With the candles blown out and tucked away in the draw until next year’s birthday, I set about my evening routine before bed. Only this time, I noticed the faintest wrinkle as I removed my carefully placed makeup. I let go of my initial urge to panic and spiral into the waning youthfulness of my skin and thought, “Well, I guess this is me now being “in my thirties”.” At least this tell-tale imperfection is around my eyes, indicating I laugh a lot…right?!
I was also consoled by the fact that most people would not be able to detect this flaw. As it has become your norm, too, my face is almost always covered by masks. And I do mean masks. As I work in healthcare among the most susceptible among this crazy virus, I am suited up in multiple masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, the works.
It’s kind of wild that none of us really bat an eye after a year of this when we are walking around and everyone is literally hiding behind a mask. Ben and I talked about this a lot on our recent weekend getaway. Everyone we encountered was wearing a mask, however flippantly. I have run into a few instances when someone removes his or her mask, just for a second, and I am surprised by their features. It’s difficult to surmise what someone looks like based on their eyes and a mask.
But, I guess it really makes sense that we have so quickly acclimated to this mask up initiative. I mean, besides the goal of decreasing the spread of germs, haven’t we been altering the way we present ourselves to the world for some time now? We filter our blemishes and airbrush our flaws. We present a version of ourselves that we feel ingratiates us with those around us.
We answer the question with “It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
Only it’s not. The hurt is still there. The tangled mess in our minds is still there. The loneliness is still there. But we just keeping going along, pretending the sting isn’t there.
Some of the masks I wear are wife, mom, supervisor, therapist, family member, amateur blogger, friend, and churchgoer. These look different depending on the day, the events that have transpired that week, and whether I’m adequately caffeinated. Sometimes I masquerade under one mask to compensate for shortcomings under another.
What are you masking? Brother? Single parent? Failure? Misfit? Addict? Depressed?
The thing about wearing masks is that it makes it more difficult to spot the wolves. I know, I know, we are all like sheep blindly following the latest trends or fad diets. But when the wolves are also dressed like sheep (Matt. 7:15), it blurs the line of reality and can cause us to lose sight of the things God has told us. These wolves can sound a lot like “But did God really not want you to go to this thing or partake in these things?” It can lead you to do things under the guise of the mask you’re wearing that you would probably not do otherwise.
Again, God doesn’t set up boundaries for us in order to steal our joy. We know that the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy. A single bite of bad fruit is seemingly innocent enough, right?
Grey and Harlow love eating fruit. As we sat eating apples at the counter today, Grey had lots of questions regarding apples. Ben patiently explained to him how the stem was once attached to a tree. This tree provided water and nutrients to a seed that began to grow. Eventually, it begot the fruit that we then purchased to eat. Inside are yet more seeds that could potentially continue this cycle. Satisfied with this answer, Grey crunched the remainder of this fruit.
But when we consider making erroneous decisions, it wasn’t the bite that enacted the consequences that would then transpire. All of the thoughts and turning away from the little voice in your head (ahem, the Holy Spirit) led you to think about taking a bite first. You were able to rationalize your decision, and figured, what’s the worst that could happen?
Now, you’ve gotten a taste of the juice. You pull your mask a bit tighter. Another bite or two wouldn’t hurt anyone. Only now, the seeds are tainted. They will not produce any good fruit. The fruit will be damaged, infected by that initial decision. The cycle has now been contaminated.
Maybe that’s where you are now. Maybe you were the one who took the first bite. Maybe you’re one in generations of bad seeds. Maybe you just feel safer not eating any fruit and hiding behind the mask. It’s fine here.
Yall, it’s time to break the cycle. I don’t want any of us feeling like we are unredeemable or that those around us are not worthy of redemption. It’s great for me to write to you each week about God’s good grace and for you to feel personal satisfaction in your walk with Christ. But what about your neighbors? What about that person in your past that you have secretly been wishing would fail? Don’t they deserve the same love and forgiveness that we do?
It’s time to remove our masks. Let’s take a deep breath of the fresh air God has filled us with. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to speak to us and reveal the areas in our lives that we have been covering up and pretending are fine. Let’s surround ourselves with others who are ready to peer past the peak of the mask and create new cycles.
Our pastor said today that church is a habit. Let’s make good habits. Let’s dig deeper; sing louder; pray without ceasing. These are the tools we need to relinquish our desire to remain hidden and allow God to show us a new and better way forward. We were meant to live life abundantly.
It’s fine. Yes, because God is still in control. I’m fine. Yes, because I have a savior who saw me, wrinkles and all, and said, “I choose you.” Everything’s fine. Yep, because despite all of the ways we manage to mess it up and leave half-eaten seeds all over the place, God in his infinite wisdom and authority places new trees and new streams for us to find rest near.
We know we need to wear some masks for our protection, but here, where it’s still and quiet – beautiful even without the filter – we can take off the masks and talk to God from a place of honesty. Your past is not too much for God. Your wandering is not enough to throw God off your trail. Wash your face, get the “mature” makeup, wear your dad shoes, part your hair whichever way you want. But let’s be real with each other and admit that, even if this season looks a little different than you thought it would, you were made for such a time as this.
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
Luke 12:2 “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Esther 4:14 “If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”