No More Masks

IMG_3570Yesterday was, of course, Halloween. A day filled with costumes and candy, carving pumpkins and classroom parades, tricks and treats. But in some circles (you should see my Twitter feed) it was also filled with theological discussions and debates. You see, it was also Reformation Day, a day marking the anniversary of Martin Luther standing up to the Catholic Church. (For more on that, go here.)

But that isn’t the only debate happening on Halloween.

For as long as I can remember, Christians have been wondering, debating, and arguing over whether it is right for followers of Jesus to observe/celebrate Halloween and to what extent. At times, and in certain circles, that debate regularly becomes heated.

But this post isn’t actually about any of those things. It isn’t about whether it is right or wrong to wear a costume today or whether your church should hold a Trunk-or-Treat event or whether we ought to be promoting “Harvest Parties.”

Halloween costumes aside, there are far more dangerous masks being worn within the walls where the church gathers that have nothing to do with Halloween. They are widely accepted and even encouraged. Halloween becomes a time when we merely trade one mask for another.

We pretend to be something we are not.

We pretend to have everything together. We dress up on Sundays and get the family there (nearly) on time. But underneath we hide great brokenness. We pretend to be the picture perfect image of what we perceive people believe a Christ-follower is supposed to look like.

And why? Because we are ultimately afraid. What kind of irony is that?

Yesterday, my kids encountered masks that were scary and had the potential of causing nightmares, but the masks we often put on are just the opposite. They are safe and calm and reassuring. We don’t wear them to cause fear, but because of fear. The only similarity is that we are hiding our true selves in both cases. This is hardly a new revelation. Each one of us can quickly realize that we are prone to do this ourselves.

A while back I tweeted the following thought:

Fake smiles help sell plastic lies. The truth can be hard to find when these are the masks we hide behind.

We all want to be known and to be loved. But we wear these masks because we are afraid of being found out to be incomplete and imperfect. And so in hope of preserving ourselves, we have cultivated a culture filled with falsehood. And there is nothing that threatens to undo us as giving ourselves over to fears and falsehoods.

We talk about the need for authenticity, but I think most of us are waiting from someone else to be that first. But genuine authenticity (redundancy, anyone?) demands courage and vulnerability. It means someone is going to have to take their mask off first and risk being known for who we really are. Can this actually happen?

I believe it can. But that kind of courage isn’t something we just muster up, it’s a recognition and reliance on the truth that God has already spoken to us: that we are known intimately and loved completely . . . by Him. His presence is to give us strength. Think Joshua 1:9–“Be strong and courageous . . . the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

It is time for the Church to finally be a place of no more masks. We must speak grace and truth to each other and foster deep relationships that drive us deeper into trust and love of the God who rescues us from these fears.

When we finally begin to rest in He who made us, knows us fully, and loves us endlessly, we are able to removed the masks, drop the charade, and be ourselves. We are no longer dependent upon other’s validation and perceptions, but on the eternal value of the One who is sufficient for all these things.

What kind of masks have you worn? What kind of fears were you trying to hide?

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4 thoughts on “No More Masks

  1. Brett, this a great reminder that I know I need often. I like how you compare the masks we wear on Halloween and the masks we wear daily or at least weekly in church. The reality is that there is not a person who alive who doesn’t have some kind of pain that they are struggling with. I have to remind myself of this constantly as I minister to others. I find myself asking, “what kind of pain or brokenness might this person be struggling with?”

    When I forget that there can be that pain and brokenness under the surface I tend to treat people a little more rough than I should and rather than stopping to talk and get to know them on a deeper level I just assume that everything is “OK”.

    On the other side of things I also have to check myself to make sure that I am not presenting a personality to people that is “perfect”. I think it’s important for pastors and preachers to at times admit that they struggle in certain areas. While we need to be blameless and above reproach that doesn’t mean that we never struggle because after all we are people too!

  2. Brett Shilton

    Thanks for your thoughts, Caleb. You are so right to point out that there is no one without pain they are struggling with. And that’s a good reminder to me to help to see past their mask and not treat them roughly, but with grace and truth.

    Thanks for being vulnerable and and transparent!

  3. Good stuff, Brett. I’ve often worn the mask of “having it all together” when in fact I’m a hot mess! I think that if we were vulnerable to people, we’d see that they too are a mess in some way or another. From mutual vulnerability comes deeper relationships and a more meaningful walk together toward the Christ who heals.

    1. Brett Shilton

      Thank you, Thomas! You’re absolutely right. I love that idea of “mutual vulnerability.” I think that parallels closely what Paul writes in Ephesians about mutual submission and what Jesus modeled when He wrapped in Himself in a towel—let alone when He went to the cross.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and input.

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