Grace and peace to you from our God who sees deep within us and loves us for who we are!
Tomorrow is Halloween and some of you, along with your children or other family or friends, may be planning to put on a mask or makeup, a pair of glasses or goggles, a crazy hat or wig, a set of clothes or some other form of disguise. It can be lots of fun to pretend to be someone or something else for the day. I know some of you are so creative at planning your costume disguise! Many of you who came to pick up a pumpkin at the HOPE Pumpkin Giveaway really had no idea who greeted you as you entered the parking lot. Thanks Larry! What a great disguise!
Halloween masks aside, 2020 may actually go down in history as the year of the mask. Many of us have had to make the adjustment to wearing a safety mask in public places. Along with the personal adjustment of this “accessory” we have probably also had the experience of doing a double take as people pass by. “Was that ‘masked’ person I just passed in the grocery store my neighbour down the street?” Although it has not always been easy to wear a mask, and it keeps us from clearly seeing each other, we are committed to doing our part to help stop the spread of the virus and help everyone feel safer. This mask, unlike the Halloween mask, is not a one day or single event experience, it may be with us for a while.
There’s another mask we wear, and we have become quite accustomed to wearing it. It’s not a plastic, cloth, or medical mask, yet it still hides a part of who we are. It’s the “mask” of the nice (sometimes really forced) smile, and the common cliché “I’m fine!” The cliché and smile we use even when we are anything but fine. Tanya reminded me what “fine” stands for. Feelings Inside Not Expressed!
We use this “I’m fine” mask to hide our struggles, cover our wounds and pain, conceal our brokenness, and screen our emotions and feelings. We have concluded that it is safer for ourselves and others if keep it on. We think, if we wear the mask, we will feel less shame and we will be more loveable. In truth the mask keep us from both the peace and healing we all so desperately long for and need.
The scriptures invite us to take off this mask. They invite us to let our love and affection for each other be genuine. They invite us to share both joy and pain. The scriptures invites us to remove our masks and live honestly in our relationships together. The church, the family of God’s people, is not the place to pretend and wear masks. It is the place to be real and honest, vulnerable and truthful.
9 Let love be genuine. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12
Often our first inclination is to cover a struggle or wound. We think if we just slap on a bandage (or mask), it will heal by itself. Maybe at times that is true, if the struggle or wound it slight and small. But we all have struggles and wounds that when covered/bandaged/masked only fester and get worse. They become infected and take life away. Oxygen and daylight are some of the first steps to healing many physical wounds. And the truth is our inner wounds need that exposure to oxygen and daylight too.
Romans 12:9-15 is an invitation to take off our mask and be genuine. It is also an invitation to be the church that provides the oxygen and daylight we all so desperately need; the oxygen and daylight of genuine love and affection, of honoring each other, of naming and celebrating our hope, of sticking together through the tough stuff, of persistent prayer for each other, of a helping hand and a listening ear. The church is called to create this space where we feel safe to stop wearing our masks. To create the space where we can instead open our lives to each other, share together our joy and our sorrow, and freely name our struggles and wounds. When the church is filled with this oxygen and daylight we create a safe place where God’s love for who we actually are can be believed and received. When this space is created by the grace of God we can receive both the peace and healing we so desperately long for and need.
Have fun this weekend with your Halloween mask and costume! Be faithful, when it’s necessary, to wear the face mask of this Covid time we are in. But please receive the invitation to take off the mask that hides the struggles, the pain and wounds you carry. You never need to wear that mask again! Your wellbeing and the wellbeing of others may depend on it. There is a God, and a family of God’s people, who desire to know you and walk with you just as you are. And they will love you, just as you are, too! Sure it’s a risk to remove this mask but it may be the risk we take that helps us to heal, that improves our mental health and sustains us through the coming winter.