I am on a crusade right now. It is a crusade for reality. I am after authenticity. I am after removing masks and being brutally honest about life and sin and spiritual defeats and victories. I have had many conversations with friends about how we as the Church can create a culture where we will be real about who we are and where we are, because the general consensus is always that we are not being real with each other.
Sometimes we hear stories about where people have been and the amazing victory that God has given them, and we celebrate that. We hear about the sin and addiction that God has delivered them from and we love it. But the problem is that too often we wait until it is a story about our victory before we share it. We don’t often share it when is is our current battle. But isn’t that when we need help the most? When does a soldier need reinforcements? After the victory is already won? Or during the battle itself? There are some battles that you won’t win by yourself. I heard a sermon once called “Eternal Security is a Community Project.” The point of the sermon was not that we keep each other saved, but that we do fight for each other’s faith. We do exhort each other and “motivate one another to love and good works.” We need each other.
James 5:16 says “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Sometimes we are the instruments of healing that God is going to use in each other’s lives, but you can’t be healed if no one knows you are wounded. We can’t come in as reinforcements and fight these battles alongside our brothers or sisters if we don’t even know they are in a battle.
What is it that keeps us from being real? What keeps us from asking for help? What stands in the way of us saying, “I am barely treading water here and am about to go under, please help me!” ?
I think it is one of two things. The first reason we won’t take off the mask is pride. We want to carefully craft and control the perception that others have of us. We want people to see us in a certain way that makes us look good and strong and consistently holy. We want the approval of the people around us. We want our story to reflect well on us. We want to exalt our own name. We want to establish our value and identity based on who we are in the eyes of others. That is something that to a certain extent, we can control. But the truth is that our value and our identity is determined by who we are in God’s eyes, not man’s, and He sees right through our masks to the very core of our hearts. This morning I read, “The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.” Proverbs 20:27. His perception of us is absolute reality. We hide nothing from Him. He knows exactly who we are.
The second reason we won’t take off our masks is fear. We are afraid that if people knew the real us they would leave. If they knew how broken we really are, they would not want to stick around and we would be alone. If they saw our scars, they would not find us beautiful, but repulsive. I remember feeling so afraid that if I was real with people about where I have been and my failures and sin, that they would not want to be friends with me at all. It actually became a barrier to deep friendships because I would tell myself that if they really knew me, we would not be such good friends and so instead of being vulnerable, I would beat them to the punch and just keep them at arms length.
God loves us too much to let us wear masks forever, friends. He has given us each other, this beautiful family of faith so that we can “heal the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.” Is.61:1.
I remember over a year ago when God in His grace pulled my mask off and let it shatter on the ground. I had been having a very hard time recovering from the birth of my third baby. I had some kind of hormonal imbalance for about a year after she was born and it was absolutely awful. It was like some sort of postpartum depression and anxiety. Everything in my life was absolutely overwhelming to me and I felt like I was drowning. I decided to go off for a weekend of refreshment with a friend of mine. We went to a Women of Faith conference. As we sat there listening to different speakers, God kept asking me to take off the mask- to be real with my story and to be honest about my broken places. Because of how broken and weak I already was from the postpartum battle I was in, I had no strength left to hold it together and keep the mask on. I broke down and wept right there in the Sprint Center. And I could not stop. My friend who was with me asked me if I was ok. I said, “No. I am not ok at all.” But then, a beautiful and miraculous thing happened. I took off my mask. I looked at my friend. She saw me for the first time. She saw some ugly scars. She saw some wounds, still bleeding. And then she, and other precious sisters of mine, over time began to be the instruments in the hands of a Loving God to bind up my wounds, and to speak truth over some of the lies I believed, and to point out that scars are not wounds. They are places where healing has already happened. They are marks of the Grace of God on our lives. They are beautiful, like our Healer.
So I don’t intend to wear a mask anymore. I don’t care so much about looking perfect or strong. I just want to look deeply forgiven and changed. I want to look like the recipient of Grace that I am. And friends, grace is more beautiful than any mask we could ever wear…even if it looks a lot like scars. So let’s please, please be real! People need grace so much more than they need to have a good impression of you or me. It is not about us. It is about the Healer. And sometimes we have to show our own scars so that others will have hope to believe that He could heal them too.