31 October 2011

Are you wearing a MASK?

"Clowns wear a face that’s painted intentionally on them
so they appear to be happy or sad.  What kind of mask are
you wearing today?"  - Author Unknown
Today is Halloween and when evening comes, children will be trick or treating in all sorts of crazy costumes and masks. Grown-ups wear masks too, but many times they are not part of any Halloween costume.
Do you ever hide behind a mask? Afraid to have others find out the “messy-ness” in your life? Trying not to let others know that you are falling apart, or hurting on the inside... all the while smiling on the outside?
Do you wear a mask of perfection? Pretending to be someone you are not? Trying to keep up an identity that you feel others are imposing on you or expecting from you?
Do you see yourself through a mask of fear? Do you worry that if others knew the “real you,” they wouldn’t like you or accept you?
The truth is that our safety can only be found when we remove our mask and allow others to see our authentic self.  God knows the person behind our masks. He understands who we are and what we are hiding from, and He loves us anyway ... just the way we are. So let’s talk about 4 steps that we can take to remove our masks:
Awareness: When we hide behind our masks and never let others see who we really are – flaws and all, we deny them the opportunity to get to know us, accept us just the way we are, ecourage us, love us, pray for us, offer us advice, teach us how God’s word can help us, and share their stories with us.
Acceptance:  Before we can take off our mask and become transparent, we need to recognize and admit that the person behind the mask is who we really are. We have to accept ourselves, just like Christ accepts us.
Scripture tells us ... In Genesis 1:27 we are told, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."  Psalm 139:1-4 says, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
Part of understanding “who we are” is finding out why we have put on our masks in the first place. Are we hiding our feelings, are we hiding the fact that we are not comfortable with ourselves, or we lack self-confidence? Are we hiding because of fear?
I’ve been reading a book entitled What Women Fear. In chapter 3, the author Angie Smith talks about the fear of being found out. I’d like to share two of the fears she talked about that may offer some understanding as we try to accept ourselves. Smith wrote, 1) People have said that others saw themselves as much more spiritual than they felt they actually were, and 2) We often live our lives trying to avoid letting people down. Many of us feel like the real “us” will be exposed when we don’t rise up to what someone else thinks we should be. It is important to understand that we should never let what others think of us, determine how we think of ourselves.
Acknowledgment: We need to admit the price we pay when we hide our true identity from others. How is hiding behind a mask affecting your view of yourself, your relationship with others, and your relationship with Christ?
Learning to be transparent is never easy, but necessary. What does it mean to be transparent? According to scripture transparency means:
• Living a life of integrity and godly sincerity - “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace” (2 Corinthians 1:12).

• Being honest about our spirituality - “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25).

• Willing to accept criticism from those we love - “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).

You are probably thinking to yourself ... Why do I need to be transparent? God has called us to live in community with one another, and as part of the body of Christ, we need to be authentic with one another ... loving, encouraging, and praying for one another through good times and bad.

Action: Many of us have been hiding behind a mask for a long time, so revealing ourselves may not happen quickly. Ask God to help you understand why you have been hiding and how you can become transparent. Why waste another moment? If we are willing to be vulnerable, we may just be surprised by the response we receive as we remove our masks.

My “unmasking” ... I grew up as the oldest of 7 children and have to admit that there were many times I wore a mask. Feeling the need to set an example, I would hide my true feelings (afraid of letting others down). As a single parent, I would again put on a mask - to hide my fears from my children (afraid of failing). As I’ve gotten older, I love being an “encourager” to others. Occasionally I find myself once again hiding behind a mask. It is not easy for me to let others see that I might need encouragement (afraid of showing my weakness). Step by step in my spiritual journey, God is constantly placing other believers in my life who gently remind me that there are times when we all need people we can count on. Living a life of peace, a true and authentic life, begins when we stop pretending to be someone we are not, and when we take off our masks and say, “What you see is what you get... this is who I really am!”

If you are hiding behind a mask, I want to encourage you to begin the process of showing that beautiful smile and those glimmering eyes that have been hiding for way too long. I will be praying for each of you. Please feel free to email me at donna_a_weaver@hotmail.com if you have specific prayers requests.

Have a safe Halloween!
God’s Peace, Donna Weaver

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