Who doesn’t love wearing a mask? Obviously, that statement is dripping with sarcasm. What is pleasant about putting a muzzle over our mouth? Admittedly, I often need such restraint for many reasons. Still, the wearing of face coverings now required within our current worldwide pandemic situation is nothing short of annoying. Many of us feel the restriction that accompanies wearing a mask. We feel restricted with our breathing, communicating, and overall ability to connect on an emotional level. Yet, this regulation has now become our new normal and interrupted life as we knew it. In the early days of this requirement, pulling through a Chik-fil-A drive through felt more like watching a scene from a movie rather than real life. As masked workers took my order, it seemed so surreal and a bit scary.
Being in public places with a masked face, alongside others in their own masks, reminds me of a scene from Phantom of the Opera. Although a musical, not a movie, there’s a correlation between this particular scene and these masked-times we are living. This scene occurs with a backdrop of a beautiful ballroom bathed in golden colors where a party has just commenced. This is not just any party, but a Masquerade. Actors and actresses enter this scene by way of a grand staircase, stepping and twirling across the stage in a captivating dance; all while donning masked faces and singing:
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade . . .
Masquerade! Hide your face, so the world will never find you!
Masquerade! Every face a different shade . . .
Masquerade! Look around – there’s another mask behind you!
Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads . . .
Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!
Masquerade! Seething shadows breathing lies . . .
Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you!
Masquerade! Leering satyrs, peering eyes . . .
Masquerade! Run and hide – but a face will still pursue you!
According to Merriam-Webster, to masquerade is: to assume the appearance of something one is not. This newly delivered reality of mask-wearing has become somewhat like living within a masquerade. We’ve all become a bit more unrecognizable when out in public, even to people who know us well. The bit of anonymity can be convenient at times, especially in a time crunch, but a significant barrier for friendly, polite acknowledgments of acquaintances and friends. I’m sure all of us have walked past a person or two that we would have recognized, or they would have recognized us had we not both been in masked faces.
As the old American Express slogan goes, “Don’t leave home without it” this holds true for our masks that are now a necessary accessory for all of us. Masks can be purchased nearly everywhere. Even if you’re looking for a specific style, hop on ETSY or Amazon, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to find what you’re looking for. However, most people aren’t shopping for masks to be a part of a new fashion trend; it’s merely to comply with regulations and protect themselves and others from a virus.
The truth of the mask matter is that most of us already had an entire wardrobe of masks before COVID-19. These masks weren’t purchased from ETSY or Amazon, but custom designed by our flesh to hide and self protect. We likely lack awareness of these DIY masks because we’ve allowed them to become part of our identity. It’s second nature to put these masks on when the situation requires. Instead of a physical sense of suffocation and restriction, these masks suffocate and restrict our spiritual souls.
Let’s dive into this thought a bit further. All of us have been in social situations that cause us to feel uncomfortable. Dare I say, insecure? Maybe it’s the topic of conversation that becomes too intelligent, or the people around us are too beautiful, or too “together.” Uncomfortable situations, such as these, cause us to reach from our felt insecurity into our pocket of pretend, grabbing a mask that will keep others from seeing our true selves. Instead of being completely free and confident, we duck and hide behind the most appropriate mask we can pull out to stay safe, unseen, and unknown. It’s a process that seems to happen naturally, requiring no intent or assessment of which mask is most suitable?
- Stay quiet mask – hides thoughts, feelings, and opinions for fear of judgment/labels.
- Smile and nod mask – chooses to go along with the crowd, lacking the courage to stand up for beliefs/convictions.
- Hide the hurt – isolates, believing it’s better kept hidden because no one would care or understand.
- All-together mask – gives the impression that all things are under control even when they’re far from it.
- Laugh anyway mask – keeps you accepted because you don’t let anyone think you’re too uptight for a crude joke, comment, or juicy gossip.
- Perfect mask – all about outward impression. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect outfit. All is perfect; therefore, I am perfect.
- Mask of jealousy – wishing and wanting- is highly critical to avoid the profound lack of significance felt.
- Diet mask – gives an appearance of having no issues with food, so it is careful what is ordered, eaten, or not eaten.
- Mask of defense – has a hard time recognizing and accepting responsibility for being wrong.
- Bully mask – criticizes and belittles just about anyone or anything to feel more significant.
The list goes on, but the ugly truth is I’ve worn them all. Some are actually more comfortable than others, giving me a false sense of safety and control. Yet, in the end, a sense of disconnection, loneliness, and insecurity remains. Just like the physical masks of this COVID-19 season, these masks will hinder our connection because there’s a barrier in place. Freedom is removed, and bondage takes residence. It’s suffocating. The masks we’ve created to hide our insecurities cause us to feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to breathe.
How do can we move away from this habit of masquerading? Where do we gain confidence and trust to step out from behind the masks of insecurity? Let’s look back at one of the first people to put on a mask.
Did you know Moses wore a mask? In short, the story goes; Moses would spend time in God’s presence, and those interactions were so intensely holy that afterward, his face would literally glow. We’re not talking about the glowworm dolls of the ’90s. (Sorry if you don’t know what that is, you missed out.) This radiant glow from Moses’ face was so extreme that Israel’s people could not look at him. So, the Bible says that Moses covered his face with a veil. This veiled face became routine for Moses. Whenever he spent time in God’s presence, his face would radiate God’s glory, reflecting the greatness of God, so Moses would place a veil over his face. It’s often questioned whether Moses covered his face to protect the people or himself. There may have been a sense of pride, not wanting the people to know when the glory was fading. A sense of, I don’t want to blind you, but I also don’t want you to see the glory leave me. No matter if there’s truth to that or not, Paul talks about these radiating circumstances in 1 Corinthians 3 to drive home a greater truth to followers of Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
You see, the freedom of the unveiled face does not come on its own; it comes when we allow the Spirit to consume us. In that Spirit-filled life, transformation power comes. We are free to reveal God to others, even within the imperfections of our flesh. It’s the confident grace of the Father that is unveiled even in our weaknesses. He radiates.
Our masks of insecurity become unnecessary as we begin to gain security in who we are as image-bearers who reflect God’s glory. It’s in this freedom of identity that we can influence others in the Masquerade of life. We can only reflect who He is if we know who we are in light of who He is, and this comes in the same way that it came for Moses. Moses spent time in the presence of God. And so it goes for us.
What mask or masks of insecurity do you often hide behind? What situations cause you to reach down into your pocket of masks and seek self-protection? Let’s stop wearing masks. Hiding our true identity hides God’s reflection that can only be revealed through the beauty and individuality of you! Don’t let others pass you by and wonder who they just saw. Let Him be seen in your freedom of knowing who you are, and see a reflection of Him looking back.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (AMP)
16 but whenever a person turns [in repentance and faith] to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.