As a kid I loved to dress up for Halloween. One year as Laura Ingalls Wilder from my favorite books, The Little House on the Prairie. One year as my dad, a business owner, wearing his work uniform, and for too many years I dressed up as Barbie with a plastic mask and fancy dress.
It was fun to dress up. To wear a mask. To pretend to be someone else. As Barbie, I was elegant and beautiful. Dressing up as my dad, I could pretend I was good at math. Masks can be freeing. Taking on a new character. Letting your guard down.
But masks can also be restricting. In my Barbie mask, my voice was distorted. It was hot. The elastic around my head was tight. My Barbie masks never made it longer than one night of trick or treating because the plastic would start to crack. By the end of the night, I was exhausted.
Masks are like that. And we all wear them. Not physical masks, of course, but emotional ones. These kinds of masks are the versions of ourselves we present to the world to hide who we really are.
Because masks might cover up our flaws, they also cover up some amazing parts of who God has made us to be. They are restricting. They distort our true voices. They are exhausting. And eventually they crack, just like those plastic Halloween masks. When masks crack, what’s underneath shines through. The bad morning at home comes out at a coworker. The stress at work comes out at the slow driver in front of you on the way home, and on it goes.
My tendency has always been to hide behind masks. In high school, I wrote this poem, ironically making it third person so no one would know I was really talking about myself.
Her heart is weary
Her soul is tired
She can’t face another day
Another day of living a lie
Of being a fake
No one knows her
Really knows the truth
No one understands
Understand or cares who she really is
She doesn’t even know herself
The masks she wears are many
And what’s inside remains hidden
Much too tired
To continue this charade
Through God’s grace I have come a long way since then, but some days my soul still resonates with this poem. Hiding behind a mask of sarcasm, humor, passive aggressiveness or cheerfulness when I’m actually hurting inside. And most of all, shame. Knowing what my inner self is like and being ashamed of that part of me. What would others say? How would they react if they really knew me?
In this journey of trying to remove my emotional masks, I often look to Psalm 34:4-5.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
So how can we get rid of our masks and radiate Christ?
Be honest with yourself. What are you trying to hide from God? From others? How much disconnect is there between your inner self (who you really are) and outer self (what others see)? I’d encourage you to take time to pray about this. Maybe even take a piece of paper and on one side write about your outer self and on the other side about your inner self.
Be honest with God. He already knows everything, but even with Him, I find I try to hide, to keep a distance, to allow things to become barriers. But when we meet with God and remove our masks, it allows Him to work. When we are honest about our fears, He can deliver us from them. Talk with God about your “inner and outer selves” and listen to see what He has to say about it. Jot down what you feel He is saying. What truth is He speaking into some of the lies you are believing?
Be honest with others. This part can be scary because we can’t control how someone else will respond. But as we begin to open up with one another, it deepens our relationships. We can pray and be prayed for more specifically. We don’t have to struggle alone. So pray and ask God to help you discern and to be brave enough to take that step of vulnerability.
So, let’s take these steps and retake them. Work on our inner selves, become close to God, allow others into our struggle. And as we do this, it will reflect in our faces, in our actions. We will fully be able to live in the freedom God wants for us, with faces radiating His likeness.