Of Masks and Men


To say it was a year like no other in my rather extended lifetime would simply be redundant. Expressing my intense desire to see its end, (granted, some days more than others,) merely replicates the longing of most people in the world. The myriad changes in our daily lives have stretched us to, and in some cases beyond, what we can naturally bear.

Wearing a mask everywhere not only grew wearisome by the end of the two weeks, but soon became a weapon of shaming which escalated into episodes of violence toward non-wearers, (some who have valid reasons.)

The heart of man is so predictable.

However, it occurred to me recently that we humans are actually accustomed to wearing masks…although they aren’t normally visible to others. I’m quite good at projecting a more glowing image of myself to strangers or new acquaintances than my husband knows me to be in daily life. Naturally, I am only referring to myself…

vulnerability, freedom, fear

What Mask?

Beginning in the Garden, we learned the art of attempting to hide the evidence of sinful attitudes and deceitful hearts. A walk through the Bible reveals story after story of men and women who were deceivers. One patriarch was even nicknamed Deceiver after stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing. How? By disguising himself to appear like his brother, Esau, to his blind father, Isaac, (Genesis 27:1-41, NKJV).

There are two stories in I Samuel 14-15 about King Saul. He had a genuine problem submitting to God’s authority over him, (sound familiar?) Yet, despite being confronted by the prophet, Saul did not repent, but rather blamed the people. He then had the audacity to beg Samuel to honor him before the elders and before the people of Israel.

In today’s language, I can hear Saul’s response like this: “Yes, yes, I sinned; BUT, it’s their fault! And anyway, can we keep this quiet while you still honor me as the great and honorable king that they think I am?”

How can I leave out Ananias and Sapphira? In Acts 5:1-11, this couple became caught up in the overflowing love and charitable giving among the Christians. Whoever owned houses or land was selling them and giving the proceeds for the benefit of all in need.

Except, this couple didn’t want to give ALL of the proceeds; they just wanted to be SEEN as giving all of the proceeds. The story doesn’t end well for them.

Each of these Bible stories represents presenting a false face to others so that our genuine heart cannot be revealed. Or I could say, they were wearing a mask.

Why We Wear Them

Due to Adam’s sin, wearing invisible disguises is written within our DNA, but I believe it might be helpful to understand why we do what we do when we don’t always want to do it! (Remember Romans 7?) It pains me to say that the primary reason is pride coupled with fear of discovery. (ouch) Many of us will do almost anything to keep from being discovered for the fraud we usually know ourselves to be.

Personally, I am quite brilliant at presenting myself to strangers and acquaintances as outgoing and gregarious, but my husband and closest friends know me to be an introvert who shies away from groups and new people. Too many of us are terrified of being discovered

“If (fill in the blank) knew what I really thought about this policy/social issue/moral standard, he/she would hate me, not be my friend, fire me, etc.”

“If they knew who I really am, (what I’ve done, where I’m from,) they would never accept me, like me, hire me…” OR “listen to me as their boss, leader, pastor, etc.”

“If my friends knew about my rages/depression/suicide attempts/panic attacks at home, they might see me as weak or crazy instead of the successful, put-together woman I have portrayed.”

I often wonder why we women have given other women so much power over us.

I, even I am He who comforts you.

Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die,

And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?

Isaiah 51:12, NKJV

Unfortunately and sadly, we put entirely too much faith in our false personas, (and other’s opinions,) and too little faith in the God who created us. Spend some time in Psalm 139 if you think you were an afterthought to Him.

Snuggled up next to the #1 reason is the fear of vulnerability. Most of the humans I have ever known have been hurt by another human, whether in childhood, school, church, dating relationships, or marriage. Let’s face it, people have a vast capacity to hurt one another. We see it in the news every day and it tends to harden us to the pain.

But wounds create a massive fear of becoming susceptible to hurt, again. The earlier wounds occur, the higher the wall is built to protect against perspective assaults. It’s natural to turn to our own pitiful, inadequate devices and hide behind walls of pride, deception, and fear, but when we turn to the Lord God for our daily refuge, we have the only hope of living a fearless life.

God is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear,

Even though the earth be removed,

And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Psalm 46:1-2

Henri Nouwen has been one of my guides to grace and humility over the years. I brought many emotional and spiritual wounds to my career as a hospital chaplain. As a new intern, I was quickly disavowed of the notion that I needed to hide my well-guarded wounds. In addition to my supervisor, Nouwen’s book was the main tool God used to walk me into the initial journey of embracing and using my wounds instead of hiding them in shame.

Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

At that moment, when our wounds become a source of healing, we are free to take off the disguises we felt compelled to wear. We are free to be authentic, to be the genuine, original God created you and me to be. Those old, hidden painful things can be used by the Father to bring another sister into the Light of His love and freedom.

Doesn’t that make you want to take a deep, cleansing, mask-free breath?  



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