Sunday, September 28, 2008

Masquerade parties and that entails...

The bathroom counter was covered with a myriad of cosmetics ranging from powders to lipsticks. At the far edge of the counter top a pale pink bottle of nail polish had been tipped over in all the mess and was now dripping ever so slowing onto the grout of the newly polished floor. Oblivious to the chaos and near disastrous conditions of said bathroom, there she stood – a “vision.” Her hair was clipped and twisted in many directions that can only be described as “one of kind.” She had draped herself in an over sized evening gown with just enough sparkle to drive home the point that this was not an “everyday” dress. Around her neck hung a myriad of beads in a vast array of colors that complimented her choice of makeup. Her eyes glistened brightly beneath the bright shade of blue that she had made sure was dark enough to show up. To ensure coverage, she made it a point to make sure every part of her eye lid and any surrounding areas were covered. Her checks were colored a nice rosy shade in about 5 layers – most of it on the apples of her plump cheeks. Her smile was captivating despite the skewed lines of lipstick that convoluted where her actual lips began. She began to twirl ever so slowly while teetering on 2 inch heels and using the aforementioned counter top for support. After one revolution, she stopped and looked deeply in the mirror and with all the enthusiasm that a 7 year old can muster, she said – “I look so pretty. I am ready for the ball.”
Isn’t it sad that we can’t keep the imagination and process of dress up with us at all times, even as adults? As we “mature,” fantasy and make believe are replaced by responsibility and obligation. It is at this point we become a “grown-up.” That is not to say that adults aren’t good at playing dress up. We just do it a little differently and it is more personal and covert than in our childhood. It is a careful balancing act to allow no one but you to know your true identity. After all, “that” person is very, very flawed and that just wouldn’t be prudent.
I liken these role plays to wearing masks. We have our own masquerade party on a daily basis. We often morph into who we need to be to fit in, get the job done or to go undetected. I have many masks that I wear. To be honest, I possess probably as many masks as I have shoes (and that is a lot). There are times that I find myself wearing more than one mask at a time to make sure all the bases are covered so that my true identity is not discovered. I know I am not alone out there.
For instance, we may act one way at the office to fit in, one way at the little league field so others will like us, one way at church so others think we’re spiritual, one way around our friends so that they will want us around and so on. We all have them. Call them what you will but I know that I have gone through the majority of my life wearing them.
These are a few of the masks that I have been known to wear . It is possible you may identify with some of them: maybe you’re insecure, so you wear a mask of confidence while secretly comparing yourself to others; maybe you’re needy, so you wear the martyr mask so that others will pay attention to you and give you affirmation; maybe you’re a victim of abuse so your mask is one that screams a staunch level of independence all the while keeping others at bay so they won’t hurt you; maybe you have experienced significant loss and your mask is one of bitterness so that no one will make you move on and try again; maybe…… you can fill in your area of weakness and why you wear the masks you do.
The Lord ultimately decides to talk with me in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is sleeping, including me sometimes. He gets my attention and I am forced awake until I deal with or at least listen to what He has to say. I had one such encounter with Him fairly recently and I was led to the verses in Matthew where Jesus is calling His disciples. He basically would see them and say… 'lay that down and follow me’ and they would. (Matt 4:18-20) I felt the Lord saying to me “Paula lay your masks down and follow me.” I then came back with ‘but Lord how will I know who I am. I have worn these masks for most of my life. I have embellished them and made them so nice. Besides, if they were gone, I wouldn’t know who I am. My identity is so intertwined with them, I wouldn’t know where they begin and I end. ‘ I was then reminded of His word: God promised that He has a plan for me (Jer 29:11); He would never leave me (Deut 31:8); I can trust Him (Prov 3:5); I have nothing to fear (Isa 41:10); and that He keeps His promises (John 3:33).
So, once I understood that I can take Him at His word, I started to lay my masks down one by one. He was and still is patient with me as I move onto the next mask. Ironically, with His word alive in me, I no longer fear what others think. I know that Christ is within me and greater is He than anything else I will encounter. Plus as an added bonus, His light can shine more brightly through me since it’s not covered up with a lie. After all, the mask was not really me or an actual part of me – but just a ruse to appease my fears and the feelings of others.
So, I challenge you to lay down your masks and follow Him. Your life will never be the same but it will be better because you are not going it alone. Just look at me—I’ll be the one that is bare faced looking to Heavens for the coming Lord. You can do this – we can do this -- one mask at a time!
Dear Heavenly Father - thank you for showing me how to live my life as you intended and not as others would dictate. I praise you for your gentle yet firm approach and conviction in my life. I pray for the strength to leave the masks behind and not make new ones to replace the old. I pray for others with the same struggles and that you will provide them peace. In the name of Jesus - AMEN.
  • Spend some time alone to evaluate your life and see if and when you are wearing masks.
  • Make a list of those masks or for the creative types - you can make actual masks. Once you have made your list (or masks) -- pray over them and ask the Lord to show you how to lay them down. After prayer and communication with God, destroy the list (or masks) as a symbolic gesture of leaving them behind. You can burn them, toss them in the trash, put them in a shredder, etc -- what ever works to show they are no longer with you.
  • Pray for the Lord to guide you and to help you when you become weak and feel the need to reach for cover.

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