The masks we wear say a lot about who we are so let us begin with this question… Are you a blue with white ear loops, store bought matchy-matchy, or homemade remnant fabric mask wearer? Actually, this is not a blog about the masks we wear during this era of COVID-19 nor the restrictions which come with them. However, there are similarities. We wear masks which suit us. Masks conceal the internal “us” in one way or another. The masks we wear which I am writing about are those less seen and more perceived; they are our assumed identity and our pseudo-defenses.
Who Was That Masked Man?
Now I am just old enough to remember the reruns of the masked hero The Lone Ranger and its memorable quote. I also hail from a generation which had a plethora of masked heroes and villains alike. The shiny, oversized black mask of Darth Vader represented the Evil Empire; and yet the hooded cowl was the trademark of Batman. Like heroes or villains in entertainment media, the invisible masks we wear are used to hide and conceal who we are, what we think, and even where we are from.
A Few of My Masks
I myself have donned many different masks over the years and still do daily; it is a hard habit to break. Examples of the masks I wear are the one for work which leave the troubles of home and the rest of the world at the door; smiley happy to serve you salesman. Or there is the mask I show my surface deep friends, the one I show close friends, there is the one my family sees, my wife sees…and even the one I put on to hide my true self from me. This last one is by far the worst mask; both beautiful and ugly at the same time, allowing me to hide from myself, my depression, sense of lack, my flaring temper, and bouts of pompous superiority.
Masks leave those we encounter with the question, “Who was that masked man (or woman)”? We all wear masks, in fact most of us have an extensive collection. Our disguises have many purposes. We have our masks we put on for work: the good employee, the concerned salesperson, or the grumbling disgruntled worker. There are masks we put on for our friends: the cool guy/gal, the needy, the shy person, the good “Christian”, maybe the “antagonist”. The list goes on and on; these are all facades. The masks we wear are designed to conceal the real us and, in some cases, protect our true self.
Trick or Treat?
Are our masks a bad thing (trick)? Or a good thing (treat)? While there are some arguments, there is a benefit to the masks we wear, there are serious problems too. The Bible has examples of many who hid or concealed themselves. Most of these examples were of cowardice or self-preservation. Take Gideon; while he was not “masked” he was concealed by hiding in a wine press (Judges 6:11-12). If we look closer, Gideon had chosen to don a mask of cowardice and self-preservation from the Midianites and the task God was calling him to.
Gideon hid behind his physical size and family status to avoid pain and challenge (Judges 6:15). He wished to shift the responsibility onto anyone else but himself including shifting responsibility to God Almighty! God challenged Gideon long before he used this disguise, however. When Gideon was visited, the angel of the Lord called him “Mighty Warrior” and commissioned him to take on the Midianites. Gideon had only to remove the masks he hid behind and accept the power God was gifting him to unlock his true self.
Like Gideon, we too put disguises on to protect ourselves; our true selves whom even our closest family never see. We may really be a soft-hearted, loving person at our core, but through many years of hurt and negative experiences, don a mask of hard heartedness, callousness, and toughness. Those of us who have an outward jovial and funny side may be hiding a heart of sadness and depression. Yet others who are very uncertain of their views or beliefs may give off the veneer of superiority or uber believer.
Not a God Thing
Masks are not really a good thing and they are definitely not a God thing. God created us to be who we are, not who we pretend to be. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalms 139:14). If we as Christians believe in God’s perfection, then how could he make anything (like us) imperfect? Yet we deem it necessary to don a mask to become something other than who He made us to be.
Are there examples of when a mask might be a good thing? Kind of… but not really. The person who internally is angry and mean spirited might find it wise to mask off their core to soften it to the world. But therein lies the true problem, God did not create in them an angry or mean person. By disguising the root emotion, we are unable to begin to heal the wounds which caused it.
The Masks We Are Given
Not all masks are ones we put on; we are often given masks by others too. Just like the Storm Troopers, we can be given masks of conformity. There is no uniqueness if we all look the same. We can be given masks and labels by our friends and foes alike. Often, we are given these masked identities by others to protect themselves or their ideals, and by removing our humanity they are able to feel better about the decisions which will affect us. In their minds if we are just a number, we cannot be hurt by them.
Jesus never wore a mask, He was Himself always, though society tried to force a mask upon Him. The Pharisees wished to label Jesus a blasphemer (Mark 2:6), insurrectionist (Luke 23:1-2), glutton and a drunkard (Luke 7:34). They even tried to paint Him as demonic (Matthew 9:34). However, even in the face of these harsh accusations Jesus remained true to self. Even so, His own disciples scarcely recognized Him as the Messiah until much later in their discipleship (Matthew 16:13-20). We are given masks, but like Jesus we can chose not to accept them.
The Big Reveal
Just like our latest trend in reality TV the “Masked Singer” and now the “Masked Dancer”, there always comes a point of the big reveal; the singer or dancer is unmasked. As the Mystery Gang unmasked the villain in Scooby Doo, similarly someone eventually sees through our disguise. When we are revealed we too can act villainous and scowl, lashing out, “If it weren’t for those pesky kids!”. Or we can choose this moment to be real and be known for who we truly are.
Jesus was revealed to those whose hearts were willing. We must choose how we wish our big reveal to go.
What does your beautiful and ugly mask look like? Or more important who is it hiding?
What are the scars you need to lay at God’s feet so you may become more like the perfect you He created?
Visualize and journal about what your “Big Reveal” party would look like.