet again, even as I strained, desperate, for his answer.
“It’s not true.”
Three words. Three words for years of hardening to crumble into dust. The tears began even before he continued.
“You were created with a purpose, dear child, a purpose you cannot know if you refuse to let me in.”
The manipulator within screeched one last warning that it would be the end of everything. For the first time in my life, I didn’t care. With a final flinch of fear, I threw open the door to my room.
The light hurt at first, but he stepped inside with infinite care, already reaching for the castoffs on the floor. I moved to protest, but halted. His eyes held nothing but love. My own condemnation slipped from my shoulders and landed on the floor. He knelt, laughing in pure joy, and beckoned. It was the final choice.
I stooped to help him clean his new dwelling place.
Others may think me trivial. They may think I serve no purpose in this life. Some may say my existence is a mistake.
I am not who people think I am.
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