Acorns From Oakes

Seeing With Our Father's Eyes

Real

My arms often grow tired carrying the equipment I have come to view as required for daily life. No…it’s not a briefcase or laptop to which I refer. It’s the many masks…heavy masks…that are needed at different times and for various reasons in life. My collection has grown to a trunkload. There’s the mask I wear with my friends, so they can see me as always fun-loving and fun to be around. There’s the mask I wear at work so they can see me as always competent, productive, successful. There’s the mask I wear in my community so they will see me as a good and helpful neighbor. There’s another mask, rather ugly, that I wear when I drive my car and feel that anonymity that is so ready to devolve into animosity if any other driver fails, for whatever reason, to respect my space. There’s even a church mask. You know…the one that says, “Yes, I really do have it all together. No, of course I don’t need your help. God and I are just getting along famously.” There’s also the family mask…you know, the one that says, “Dad has all the answers and should therefore call all the shots and should never, ever, under any circumstances be called upon to change his mind or apologize.”

As tired as I get holding up my various masks, I continue to do so because I fear the alternative too much. Imagine if I let others see the real me. The very possibility of such a thing takes my breath away. I wear the masks because I am looking for acceptance, respect and relationship. Problem is…the masks prevent the deepest experience of all of those things and keep us at a “safe” (and lonely) distance from others where we cannot truly give or receive. Masks lie.

One of the many reasons, I love my little granddaughter, Sky-baby (Skylar, nearly 4 years old), is that she doesn’t hide her true self. If she is angry, you will know. If she is happy, you will see. If she is tired, it shows. If she is grateful, you will feel her little arms tighten around your neck. If she is afraid, her face truly registers it. Sky is real in her love…in her sorrows…in her successes…in her failures. And she lets us into her heart and life through her being real with us. It’s not always pretty…not always easy…but it’s always real.

Somewhere in my growing up years I began to develope the art of mask-making. My first models were crude and not very effective…but I became more adept at the task. And now I know just which mask to pull out…the funny one…the quiet one…the busy one…and etc., etc.

I have suffered the last twenty-four hours because of my reaction to a stress-inducing moment. I failed, miserably, to do or say or even think anything at that time that would at all reflect the image of Jesus Christ in me. And there’s not a thing I can do about it now, except to ask my Lord’s forgiveness and pray to do better next time. Just a couple of hours after my failure, I was meeting with my sisters and brothers in Christ at church. So…I put on the church mask…gave the invitation talk…taught my class…business as usual. Wonder what would happen, if the preacher could remove his mask at church?

Our Lord was real. And as we feel the security of His grip on our lives, shouldn’t we be able to be real also? I have heard of a little church where the members, and even visitors, are helped to feel free to take off their masks…to lay their heavy burdens down…to be real…and to discover in such courageous action that their Lord is waiting to help them…and that He often does so through others who once wore masks of their own, but learned they didn’t have to because of Him. In the “realness” of my granddaughter, I see the possibilities our Lord holds out for His church. And even though I know it will be messy…and risky…and costly…and humbling…and ugly (sometimes)…I want real! I need it!

Talk to me…

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5 thoughts on “Real

  1. I think we all wear the mask Doug but sometimes if things wear on us enough (like Skylar) we let down with the mask and have to be real.
    I don’t like it, as I would love to be the best example of a Christian but I am not a lot of times the best example of a Christian. You know what gets me is that God always knows us with the mask on or off but we feel like we have to be better around people. We have been taught to be examples to this world to teach people about God. Sometimes, in fact, a lot of times I can be an example more when people know I need God to help me, and when I show others I am not the best example, that can help others even more. I don’t mean to be loose as a goose doing things wrong but when there is a weak time in my life sometimes others need to see we are not perfect…and it helps them know there is Hope for them thru God being their God.

    I know sometimes wearing so many masks can make us so tired and we do need to be true with how we are feeling without people rejecting or giving up on us. But there are people who cannot give an inch especially if you are in a role where people see your actions a lot.

    We do have a tendency to say “If that is what a Christian is, well I just
    don’t know if I want to be one”. I have done it…forgetting what I have done that people could say the same about me.

    Sometimes the mask protects us but it doesn’t help what is going on inside of us trying to be real with ourselves and others. It is good to be real. I like someone who is real. We like to hear children be “Honest” about things even if it hurts.

    We should always give people a chance, as God does, to be themselves.
    But I know we are not God…and God’s heart has a Greater Love for us to see us thru the times when we miss a beat. He is quick to Love and Forgive. We as people on earth should try to be as God’s example is…quick to love and quick to forget and forgive and be able to help people take the mask off. But it is hard because if we have lived long enough we find that some people are so stuck in their ways, not God’s ways, that we know there will be repercussions from being too real…or coming back from sinning in our lives. So we try to keep our masks on so people won’t turn their back on us.

    This is a hard one to really answer fully and to know when we can truly be real and take the masks off.
    DEAR SIS,
    YOU SAID GOOD STUFF! I THOUGHT YOUR COMMENT ABOUT HOW WE CAN BE MORE OF AN EXAMPLE WHEN OTHERS UNDERSTAND THROUGH OUR HONESTY RE: OUR SINS THAT WE REALLY DO NEED GOD OURSELVES…WAS RIGHT ON! I THINK THE GOAL IS ACTUALLY LIFE WITHOUT MASKS. PEOPLE REALLY DO NEED THE REAL US. AND THE REAL US DOES HAVE SHARP EDGES AND FLAWS APLENTY…BUT UNREAL PEOPLE DON’T HELP OTHERS VERY MUCH AT ALL. JESUS PRAISED NATHANIEL FOR BEING AN ISRAELITE INDEED IN WHOM THERE WAS NO GUILE.
    I THINK THAT YOU ARE VERY REAL…IN A GOOD WAY…LIKE JESUS WANTS US ALL TO BE. I LOVE YOU, SIS. ALWAYS HAVE. ALWAYS WILL. YOUR BRO.

  2. Email Girl on said:

    Oh Doug….you really struck a chord with me on this post. I know all about the masks of which you speak and more. Thinking about this I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe some masks are okay to pull out….like my mom mask…I’m a mom all the time but I’m also just a person with my own worries and feelings, but when I have to, when my children need me to be fully present, I just whip out my mom mask and suddenly nothing else in the world matters. I need that mask, its useful. Another mask I find helpful is the one I use to get a job done. When something is unpleasant and I really don’t want to do it, I need that mask just so I can get through the ordeal unscathed. Do you think Jesus had a mask like that? There had to be some things He just really dreaded doing….I know He dreaded hanging on that cross. I wonder if when He was in the garden praying He was looking for His mask.

    There are other masks that I believe are bad, or even dangerous. Masks that we use to alter our appearance are generally bad I think. Masks that make us look jovial when we are really sad….or masks that make us look content when we are, in truth, angry. Masks that say, “I’m fine” across the forehead annoy me these days. I’m tired of wearing that one for sure. The worst mask, and I think the most dangerous one, is the reflective mask. I wore this mask for years…hardly ever even took it off. The reflective mask turns you into whomever everyone else expects you to be. You become one person to this one and another person to that one, and in the process you lose who you are completely. I know this from experience…that mask is dangerous. A mutual friend of ours helped me pry that old thing off my face and what we found was a devastated shell of a person sitting behind it. I was unsure of my own thoughts in my head anymore…unable to speak without stumbling my words….unable to breathe deep without trembling….unable to cry when I was sad….unable to feel anything that I should have been feeling. It has taken several months to correct just some of the aftermath of that mask…but I’m so much better than I was. It feels tremendous to be able to lose that mask. I hope I never find use for it again.

    You posed the question…”Wonder what would happen, if the preacher could remove his mask at church?” I think if he did, the congregation would follow suit and begin removing theirs as well. Can you imagine a church where when someone asks “how are you?”, they really want to know? Or a church where no one feels unwelcome. I believe that little church you mention in your last paragraph is just such a place and it got that way because some folks were willing to pull off their masks. And just look how it grows….astounding. I want to go there so I never feel the need to wear my old mask again.

