Apr 28, 2006

the irony of masks

We all wear masks.

You know this, don't you? From the style of clothes we have on to the emotional scars we hide undeneath, we all wear masks.

The catch is to use our masks to help us uncover who we really are.

For instance, recently I've (re)learned that the mask of humor can reveal areas of growth. I like to build bridges with people through humor... it's often disarming and can create camaraderie with another. That is, as long as you don't cross the line into something appropriate.

It's funny how masks can give you a bad rap.

Then again, it's funny how masks have gotten a bad rap.

Perhaps this is mostly due to the several intense thoughts put out by pop psychologists. While I agree that many adults hide behind masks out of fear of intimate exposure, there is also a positive side to masks, too.

For example, a hockey goalie wears a hard mask to prevent his skull from being penetrated from fast-flying pucks. Likewise, a child will wear a mask at Halloween to express an aspect of his/her personality that might have normally remained dormant. Even still, we will wear various personality masks to try new risks in life, from students who go out for every sport their freshmen year of high school to the individual who investigates a church out of a desire for community with God and others.

In all of these cases, masks are used to help the pursuit of excellence in a particular arena of life and not hinder one’s self.

However, when a mask does get in the way of personal authenticity it is not healthy for anyone involved. Teenagers are notorious for such complexity, from the “good kid” they play for mom and dad to the party animal they are to gain the acceptance of their friends. Adults maintain their share, though, even in the church. From the pastor who looks for affirmation from others through his/her sermon to the volunteer who feels the need to serve to atone for past mistakes or balance out another lifestyle, masks can be worn on both conscious and unconscious levels and may often prevent us from even seeing ourselves.

Probably where this gets most skewed is in the arena of those who have been walking with Jesus for some time. Because it is hard to measure our own spiritual growth, it can at times seem as though nothing has changed in our lives. As a result of this, there can be a temptation to want to sound more “spiritual” than we actually are, even to the point of hiding sins that one is embarrassed to still be wrestling over. We tell "safe" stories of confession and never willingly talk about the things that have happened recently... in this way we can safely sound transparent as long as the sins and carnality we deal with happened years ago.

Know what I mean?

What we need to realize is that a church isn’t to be another environment of rules but is to be a grace-giving community where you can be loved right where you’re at, yet loved forward at the same time. When we don't catch this reality we can easily get discouraged when we feel tempted back to their old ways. In many cases I have seen people put on their “church face” while inside they are dramatically empty and afraid to express it.

Shane and me at the Golden Gate bridgeOne of the reasons I am a big believer in extended time with people (be it road trips, long dinners, or whatever) is that I get to see a side of others over a lengthier period that I might not have ever noticed before. It is only in these breakthrough moments that I can more fully understand and love someone for who they are because the walls are finally down and healing can start to take place. Likewise, I can remember several instances of how people got to know my heart better by simply spending time with me and laughing, weeping, and dreaming together.

And yet, ironically, without the initial mask we might not ever get the chance to be friends in the first place.

Ironic, eh?
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2, MSG)


Katie said...

ahhh tony i seem to remember you alluding to this in a comment once on a post i did on masks (see your comments stick in my head - that might be dangerous though); i agree masks can be both good and bad, and we all wear them, i guess the challenge is to figure out the difference in the masks we wear

and p.s. loved this "you can be loved right where you’re at, yet loved forward at the same time."

Tony Myles said...

Imagine a church like that, eh?

Katie said...

hmmm maybe you could plant one? sounds like a good idea, go do that ok?