Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More on wearing masks

I blogged earlier this month about "the masquerade party", an attempt on my part to use satire to show how we Christians wear masks. One of my friends just commented with this:  I've been thinking about this for a while without commenting. I'm still not commenting, I'm questioning. What would a church look like if none of us wear our masks? How would we change the way we talk to others and about ourselves? Does no masks mean no secrets? Does it mean saying just what you think? Does it mean being who God created you to be and living as He redeemed you to live? I'm seriously asking.

I do not claim to be an expert on anything. Far from it in fact, but putting satire aside, I decided to talk a little more about wearing masks.

I am not advocating no secrets or just saying what we think. We need to use wisdom in what we share at church, or in private. However, I am afraid in so many of our churches that people are afraid to be real, open, and honest. Ever have a service where there was an altar service and even though you were a Christian, felt the need to go up and pray, but hesitated because you were afraid what people would think? Ever wanted to speak up and ask for prayer and admit you were really discouraged or struggling, but didn't, because you feared people might not think so highly of you?

I believe that all too many Christians are struggling. It may be a habitual sin that they are afraid would shock the church, doubts, mountains that seem insurmountable - but to appear weak, might appear un-Christian, so they paste a smile on their face and sit in their pew, even though they may be dying inside.

And this whole family of God thing plays into it also. We sing it at church - "when one has a heartache, we all share the tears" and "you will notice we say brother and sister 'round here......" and so forth - yet we are so afraid to be real with each other. If no one ever lets it be known that they have a heart ache/problem, how is anyone to share the tears? Or is that the way we want it to be? Go to church and get our weekly worship done, and pray that no one pushes us out of our comfort zone. That no one adds to our already too-long prayer list.

And yet, you don't want  the whole church on their feet crying about how hard they have it - a happy medium is needed. If a person thinks they are the only one having a battle, a mountain, a struggle - it can be downright discouraging. I find it encouraging when I know someone else has a struggle or doubts. Makes me realize maybe I'm not out on a limb all by myself.

If we could go back to the days of the early church, I think we'd all be shocked. I believe that they really knew what the family of God was about. People were added to the church daily, and if you read what Paul wrote, some of them were dealing with some pretty big stuff. I seriously doubt there were too many masks being worn then, so when did we decide it was so necessary?

About four years ago, I was privileged for a week to be among a group of people who were not afraid to be real. For the most part, they all were dealing with the same thing, and it was freeing to be there. I wish I could paint a word picture of the worship that went up. It was truly amazing, and I truly think one big reason was no one there had to hide who they were. What they struggled with. They played a music video there of an artist I don't normally listen to, but this song had some pretty powerful words for a mask-wearer, or even former mask-wearers. The crowd actually "went wild" when it was played. The song was "Hide" by Joy Williams. Check out the lyrics:

To anyone who hides behind a smile

To anyone who holds their pain inside
To anyone who thinks they're not good enough
To anyone who feels unworthy of love
To anyone who ever closed the door
Closed their eyes and locked themselves away

You don't have to hide
You don't have to hide anymore
You don't have to face this on your own
You don't have to hide anymore

So come out, come out, come out wherever you are
To anyone who's tryin' to cover up their scars
To anyone who's ever made a big mistake
We've all been there, so don't be ashamed
Come out, come out and join the rest of us
You've been alone for way too long

And if you feel like no one understands
Come to the One with scars on His hands
'Cause He knows where you are, where you've been
His scars will heal you if you let Him

Pretty cool song, huh? I've put a youtube video of the song at the end of this post, so check it out if you like Contemporary Christian music.

We have some extremes in the church world. Some churches teach that we sin every day in thought, word, and deed. Some teach that once you become a Christian, no matter what sin you do, you will go to Heaven. Others believe you can live above sin, and that you can fall from grace. Others yet belive that sinning should be rare, but Christians are going to mess up and do it occasionally. I am not going to debate all that, but I will say that I am afraid some of us may have such a high standard set that when some people are having a hard time measuring up, whether it be a "besetting sin", or some issue that isn't sin-related at all, but is weighing us down - that we are afraid to let it be known.

James 5:16 says "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." My church/denomination isn't big into healing - we believe if it is God's will, He will do it, but we don't have healing services. However, occasionally someone will ask if they can be anointed and prayed over to be healed. I will never forget in the church I grew up in, when that would happen, the pastor would quote that verse, and then a few people would speak up and name a fault they had. They were always "nice" problems. Need more patience, need to pray more. No one ever had a major fault to confess. Does that mean no one had any? I seriously doubt it. They just didn't want to let them be known.

So to answer the question I was asked: not wearing masks means feeling free to admit when we are struggling, or have a sin we are having a hard time overcoming - without being ostracized, judged, and gossiped about. Not necessarily airing all your dirty laundry for the whole church to see, and saying everything you think, but being able to be honest and real about some struggles, doubts, etc. And to be honest, I have yet to find the church where I can do that, and maybe I never will. But maybe someday, if God so leads, I can be a bit more open about my struggles, doubts, and the mountains that seem to loom on every side of me, and by doing so, encourage someone else.


Steve-n-Deb said...

Thanks for the clarification. I agree with a lot of what you said. I'd comment further, but my mask might slip.

teacherprincess said...

Another song to look at with a similar theme is Perfect People by Natalie Grant... And I totally agree... It is hard to make yourself vulnerable to others by letting them see the "real" you. I also think that is why some people struggle with some of those things because the issues are hidden behind the mask. Accountablity can be very helpful. However, some people don't want to be "bothered" by other people who just want to help.