MasksPosted October 27th, 2010
by Janet Perez Eckles
“Yikes! You scared me,” I screamed, feigning fright. “Who’s that?” I glanced down at the little three-foot person wearing a mask with wild green and purple hair. Two little eyes peered out above a huge lumpy nose. Underneath was a mouth with jagged teeth.
A muffled “Trick or treat” wafted from behind the mask.
I dropped hard candy into his plastic orange bucket. “You’re a scary guy,” I assured him. Those are memories of times when my little boys also dressed in strange costumes. They dashed from house to house with their daddy trailing behind while I stayed home greeting the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
But now, years later, it seems that Halloween masks resemble those I’m sometimes tempted to wear in everyday life. I sometimes use them to cover the real me. I have worn those masks over my heart, almost as ugly as those worn by the trick-or-treaters.
Hiding the Truth
While I was a teenager, hiding the truth seemed necessary to gain peer acceptance. While I was in college, white lies made life easier. Even as an adult, stretching the truth seems convenient—and at times shamefully acceptable. Excuses dilute the impact of what are actually lies. And reasons to omit the truth become the approach to get out of sticky situations.
When people ask me how I lost my sight, I give the routine answer: A disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa deteriorated my retina and caused complete blindness: a simple question followed by a simple answer. But when they ask about how I dealt with the unexpected shock, that’s a different story.
With a mask firmly placed to cover my heart, I have blurted out a bland answer: “It was tough at first, but in time I adjusted.” Underneath that mask, however, lies a whole different script with the real answers: I wanted to die. I hated my life. I wanted to give up. I wondered if my little boys would survive with a mommy who couldn’t see. I questioned my sense of worth and my productivity. I dreaded my future and lamented my broken dreams. And until I found Jesus, I questioned life itself.
But the courage to remove the mask depends on the rest of what we are wearing. Paul recommends in Ephesians 6 that we wear the armor of God. As he describes the various components of the armor, Paul writes this: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Ephesians 6:14, NIV).
Only when we buckle on this belt of truth, will we be able to remove the mask. And, what sweet freedom it is to exchange the mask for the belt. We tighten it, lift our head high, and take firm steps based on God’s Word. We can formulate thoughts that are sincere, entertain emotions founded on truthfulness, and take action to reflect our new attitude of honesty. No pretense. No deletions. No embellishments. When the mask is off, the breathing is easier, the air fresher and the view clearer.
When it comes to sharing our feelings or relating events in life, here’s a good motto: Don’t omit the negative or squelch the positive.
Not long ago, a good friend called and asked about my writing. I started to blurt out something like: “It’s going great, moving along fabulously, and my agent is working on a possible deal with a publishing house.”
Gulp. Was that what really stirred in my heart? Masks are stuffy, binding and often ugly. I decided to rip mine off and disclose the truth: “Though my agent is working with a publisher, and I’m furiously laboring on the first edit, I’m finding that writing a novel is grueling. It’s so hard it makes me wonder if I’m really supposed to be doing this.”
What a clean feeling to be truthful with myself and others!
A friend asked for my advice not long ago. “I know he’s no good for me,” she said. “He treats me awful, but I can’t let go.”
I swallowed hard. And the sticky choice was before me. Wear the mask and tell her what she wanted to hear, or be truthful and honest.
“The problem is not him; the problem is in your heart,” I suggested. “What will it take for you to recognize that you need God’s wisdom to choose the man He planned for you?”
It’s risky to speak with sincerity. But expressing truth in love, with compassion and wisdom, lifts guilt and brings sound sleep to our nights. It’s so liberating to have truthful interactions with others and even with ourselves, knowing that the belt of truth matches perfectly with the glow of God’s grace—the hues of obedience—the color to reflect His love.