    DEAR E-MAIL GIRL,
    I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT YOUR MOM MASK…BUT, AS I THINK ABOUT MASKS…I’D RATHER NOT CALL WHAT YOU DO AS A MOTHER, WEARING A MASK. THE REASON IS…WHAT YOU DO FOR YOUR KIDS IS REAL. YOU DON’T HAVE ANY AGENDA THERE EXCEPT WHAT IS RIGHT…TO BE A GOOD MOM…TO LOVE AND CARE FOR YOUR KIDS PROPERLY…AS JESUS WANTS YOU TO. TO ME…THAT’S NOT “MASKING” IT. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU?
    I SEE THE MASK COMING OUT WHEN I AM TRYING TO PRESENT MYSELF AS SOMETHING I AM NOT…FOR EXAMPLE, THE PERFECT PREACHER WHO ALWAYS HAS IT UNDER CONTROL- SUCH A MASK IS A LIE DONNED FOR A BAD PURPOSE REALLY…TO BOOST MY ESTEEM BEFORE MY CHURCH FAMILY. AND LISTEN, I GO TO PREACHER MEETINGS AROUND HERE…AND I LISTEN TO HOW WE SOUND TO EACH OTHER…WE ARE ALL SO BUSY, OUR CHURCHES ARE JUST DOING WONDERFULLY WELL, NO REAL PROBLEMS AT ALL (BECAUSE, OF COURSE, MY CHURCH HAS ME FOR A MINISTER). WELL, I’M SORRY, BUT THAT’S NOT REAL…NOT GOOD…NOT HELPFUL…
    BUT I LIKE WHAT YOU SAID IN YOUR LAST PARAGRAPH…I ALSO WANT TO BE PART OF THAT CHURCH FAMILY WHERE WHEN THEY ASK HOW YOU ARE, THEY REALLY WANT TO KNOW…WANT TO LISTEN…WANT TO HELP…PRAY…CARE…LOVE…HANG IN WITH YOU. MAY GOD GIVE US COURAGE (GIVE THIS PREACHER COURAGE) TO LEAD THE WAY IN HONESTY.
    GOD BLESS YOU, SISTER.

  3. “Fake it til’ you make it.” I understand the intention behind the phrase, but I think it almost killed me. Because I took it literally and began to fake my entire life. Instead of asking for help … I convinced myself if I could fake things long enough that the problems would go away. Foolish idea … doesn’t really even make sense now … but at the time … I held on to it for dear life.

    The only way to live my “fake” life was to wear masks. You talked about how heavy they get. Mine quickly got too heavy for me to mess with. So I quit. I quit wearing the masks and instead chose to alienate anyone who would notice they were gone. This lead to isolation and my near demise.

    I can see where there are times when we need to keep our emotions in check … like email girl mentioned … when a child needs to see a strong parent etc. Sometimes though, we need to let others see our weaknesses. Children need to know that their parents are not perfect and that they have hard times too … and yet they need to see enough strength to know they can depend on them. So are masks required for this? I think they are.

    I can imagine a church where when someone asks, “How are you?” and they really want to know. I get to attend that place a few times a week. Is everyone that way … no. Am I always that way … no. But we try … we really try to have a safe environment where folks can be honest and not feel that they have to put on a show.

    Our teacher is honest. Does he stand up each time he’s had a bad day and say, “Wow today was horrible.” and then proceed to tell us about it. No. But when it is appropriate … needed … he tells us what’s going on in his heart. This allows us to feel comfortable doing the same. He never pretends to have it all together, and I think this is the key.

    This is a tough topic. I hate fake and want to avoid it. But I also need to understand discretion. My life is not everyone’s business, and it’s not always appropriate to spill my guts to everyone. So I can be sad and not tell everyone I meet about it … this doesn’t make me fake. What I think is fake is to pretend that I’ve got it all together and make others feel they need to do the same.

    I could go on and on … my mind doesn’t have a good grip on this and so the circles will continue if I don’t stop typing. But thanks for the topic. I want to be real. I never want to pass up an opportunity to let someone’s heart connect, because I had an image to protect.

    I hate that you feel you reacted badly to a situation. I pray you found a way to get some peace and amend that if possible. I don’t think it was wrong for you to get up and go on with the evening without mentioning it. That doesn’t make you dishonest … just discretionary. If it’s appropriate I’m sure you’ll find a way to disclose your heart to the people you teach so that they know you are “real” too. What I’ve seen of your heart tells me they probably already see you that way … you just may not always feel it.

