Removing the Mask and Becoming Real
“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25 NIV)
Friend to Friend
I can still remember the Saturday night rituals at my house when I was six-years-old. My mother wound my sun-streaked ash blonde hair in what seemed like a hundred pink sponge rollers. She’d swipe her middle and pointer fingers through the sticky jar of blue Dippidy-Do, slather it on a swatch of hair, and then wind the sponge round and round. My “ouches” and winces were met with “be still” and “stop squirming.”
Why did she put me through the torture and sentence me to a fitful night’s sleep trying to find a comfortable spot to lay my head? Because the next day was Sunday and we were going to church lookin’ good. On Sundays, our family drove to church, many times fighting all the way, and walked through the pristine double doors of the church with smiles and platitudes.
“How are you?” the fellow parishioners asked.
“Fine,” we mechanically replied. “And how are you?”
“Fine,” thank you.
But we were anything but fine, and I imagine that the folks on the pews beside us were anything but fine either.
My home was riddled with unhappiness. My father drank heavily, and Saturday nights were usually the worst. My mom was extremely unhappy, I was lonely and afraid, and my brother, most of the time, was just plain mad. But nobody knew. We hid it well.
What is it about church that makes us put on masks to cover up what is really going on inside? Forget the fig leaves. We’ve moved on to designer clothes, shiny cars, and smiling faces in order to attend the masquerade ball we call “church.”
Why do we do it? Is it because we don’t want to appear weak? Is it that we want to appear strong as the rock of
“How are you?”
“Fine, just fine. Praise the Lord.”
Sometimes the church becomes our stage where we play “Let’s Pretend.” But as the audience applauds our performance, the Director’s voice grows faintly dim.
There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that exemplifies what I think God longs for in the Body of Christ. The White Witch has turned many of the inhabitants of Narnia into stone statues. Then, in a valiant display of courage, Aslan, the lion Christ-like figure, pounces into the courtyard and breaths life into each of the statues...bringing them back to life. Let’s join in the party for just a moment…
“The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colors; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, braying, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.
I fear that many of our churches have turned into the stone courtyard where everyone tries to blend in and conform to the image…not of Christ…but of what others expect from church-going-folks. However, we were never meant to be a gathering of identical statues, but of colorful, wildly wonderful individuals…real people…unmasked.
This week, let Aslan blow the spirit of truth on the stone places in your heart and turn you into “real.”
 C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: Collier, 1950), p.137.
Dear Lord, I don’t want to be fake. I want to be real. I don’t want to wait until I am old and withered. I want to be real today! Help me to remove the mask of perfection and join the courtyard of the “happy roaring, braying, yelping, barking, squealing, cooing, neighing, stamping, singing and laughing creatures. May I never pretend to be other than I really am. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now it's Your Turn
Psychologists say that we are mentally healthier when we have one or two people with whom we can be completely honest. Who are those people in your life?
If you do not have such a person, pray that God will send you one.
When we remove our masks and become real, it encourages others to do the same. Give it a try. The next time you are sharing with a friend, be honest about a struggle you are having and watch what happens.
For more on today’s topic see Your Scars Are Beautiful to God: Finding peace and purpose in the hurts of your past by Sharon Jaynes.
Girlfriends in God, Inc.
Originally published Wednesday, 10 January 2007.