We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
In 1896, Paul Laurence Dunbar published this poem which expresses the oppression of blacks in the U.S. and how they hid their pain and frustration behind a mask of happiness and contentment. It made me consider how many of us, though flourishing outwardly, continue to cover up the pain, hurt, frustration, and shame that we feel inwardly. Sometimes the shame is not because of things that we’ve done. Sometimes we’re ashamed of the people that we’re linked to, or the things that we’ve endured, or the feelings and inclinations that we have. Sometimes it’s our inabilities, particularly financially, or past indiscretions—things that we really don’t want people to know.
Some of the desire to mask didn’t start with us. It was handed down through learning. As early as young children, we learn to cover: “Don’t tell people our (family) business” or “Fake it ‘til you make it”. We learn to lie for our parents (i.e. to bill collectors). We are bombarded with conflicting messages very early. Yet, we are expected as adults to undo what has already settled into our nature—deception.
Unfortunately, most of us are like nicely packaged gift boxes. We look wonderful on the outside, but what’s inside isn’t that great. It’s amazing, because even as Christians we claim to be free, but most of us struggle with internal bondage. We haven’t laid all of ourselves on the altar, because, “if truth be told”, some of us don’t believe that God would love us if He knew the naked, uncovered us. We don’t allow God to cover, because we refuse to uncover. Instead, we wear our masks to work, church, for our friends, and sad but true, even in our homes. In essence, we have a form of godliness, but we deny the power of God to work in our uncovered lives (See 2 Timothy 3:5 NIV).
In writing this, God showed me that masking has been man’s response to shame since the earliest of times. Adam and Eve covered themselves because, when they realized their nakedness, they felt ashamed and afraid of how they would be seen (See Genesis 3 NIV). Those whom God breathed His very breath into hid from their own Creator and Savior. They, like many of us, were afraid to be exposed. They didn’t understand that God already knew their condition. He was waiting for them to uncover. Once they did, God took it upon Himself to cover them—first with earthly garments, then with sacrifices, but ultimately with His blood. It’s because of this blood, that not only can we be saved, but we are also free to uncover. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold ALL THINGS are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). We don’t have to wear masks or feel ashamed. God already knows and He loves us nonetheless.
Thank You for helping me to understand that You see behind the mask and love me in the midst of the hurt, pain, and shame that I try not to reveal. Help me to live a life that’s truthful and honest even though doing so can make me feel vulnerable. When I feel the need to mask, help me to remember that when I am uncovered, I position myself for healing and it is through that healing and testimony that I can best glorify You.
Ladies, I EMPOWER you to pull off the mask. God knows the hurt, pain, and frustration that you are covering. He is prepared to heal, cover, and restore, if you are willing to lay yourself before Him open and honestly. I EMPOWER you to trust God with your all. He is faithful and one whom you can trust.
Ms. Latasha McCrary is an active member of St. Luke Christian Church in Huntsville, AL where she serves as a Young Adult Facilitator and is training as a Life Skills Coach. She is passionate about the practice of law and views her profession as an extension of her calling to serve. Latasha firmly believes that “Service is the price we pay for the space we occupy” and is grateful for God’s continuing favor evidenced in her life. “By this I know that you favor me, because you have not let my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalms 41:11)
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