Glancing Behind The Mask

Give someone an opportunity to feel safe enough to take off his or her mask.

Last month, my fifteen-year-old daughter jumped in the car with me to deliver May Day baskets. If I didn't know C.J., I would have been caught off guard by the gray hair, old clothes, antique hat, and battle-ready purse that framed her beautiful wrinkle-free face. She had dressed up in order to fool our friends and even ended up turning heads on the ride across town. One young boy nearly fell off his bike when she said, "Hello, sonny!" out the window. Our friends laughed when they saw her hobbling down the sidewalk after leaving the basket and ringing the doorbell. They were filled with joy because they knew the young girl behind the aged mask. C.J.'s antics brought to mind a poem called Please Hear What I am Not Saying. In part, the unknown author says:

"Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear.
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.
Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
But don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and
coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command,
and that I need no one.
But don't believe me …

I panic at the thought of my weakness
and fear being exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.
But such a glance is precisely my salvation.
My only hope and I know it.
That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
if it's followed by love …

I don't like to hide.
I don't like to play superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me,
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind and gentle and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings,
very small wings, very feeble wings,
but wings!

A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me
the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man,
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing that I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls,
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands,
but with gentle hands,
For a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet."

This month, challenge your small group members to spend a Saturday taking the time to glance behind someone's mask. Have each family represented in your group invite someone they know to spend the day at the beach, in the mountains, at the river or in a park (depending where you live). Plan for food, activities, and time to get to know one another. This time together will strengthen relationships within your small group as well as open the door of relationship to those who are unfamiliar with the unconditional love of God. Glancing behind someone's mask takes time, but it is always time well spent.

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