Take Off Your Masks
One of the many aggravating aspects of the world we now live in is that due to the constant surges in Covid cases, we can't seem to get to a place where we can dispense with wearing masks.
I'm not against wearing masks where masks are needed, mind you. And I'm all for anything that will get us to lower numbers of positive cases. So just to be clear... let's wear masks where we need to and get this thing over with.
But I'm also certain that there aren't too many people who absolutely love wearing masks.
Although when it was super cold the other day, I was kind of glad I had mine on.
You can also be incognito if you have to go to the store in your skuzziest clothes without fear of being recognized by anyone... I've heard.
There's an interesting phenomenon that I've observed when it comes to mask-wearing and communication. When you can't see someone's face, it's hard to read clues as to how they're responding to you.
When you can't rely on facial expressions, it's hard to tell if someone is mad, tired, frustrated, elated, sad, or bored.
That last one is the most difficult for someone like me who speaks to people for a living. When you look out onto a church full of people and you can't tell if they are awake and listening or yawning their butts off... it's disorienting.
The reason why I'm reflecting on all of this is that I got to thinking about how even when we weren't wearing physical masks, most of us were hiding our true selves to the world anyway.
We've been masking up to hide from the world long before the pandemic.
We do our best to not let our friends and family know that we were in pain. We put on a brave face when we are shattered by fear. We project confidence and competence when we feel neither of those things.
We put on so many masks that we sometimes no longer remember what our real face looks like. And sometimes it catches up with us, and we find ourselves wondering if we even know who we are any longer.
The late philosopher Alan Watt once wrote:
The sins after the Devil’s heart are the intricacies of spiritual pride, the mazes of self-deception, and the subtle mockeries of hypocrisy where masks hide behind mask, behind mask, and reality is lost altogether.
Jesus warned his disciples about wearing false faces like the hypocrites or actors in the ancient world who would don a mask to reflect changes in their character or to provide clues as to what their character was trying to convey.
Essentially, Jesus exhorted his followers to throw away their masks, and strive to become congruent people whose inside matched their outside. He wanted them to be vulnerable, open, and unafraid.
It's easier said than done, I'm afraid. Jesus knew that, too.
This is why he offered a different way forward for anyone who wanted to live without the burden of the world's expectations (or their own) on their shoulders.
"Come unto me," he said, "all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest."
If you have been living for a long time under a layer of false faces, it's time to take off your masks and breathe in the Spirit of courage and comfort that Jesus offered.
Don't be afraid of what you will show to the world, or who you might see in the mirror. You are loved and cherished as you are, and when you fully realize this, you will no longer feel like hiding.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and forever. Amen.