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…