Taking the Masks Off
And I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. – Psalm 139:14 (CEV)
If you live in an area that celebrates Halloween, you may have seen some interesting creatures this past week marching around in search of candy. Regardless the history, or original meaning of the day, Halloween today mostly means: throw on a costume, parade around and have some fun.
It’s especially fun to watch kids who’ve totally bought into their Halloween persona. They aren’t just decked out in a carefully constructed costume, they bring the right sounds and demeaner along too. Howling, growling, prancing, dancing, shouting and repeating, “trick or treat!”
But then the day is over, and the masks come off. It’s back to looking and acting like yourself. It was just a fun distraction and a socially acceptable façade. You aren’t really a superhero or infamous villain. You didn’t grow up in castle with a supernatural gift. You’ve never been a ninja. Everyone knows it and we all enjoyed the ruse.
Masks are fun when we all agree to wear them, but they’re distracting and even dangerous when we wear them out of season – when we pretend to be something we’re not. Socially speaking, we value authenticity. We don’t like games, we don’t like being tricked, we’re appalled by fraud, but at the same time we see the wisdom in not “showing your cards.” We’re all aware of the fact that there are advantages to appearing different than we are. In a competitive world, it pays to appear stronger, faster, smarter, healthier and wealthier. In times of vulnerability or lack, the last thing we may want to do is be honest about ourselves.
The trouble with masks is that they interfere with relationships. First and foremost, they interfere with our relationship with God and our belief that God truly loves us just as we are. When we put on masks, we’re not believing that God created us exactly as we are and empowered us appropriately to accomplish His intended works in cooperation with the people He’s placed in our lives. Masks facilitate the idea that we need to change something before God will love us. But God’s love isn’t contingent on anything a mask can change or cover.
Masks also interfere with our love for others and our ability to accept love from others. When we allow other people to wear masks around us, we subtly suggest to them that we like the fake version better than the real one. And we’re not loving others when we put a mask on because ultimately, it’s a trick – promising one thing and providing another. Masks can confuse, intimidate and even scare off the people in our lives. It hard for people to love us for who we really are if we’re parading around acting like something we’re not. We should leave people with the suspicion that we’re more interested in knowing the person behind the mask than we are receiving any benefit from the mascaraed – ours or theirs.
This week, let’s practice a rhythm of taking the masks off.
Take time this week in prayer to remove your mask before God. Accept that He’s never been tricked about who you are. Find peace and contentment in the fact that you are His handiwork and decide to accept and cooperate with His design for your life. If you find discrepancies between the person you believe He designed you to be and the way you’ve been living, take those cares before Him and be honest about the work that needs to be done – but don’t cover them up.
Be intentional about taking your mask off with others. Be willing to be vulnerable and honest about who you are and what you’re capable of. Be confident in the fact that who you are is wholly sufficient to cooperate with, cultivate and catalyze the dynamic relationships that forge the beautiful community God has you in.
In your interactions with others, invite them to take their masks off too. Help people believe that you want to know who they really are – that bumps, bruises and warts don’t scare you. Leave people with the sense that you are fascinated by God’s creative, chaotic, unique blueprint for their life. Let your actions and words invite them to be honest about who they are as you work to love them as God does.