    PAIGE,
    GOOD INSIGHTS. THE BALANCE BETWEEN HONESTY AND DISCRETION IS VERY IMPORTANT. TOO IMPORTANT FOR ME TO TRUST MYSELF WITH. SO I NEED TO ASK GOD FOR WISDOM TO MAKE SUCH CHOICES.
    I THINK YOU PUT YOUR FINGER RIGHT ON THE GOAL INVOLVED IN REMOVING OUR MASKS…TO NEVER PREVENT SOMEONE’S HEART FROM CONNECTING WITH US DUE TO PROTECTING OUR “IMAGE.” THAT’S RIGHT ON!
    GOD WAS KIND TO ME, AFTER MY MISERABLE FAILURE TO STAND UP FOR JESUS ON THAT OCCASION I SPOKE OF. I KNOW HE FORGAVE ME. IT DID WORK MY CASE FOR A WHILE…BUT IT NEEDED TO, I’M SURE. I HAVE BEEN HIS FOR 46 YEARS…AND, WHILE I UNDERSTAND THAT LONGEVITY DOESN’T NECESSARILY EQUATE WITH MATURITY OR HOLINESS, I WAS TEMPTED TO FEEL THAT I HAD NO PART NOR LOT IN THE MATTER OF CHRISTLIKENESS. I KNEW BETTER…BUT STILL? OF COURSE, MY MIND RAN THROUGH ALL KINDS OF SCENARIOUS IN WHICH I COULD HAVE MADE A MUCH MORE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE. NEXT TIME, I PRAY I WILL. BUT I’LL KEEP LEANING ON HIM FOR EVERYTHING.
    YOUR WORDS HAVE A POWER IN THEM, WHICH I’M CONVINCED ONLY COMES FROM FATHER GOD, TO IMPART SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND STRENGTH…SO KEEP WRITING THEM…KEEP SPEAKING THEM. GOD BLESS YOU.

  4. I learned early in my life to wear that mask. Emotions that were considered negative were not really tolerated well. So I learned appearances were most important. There was an image that the world could see and the “real” was hidden away behind that mask.

    When I first started trying to break out of that mask world, I went too far the other way. I never learned how to set boundaries. It was a disaster and I allowed a lot of damage to be done to my heart. Was that really just another mask? I think so.

    I lived my entire married life behind a mask. I was fine. We were fine. Everything was fine. No worries no trouble. That did not serve me well. Maybe that was necessary for my sanity and for my children for a time, but the end result was not good.

    Finding a place where I could finally say outloud… “I messed up. I ruined my life. I am hurt and broken and I need help”…being able to say those things and not be rejected but accepted…saved my life. I finally let that mask down and it was a blessed relief. My heart found rest probably for the first time in my life. Thank you Lord for putting me with that little church…with people that help me…and let me….be real.

    I think there is a time for honesty and no pretentions…and I think there is a time for discretion. I have to work on that a lot. When I do not give “full disclosure” I feel like I am being deceptive and then I feel guilty. But I am learning that not everyone has to know everything…but I still have a lot to work on there. I am blessed to have a friend that gives me good advice on that…and an even better example.

    Doug, I hope that you have found a way a cope with the situation that made you feel as though you failed. I only know just a little of your heart…but the bit that I have glimpsed is sincere and kind and so like Jesus.

