i used to take a lot for granted.
as a child i assumed adults knew what they were talking about. i took their word as truth. if they seemed confident, it was because they were right.
as a young Christian i believed those who took the name of Christ were as they seemed. i trusted they were real. i knew my own struggles, my inner turmoil, my conflicts, my mistakes… and i was fairly sure that others – appearing, as they did, perfect – either didn’t share in those with me or were far more successful in gaining victory.
to me, victory was a sparklingly glorious place, full of joy, arrived at by those with fortitude, self-control, and the ability to participate eagerly and joyfully in hours of prayer and penitence through which they reveled in clear and audible two-way conversations with the Most High.
victory as such eluded me. but i knew from years of exposure how to act. i knew how to appear. if there were thespian awards given to church members for best actress in a drama, i would have been the longest-running winner.
truth is, i’m pretty ugly on the inside. always have been. my mind is a battleground made bloody by years of conflict with my own brain chemistry, countless poor choices, and the plague of guilt. victory has never been mine. not even close.
my mask… my carefully crafted image… well, i’m told it was impeccable. it felt natural. after all, it was something i wore daily for decades.
it was removed against my will. and it hurt.
the real me – the unmasked me – i was not even comfortable with myself, and certainly wasn’t ready for the world to see. and they weren’t ready either. believing me to be who i appeared was a costly mistake.
yet the first lesson the unmasked me learned shook me to the core:
the rest of the world (yes, even the remnant!) was masked too.
i had believed i was alone, wearing what was expected in order to match those who naturally were who i was pretending to be. i thought my church was full of good people who were truly as unscarred and unbroken as they appeared.
i was wrong.
it turns out that the mercy and grace that found me, bruised and bleeding at the foot of the cross, had touched many beautifully-masked Christians in their own moments of truth. and, thanks be to God, these broken recipients of love loved me. the exposed, sinful, aching me.
under the mask is tender, new self – not always beautiful. it still hurts to see the light of day. but i pray i never grow calloused or choose to hide again. i will disappoint those who want perfection. i will defy those that want convention. i will certainly argue with those who say masks belong.
but i will make my bold, unconventional, beautiful Jesus smile.
and if you want to take your mask off, i will hold your hand.