I’ve never formally been to a masquerade ball, but after seeing one performed in the old 80’s movie, Labyrinth, when I was a kid, I was fascinated with the idea. To dress up in a fancy gown and wear an elaborately decorated mask held an appeal to me. Hiding my identity while acting out another persona sounded fun and I couldn’t really explain why.
I fancied in my head wearing the same full gown as Sarah only silver with my hair coiffed big, ribbons draped down the back and jewels around my neck and in my ears, holding a mask of peacock plumage. I also fancied myself dancing a waltz with Jareth (aka David Bowie). Call me crazy but I had a huge crush on Jareth. Must’ve been the make-up and the long, spiked hair because before seeing the movie I never cared for David Bowie. Never thought I’d say I dig a guy in make-up. 😉 And it will probably be the only time!
I may never attend a masquerade ball but I’ve lived one all my life. I wore a mask to hide myself. I held up an identity to cover the real me.
The place where I performed this masquerade the most after becoming a Christian is in church. You know the line that everyone asks you when you first enter the sanctuary, “How are you?” In the moment of the question, I held up my mask of “fine”. If the truth of my state at the time was fine then the answer would be fine, but a lot of times fine was not fine. You follow?
My masquerade performance consists of acts of strength and intelligence. I pretend to be more intelligent than I am, and stronger than I am. I hate showing my weakness. I hate showing that I have limits. Ladies, I hate to admit it, but shopping wears me out much sooner than most women. I can do four hours and no more! Four hours of shopping and I drop. I also hate to admit it, but I forgot to brush my teeth today. Such is the life of a forgetful writer.
Why would anyone want to hide behind a mask?
Simply put, insecurity.
To be insecure is to not be safe from danger according to Webster’s Dictionary. When we wear a mask we do not feel safe to be ourselves. Our mask is a way to hide and protect ourselves from the danger we perceive present around us. It’s our fig leaf, if you will, much like Adam and Eve’s fig leaves they used to cover and hide themselves from the intimacy they had with God when they walked together in the Garden of Eden.
For years I hid behind this mask of “fine” and represented an image of a self-sufficient woman who really didn’t need anyone, yet inside I was dying of loneliness.
It’s funny how I even used this mask with God, like He can’t see me. Yeah, right! But I wore it in hopes that if I hid myself, my weaknesses and other things that maybe others wouldn’t like then I would be accepted and loved. As it turns out the mask became more like a wall, keeping others out, including God.
Holding up the mask became a weary task. What a burden it is to keep up appearances for others to like me! It’s a whole lot more work pretending to be someone I’m not than it is to just be me. The Lord showed me the intimacy and depth I desired from relationships will never be reached if I keep a mask over my face.
“Let it all hang out, ” He says to me. “The good, the bad, and the ugly.”
“Love can not exist in the absence of truth.” ~ Michael Ramsden
How can people know you and love you for who you are if you pretend to be someone else? If we suppress the truth, love cannot exist. Our all-knowing God is not fooled by our masks. He sees us as we truly are and loves us still. We wear our masks and fool others as well as ourselves into pseudo-intimacy.
Adam and Eve were the first ones to the Masquerade Ball and then all of us followed.
After they sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3: 8), they knew what they did. They had guilt and felt shame. When the guilt should’ve led them to seek God’s forgiveness, the shame instead led them to hide. In response to the shame they felt, they took it upon themselves to cover up what they did, hence the fig leaves. A poor cover-up, if you ask me. I mean, how well can fig leaves hide your nakedness? Not well!
But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I do not apologize for that pun. 🙂
We certainly take after our ancestors, Adam and Eve. As soon as we are conscious of our weaknesses, sins, flaws and the like, we hide. We buy our masks and decorate it to suit what we want others to see.
We hide behind our performance. We lose our identity because we think our behavior determines our identity.
Just as God did with Adam and Eve while they were hiding, God does with us. He calls out of hiding with this question:
Where are you? (Genesis 3:9)
God isn’t asking “where are you” because He doesn’t know. God is omniscient so He isn’t asking for Himself. He is asking for the sake of Adam and Eve to draw them out of hiding and come to Him. He wants them to come to Him because He alone knows the remedy for their sins.
How gracious and merciful He is!
Not only does He calls us to come to Him but He provides the remedy!
Soon after they admitted their sin (and passed around the blame a bit), the Lord took an innocent animal to sacrifice for their sins. The blood spilled to take away their guilt and the skin of the animal covered their shame. Genesis 3:22.
Our Heavenly Father provided for us today Jesus as the remedy. This remedy was foreshadowed by the Father through the killing of the innocent animal as He spoke to that sly serpent, Satan:
“I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head…” Genesis 3:15
I am in Christ. Because I am in Christ, I can find rest for my performance-wearied soul. I can come out of hiding and find my true identity which is securely hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). My identity is safe there.
I don’t want to wear the mask anymore. My arms are tired! I am learning to put my mask down and walk into Christ where I find myself. There is no need for the mask any longer. He knows who I am anyways and isn’t fooled by my performance. All the mask does is keep me from the best relationship I can ever have. Coincidentally, it also keeps me from truly satisfying relationships with others on earth.
In the the words of Emily Freeman from her book, Grace for the Good Girl, she writes:
“God’s desire is that we live in freedom and drink from the wide, deep, powerful River of Life. The masks we hide behind keep us from experiencing the fullness of life the way we were meant to live.”
Are you wearing a mask? Do you know it is safe to remove it in the presence of Jesus?