The Mask (Confessions of an Intern Continued)

Perhaps I’m getting on a soap box with this one – maybe it’s just me wanting to combat superficiality with a healthy dose of truth.

Have you noticed just how fake a society we live in? This is the era of the mask and it frightens me that we as a people are so adept at hiding behind plastic smiles. Broken hearts are plastered over, hurting souls are carefully guarded. But why?

I’m guilty of it. I’ve come to hate being asked “How are you?” because for years I was prone to the bad habit of responding with, “Good, how are you?” 75% of the time I gave that answer, I was not good. I should have said, “I’m actually going insane, my to-do list has me crazy cranky and I really just want to climb into bed with a good book and an embarrassing amount of hot chocolate,” or, “Life is just a pain today. I need prayer and encouragement and a really big hug.”

Have we conditioned ourselves to be so flippant with our emotions? Are we really that judgmental a culture?

I think probably yes. Yes we are. Whether it’s weakness, shame, guilt, pain, confusion, anger, doubt, or insecurity, revealing a craptastic day simultaneously reveals something about ourselves. And that’s why we arrange the mask so perfectly. Our culture tends to regurgitate the pieces of us we surrender to it. Our culture mocks because our culture is broken and in need of a powerful love.

I had this epiphany some time ago – when I sat before God and finally accepted that He is made strong in my weakness. I had to realize that I will always have problems but hiding those problems is detrimental to my peace, my walk, and my passion. And I decided to, from then on, adopt as much of a mask-free mentality as possible. Vulnerability has been one of the banner words for my summer. Because I want to be the kind of girl who openly expresses her frustrations, tribulations, and/or observations. I haven’t been given a spirit of timidity – I have been called to boldly give of myself to others. I want to share the love I know with a people scorned.

I’m not saying we should walk around bearing our hearts to all who will listen/can’t run fast but I am saying we need to consistently take inventory of the baggage we’re carrying around. If someone asks how you are and you’ve just come from WWIII at home, why would you pretend joy reigns supreme? Life happens. We don’t have to weather the storms alone – that is so far from what Jesus ever taught.

I’m fortunate enough to have friends and family who know me well enough to know when something isn’t quite right. They will call me on it and ask what’s going on. I want to be at a place though, where I am comfortable enough to go to them first – to say, “Hey, that really big hug? I need it now.”

Freedom comes when we’re vulnerable. I know some have been burned by unfaithful friends, emotionally abusive parents, critical, bitter influences…and maybe a mask is the only thing holding your world together right now.

I’m just wondering what would happen if we all, on the count of 3, ripped the masks off. A collection of fragmented hearts would make such a lovely mosaic…what if we allowed true community and art to come from our brokenness?

As I talk with students and adults around me – especially at church – I’m finding that being vulnerable is the most liberating thing each has done. Some of us have constructed more walls than others but that doesn’t mean our barriers cannot be torn down. In fact, to let true healing begin, the walls have to come crashing down. God is wonderful at doing this – when we least expect it, too. He can break through all our defenses in order to help us experience a breakthrough.

Maybe you wear a mask, maybe you don’t. I’ve thrown mine out for good. Life is sunnier when I acknowledge the mercy, grace, and freedom my God offers. Surrendering works because surrendering means big faith, big hope, and great love. My prayer is that we can all rest in that truth today.

 

I should also note that it isn’t always easy – there is a temptation to wear our masks once more…but the first step is willingly giving the whole unmasking thing a try.

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