    MASK-WEARING, LIKE ALL OF SATAN’S DEVICES, PRESENTS ITSELF TO US AS A DESIRABLE THING. THERE ARE SOME IMMEDIATE REWARDS. AS YOU SAID, SHERRY, WE DO FINE…FOR A TIME. WHEN WE PLAY THE ROLE THAT PEOPLE EXPECT, OR EVEN DEMAND OF US, WE RECEIVE THEIR APPROVAL. AND APPROVAL IS LIKE EDMUND’S TURKISH DELIGHT (CHRONICLES OF NARNIA)…SO SWEET AND DELIGHTFUL TO THE TASTE BUDS…BUT THE MORE YOU EAT OF IT, THE MORE YOU WANT…AND THE LESS YOU ARE FILLED. SOONER OR LATER WE SEE HOW SHALLOW A LIFE IS WITHOUT AUTHENTICITY. BY THEN, WE ARE OFTEN SIMPLY TOO PARALYZED BY FEAR TO EVEN CONSIDER DISCLOSING OURSELVES. WHAT A BRILLIANT TRAP, SET BY SATAN. BUT JESUS CAME TO SET FREE ALL FEAR-TRAPPED PEOPLE…AND HE DID IT. WE HAVE ONLY TO COME TO HIM…WITH OUR REAL HEARTS…OUR TRUE SELVES (UGLY AS WE ARE)…AND LET HIM BURY US…MAKE US ALIVE WITH HOPE…AND BEGIN WORKING IN US. I HAVE TO DETERMINE IF I AM GOING TO GO THRU THIS LIFE WANTING THE PRAISE AND ACCEPTANCE OF HUMANS ABOVE THAT OF MY SAVIOR. GOD FORBID.
    AND, THANK YOU, SHERRY, FOR YOUR WISH FOR ME TO HAVE FOUND A WAY TO COPE WITH MY SIN. I DID INDEED. I KNEW HE WOULD FORGIVE ME. IT JUST SIMPLY FILLED ME WITH PAIN AND AN ALL TOO FAMILIAR EMBARRASSMENT TO DISCOVER (ONCE AGAIN) MY CAPACITY TO HURT MY SAVIOR BY NOT REFLECTING HIS PATIENCE AND LOVE TO AN IMPATIENT, UNLOVING HUMAN BEING. I’M GLAD HE DOESN’T TREAT ME THAT WAY…AND IN HIS NAME, BY HIS GRACE, I WILL TRY TO NOT REPEAT SUCH BEHAVIOR AGAIN.

  5. Rex Boyles on said:

    Doug, my beloved friend, I would – if I could – spare you one moment of sorrow or regret over the “situation” you mentioned. But I know your heart – that even if I made excuses for you or defended your reactions – your heart would still ache that you did not behave as you believe Jesus would. That confirms to me … what is the true nature of your heart. If you were a fake – a phony – or a fraud, you would neither regret what happened much less reveal it.

    I have known you … KNOWN you … for over 35 years. We have laughed and cried … played and worked … stayed in each others homes and travelled together all over the world. We have been with each other in sickness and in health … for richer and poorer (mostly poorer) … in good times and in bad … and we are friends … soul-knit friends … and even death cannot “do us part”!

    I am trying to say … I KNOW YOU … and I know no more genuine of a man … than you. I know of no one who has less guile … less jealousy … less bitterness … less “ego” … less meanness … than you. You are my brother … my friend … my buddy … my co-worker … my partner … my counselor … my example … my hero!

    I love you … and if I had beenn with you that day, I would have been right in it with you. I’ve got your back! Rex

    IF YOU COULD HAVE LITERALLY LOOKED INTO MY HEART AT THE MOMENT I READ YOUR WORDS HERE, YOU WOULD HAVE CLEARLY SEEN THE RELIEF AND JOY THEY BROUGHT ME. IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE, YOUR PRESENCE ALONE WOULD HAVE KEPT ME FROM REACTING SO EVILLY. I LONG AGO DISCOVERED IN OUR FRIENDSHIP, THAT IT IS SO MUCH EASIER FOR ME TO THINK GOOD, SPEAK GOOD, AND DO GOOD WHEN I AM WITH YOU. AND EVEN IN THIS REPREHENSIBLE “DISTANCE” BETWEEN US IN THESE LATER YEARS…YOUR INFLUENCE KEEPS MAKING ME WANT TO BE MORE LIKE THE ONE WHO LOVED US INTO LIFE…FILLS US WITH LIVING HOPE…GIFTED US WITH ONE ANOTHER…PERMITTED US TIME TO BE TOGETHER AND WORK TOGETHER IN THIS OLD WORLD…AND WILL…ONE OF THESE DAYS…REMOVE THE MILES…THE TIME…THE CIRCUMSTANCES…THAT KEEP US SEPARATED.
    I AM CONFIDENT THAT MY BACK IS WELL-COVERED…THANK YOU, FRIEND OF MY YOUTH.

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