Guest Author: Brice Johnson | bricejohnson.wordpress.com
Masks have always unnerved me. There is something so frighteningly perfect and plastic and unnatural about masks that isn’t human. It’s the reason why I’ve had an aversion to clowns (people who wear painted masks) and dolls (masks with bodies). So, what most children seem to adore, I was frightened of. Story of my childhood.
When we were young, what you saw is what you got. Everyone knew when we messed up and we were sometimes uncomfortably honest. Kids don’t have a filter. But as we grew older, we began to perceive our flaws and failures, and so we sought to cover them up. We learned that we could hide under deftly painted images and so we spent time creating these images to project. And it’s an ongoing process as we constantly touch-up on the masks and costumes that we wear, becoming expert makeup artists in our attempts at being someone else.
“Which mask will you wear today?
How about the one with the pretty smile?
To you it’s just another day
In a life you haven’t lived in quite a while.”
— Lifehouse, “Just Another Name”
We hide because of the fear that people will actually see the mess that we are: the ways we have hurt others and the times we’ve been hurt ourselves. Our sins expose us and so we want to hide behind something to try to cover our shame and vulnerability. It isn’t anything new. Our first parents experienced the same feelings when they tried to sew fig leaves together to hide their nakedness after their sin.
Are there sins and secrets that we try to keep locked down so that they will never be seen? Is there darkness that we’re afraid to expose to the light? Are you afraid that if people saw the real you, the things you struggle with and your dirty laundry, they wouldn’t love or embrace you? That they might reject you?
The gospel assures us that Jesus loves us as we are, not some future version of us. He doesn’t look at us and shake His head, saying, “I’ll love her as soon as she gets her life together.” He loves us in our mess and brokenness and hurt. He knows who we are completely — our past, our current struggles, and even our idle thoughts before we think them — and He still came down to save us for a relationship with Him! We don’t have to be ashamed of who we are because who we are is who Jesus loves. Jesus came for broken people, not those who are perfect. Flip through the gospels. Do you see who Jesus interacts with, who He loves upon? They’re the messy and broken and shameful — and they know it. There’s something about recognizing our imperfections and shortcomings that should move us toward Jesus and His perfection and grace.
This assurance of our acceptance should lead us to be open and vulnerable with other Christians because we realize that we all have the same story: all of us were wretched people upon whom God lavished His love upon and extended His grace toward. There should be no more welcoming place for train-wreck lives and abused hearts than the body of Christ. As one pastor puts it, the church is a place where it’s okay to not be okay, but hopefully you don’t stay that way.
The masks we wear around others are often to hide the sin and darkness in our lives that we’re ashamed of, but we don’t just have community with one another because sin is a common denominator. As children of God, heirs with Christ, we pursue righteousness, and one of the ways to do this is by taking a blow to our pride and actually revealing the darkness within ourselves. There is healing that comes from confession.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed… | James 5:16
What better way to expose and unveil ourselves than to confess the darkness within us with other believers who know us and love us and desire what’s best for us? Biblical community means to love and encourage and rebuke and pray for one another, to spur each other toward righteousness. We were created to be known by each other and to be in community with one another, as God is in community within Himself in the Trinity.
Christian, your identity is not in the mask/costume you wear to cover your shame. Jesus loves you, not the person you want people to think you are. But our identity also isn’t in our brokenness. Galatians 3:27 says we have put on Christ and His righteousness, so that our identity is found in Him and when God looks at us, what He sees is not our shortcomings, but Christ’s victorious life. This should be the biggest relief to those of us who struggle to maintain an image of perfection to those around us. We are not perfect, but our identity is found in Someone who is.
Let’s walk with one another in that truth.