My husband and I moved to Michigan in August of 2020 and very quickly began attending a church in the area. Although we attend this church on a weekly basis we have not been able to get to know many of the staff or congregation due to COVID restrictions in our state. I have noticed that there is one guy who always welcomes guests and directs people to seats if needed. I thought I knew him, that was until this past week when he wasn’t wearing a mask. When we walked up he looked familiar but also very different. Why? First off, I have only ever seen him with a mask on, and second, that mask had been hiding a mustache the whole time. The fact that he had a mustache did not change anything about him, but it changed the image I had in my head of who he was. In other words, I had a false image in my head of what this man looked like and I had built a false understanding of who he was.
During COVID we were all encouraged to wear masks for the health and safety of ourselves and those around us. But if we are being honest a lot of us have been wearing a mask for much longer than that. It may not be a literal mask but many of us have been covering up who we really are by hiding behind something. For example, it could be the comedian that is always laughing and cutting up but is really hiding their depression. The high school athlete who seems to have it all, the grades, the girl, the car, and the scholarship but lives in fear of failure. It’s the housewife that puts on a good show for social media but turns to alcohol at night because she doesn’t feel good enough. I could continue with the list but I think you get the point.
It is hard to admit but most of us have something we are hiding behind so that everyone else thinks we are doing great even when we aren’t. A mask we wear to make others perceive us how we wish to be seen, not how we really are. No one wants to be seen as broken and flawed, yet all of us are. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. There is no perfect human other than Jesus, meaning all of us are broken and have flaws. Instead of masking these flaws we can be vulnerable and open with our trusted family and friends and allow them to love us in spite of our shortcomings. Second, we don’t want to ask for help from anyone but that help is exactly what is needed. There is a reason God created not just one but two in the Garden of Eden. As humans, we are designed to need one another and to need God. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ ” Although God is speaking to Adam and Eve in this passage, I think it also speaks to all forms of relationships, including ones outside marriage. We all need someone to talk to from time to time, someone who is trustworthy and will lead us closer to God.
Wearing a mask to hide is not a new problem, Adam and Eve felt they needed to hide from God once they had eaten from the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). It was at this point sin entered the world and the human race began to hide from God. This created a barrier between the relationship God had intended between Himself and humans. Although today we may not be physically running from God, almost everyone at some point has tried to cover up sin and hide it from God or others. Take social media, for example, our accounts are full of the highlights of our lives but leave out any signs of struggles or hard times. This does two things to us; first, it forces us to compare our lives to the highlights of someone else's, and secondly, it encourages us to play up just how wonderful our lives are so others feel jealous. When we look through the lens of social media, everything gets distorted and misunderstood.
Now that we have recognized the problem, how do we begin to take the mask off? First, we must look internally before we look outside of ourselves. Matthew 7:4-5 tells us that before we can help others with their shortcomings we must first look at our own shortcomings. Removing your own mask is a process that takes a lot of self-reflection and a deeper understanding of who God and who He has created you to be. The best place to start is in prayer, followed up with a reminder of who God created you to be through His scriptures. Steps on how to do this can be found in my Taking Inventory post. Once you have established what your mask is, it is time to confess and repent. We should confess our mask to God and ask Him to lead us in the way that takes us to the path of maskless living. I have found it helpful to go to a loyal and trustworthy friend or family member to confide in. This provides you with the accountability to stay the course. In this accountability, you must be willing to be completely vulnerable and truthful. Once you have taken this journey yourself you are more prepared to help someone else unmask. We must be loving and accepting when someone confides in us and reveals their mask to us. It is possible that when this person takes off their mask you realize that you barely even know who they truly are but, we should remember what Romans 3:23 tells us and allow them to open up to us with no judgment. If they are coming to you it is because they feel that you can provide them with the comfort and support they need during this process.
In closing, I challenge you to look at the masks you might still be wearing. Be bold enough to take off that mask and show everyone who you truly are and who God created you to be. God has created you beautifully and has never once told us that we need to be perfect to earn His love. Far from it actually! God tells us to come to Him in our failure, in our brokenness, in our sinful ways, and lean into His love. Allow His words to penetrate our ways and make the change in our hearts. Come as you are, free of the mask you wear to hide from the world.