Recently, our family participated in a photo scavenger hunt with our church. One of the challenges was to dress up as superheros and pretend to rescue our pastor. Towels and pillowcases became capes. Old shirts were turned inside out and painted with names like, “Super Mommy” and “Lightning Ian.” And what costume is complete without a mask?
Playing dress up and pretending to be someone else is fun. But even children know it is just pretend. They know they have not actually transformed into Superman or Batman.
In reality, many of us play dress up every day. We may be so used to wearing our costumes that we don’t realize we have one on. When someone asks how we are doing and we smile and say, “Fine”, but inside we are crying, we are in fact pretending. When we act like our life is great while our world is crumbling down around us, we are pretending. When we fear to open up to others about who we really are, we are pretending.
I am often a pretender.
I wear masks and pretend to be someone I am not. Fearing what other people may think, I hide my pain and struggles. Instead of talking about my fears and doubts, I talk about the weather, a new sale at the store, or the latest tv show. Rather than admit my failures or shame, I keep them hidden behind shallow conversation and a painted on smile.
While small talk is a cultural and often necessary part of conversation, it shouldn’t always stay there. At some point, friendship should go deeper. In fact, it needs to go deeper. Certainly not with every person we meet, but there should always be people in our lives with whom we are real. We needs to have friends with whom we share our true, authentic selves.
Why be real? God gave us each other in the Body of Christ to encourage and spur one another on (Hebrews 10:24). We are instructed to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13) How can we do that if we don’t know each others struggles? How can we do that if we pretend that everything is great? It is when we are transparent and authentic with other believers that we live out the call to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)
It’s not easy though. The times when I have taken off my mask to someone else has been quite painful. Like ripping a scab off before it has healed, removing a mask often reveals raw wounds, ugly sin, and oozing emotions. Once removed, we have to endure the heavy blanket of silence while we wait for the other person’s response. What if they react to the ugliness? What if the messes in our lives turn our friends away? What if they don’t reciprocate?
I have lived both with my mask on and with it off and I prefer to live without it. While I have been rejected or the other person doesn’t in turn share their true self with me, the acceptance and love I have received from those who do more than makes up for it. Remembering that Jesus also faced rejection gives me courage. Knowing that His closest and best friends turned away from Him at the time when He needed it most, helps me to face my rejections. And knowing that Christ always accepts me gives me strength to risk being authentic with other people, because no matter how they respond, I know I will never be rejected by Him.
Putting on costumes and playing dress up is fun. But playing dress up with our hearts is not. We need to be real so that others can help us heal. Removing the mask, while painful, is necessary for growth. By having authentic relationships, we help one another move forward in holiness, to become who we really are. We are all fellow travellers on this journey toward the Celestial City. Each of us is fallen and sinful, it makes no sense to pretend otherwise. Let’s stop pretending, remove our masks, and do life together–for real.
(And I am sharing the above embarrassing photo with you because I know you will only love me:)
Linking up with: