For two years now, masks have been a big issue for so many of us. Yet, as I sit here, with the bright morning sun almost blinding me with its brilliance, I find myself wishing that masks would have been a bigger deal long before now …
All our lives, we have been able to glance quickly at someone’s face and assume that we knew what they were thinking and feeling. We have been able to clearly hear each other’s words and assume that we heard and understood them. Facial expressions and audible words have been fast and easy ways to get the information we felt we needed.
If we only realized that the eyes, which require much more intention to interpret, may have revealed a deeper truth.
Cloth masks have frustrated us; they make it harder to see and harder to hear. Our quick assessment tools no longer work. Listening to each other and understanding each other now takes much more energy and care.
What do we have left? The eyes, and eyes are relational. They reveal a hidden truth. The eyes are a doorway to knowing and being known.
Think of a child when they are having a fit, are hurt, or are not listening. How often do you ask them to slow down and tell them to look you in the eyes so you know they are paying attention? Paying attention to what exactly? To your love, your intention, and your truth.
Your eyes reveal that no matter what their behavior or how big their feelings are, your love is steady. Your eyes show them that, as someone who loves, cares for, and protects them, you can remain calm while their little storm is raging. One locked glance of love and the child immediately calms down and knows it is going to be okay.
I am not downplaying the joy of seeing someone’s smile or facial expressions. But when we are faced with something new that we do not understand, it can be easy to hide behind the surface level situation, rather than stopping to ask God what lesson He is trying to teach us in the middle of an uncomfortable circumstance.
Take a moment and ask yourself: what has God’s invitation to me been in all of this?
Did you miss it? Did you miss it as a family? Did we miss it as a Church?
Did you put on the false mask of the world and hide behind a position or opinion and deny the gaze of Christ?
The truth is that we have been wearing masks with God and each other for a long time and have never been outraged or offended by it. We have been complicit in being "known" by the mask of our false selves (all that we project from the stance of our worldly confidence), while our deeper selves have remained hidden behind shame and fear.
How many of us are really willing to be known? How much am I really willing to be known? It is a painful question to ask. I believe we all have an innate desire to be truly known. We need to feel attended to in the deepest parts of ourselves. We need the freedom to be known and loved, but how many of us are truly willing to be known?
Before sin, Adam and Eve were in full communion with God, fully known and fully seen; not even clothing separated them from one another or God. They walked in the cool of the day with God. They did not doubt God's love or His motivation for loving them. Their Creator formed and fashioned them, spoke to them clearly, listened to them purely, walked alongside them, and looked them in the eye.
Then came sin... and the first thing they did was hide. They chose to mask themselves. They stopped being willing to be genuinely known. Shame separated them from the Knower. Though they desired to be seen, they were no longer willing to take the risk.
This intimate knowing is still something we are hiding from today. We hide from God, denying the fact that He can still see what we are ashamed to share. We hide from one another, only showing what we perceive to be the shiny parts of our lives. We hide from our co-workers, hiding our perceived incompetence and insecurities. We hide from our church friends, never disclosing what we think is unacceptable. This hiding separates. It masks us. It hinders us from being restored and reconnected.
How can we be fully known if we remain hidden behind these masks?
Why do we choose to mask ourselves?
The answer: We are terrified that Love won't be there on the other side of that glance.
We are afraid that when God sees us in our entirety, He will turn away. We are paralyzed by the thought that His Love will not be there on the other side of that knowing, intentional, locked, transparent, eye-to-eye gaze.
And so, we have come to rely on these self-imposed masks, the ones we cannot visibly see on our faces.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I assure you, if you go unmasked before another trusted traveler in faith, you will find an equally imperfect person staring back at you, ready to embrace you and cheer you on. I assure you, if you go unmasked before God, you will find a Father who runs out to meet you in extravagant Love.
These masks... these tangible masks we have had to wear... have been an invitation to a generation of people to learn to be more relational. To slow down, to listen, to pay attention, to look each other in the eyes, to know and to be known. To attend to, and listen to, all that is not being said or shown on their face. To risk being known as our flawed but honest selves.
Maybe this was God’s intention all along: to unmask a generation of hiders and awaken those who seek to be found loved in the gaze of Love.