Masks

hands-423794_1920I am excited to have my friend, Ashley Jones, contribute this week to my blog.  She is incredible at developing the potential in others and I know you will appreciate her thoughtful insights as we continue to explore our identity in Christ. – Brandon

In last week’s blog, Brandon discussed what it means to be hidden in Christ, to be so camouflaged in Jesus that the world should know Whose we are. This week, I want to talk about what authenticity looks like for those who are in Christ.

Have you ever watched a nature show on National Geographic or Animal Planet? You know, the ones that portray, often in comical detail, the mating rituals of animals? The male of the species usually makes quite a spectacle of himself, puffing his chest or flapping his wings, stomping his feet or even in the case of camels, excessive drooling. Ultimately, they are all trying to accomplish the same goal, to make themselves appear to be something that they are not: bigger, faster, stronger, and more appealing than the other males. Isn’t this principle true sometimes of Christians today? We portray ourselves in a less-than-accurate light, so those around us will think better of us.

I have spent my entire life in the Church. As far back as I can remember I sat next to my mom, drawing pictures on the church bulletin and trying not to die of boredom, in church services every Sunday. I vividly remember when they brought drums into our “conservative” church for the first time. Also, the time I played Jesus’ mother, Mary, in our Christmas pageant and almost killed my own mother, wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt as I sang “Away in a Manger,” for all to see. I recall the sounds of the hymnal pages turning, many lifting their voices in song and smiling cheerfully, Sunday after Sunday. But you know what I cannot remember? I do not remember anyone saying they were hurting, or depressed, or lost. I never heard about struggling marriages, wayward children, addictions, poverty, or broken families. Some of this I easily attribute to the fact that I was a child: it was not age appropriate. However, as I skittered into adulthood, the things I saw and heard didn’t really change. People did not come to church like it was a hospital for the sick or a lifeline for the broken and weary soul. They were still smiling, singing, turning pages. They {and I} came wearing a mask. “My life is not a complete mess! I’ve got it all together! #blessed”

The masks that I wore wouldn’t allow me to be my authentic self. What if I was too much of something they didn’t like? Or not enough of what I should be? I spent years trying to appear to be someone I wasn’t so I would not offend anyone, or disturb the status quo. My intent was not to deceive; I simply thought this was how I was supposed to behave. I thought that being a “good Christian” meant having it all together for the world to see. These people have it all together, so shouldn’t I? This imitation-of-a-life was exhausting and painful. I did not know who I was, so I continued to try and be someone I thought others wanted to see. Perhaps, I am not the only one?

But God! {I could really stop with that statement, couldn’t I?} God created us to live authentic lives, rich with relationships, struggles, joys and blessings: to be our true selves in Christ. He has created you and I in a uniquely beautiful way! The Word says,

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Because God is the supreme artist, you and I are His masterpieces! We were created with purpose and intentionality. When I know who I am in Jesus, there is no need to wear a mask. I can rest in Whom I believe and that He has a good, good plan for me.

Recently, I was blessed to see Beth Moore, one of my favorite Bible teachers, speak to a group of women. Feverishly taking notes I scribbled down this idea that she was conveying. “The great paradox of the believer is that, in Christ, we are called to lose ourselves, and when we lose ourselves we find who we really are in Him. But, ironically, those who live for self-actualization, never really discover who they are.” If we continue to hide behind a mask, we will never live genuinely, allowing God to mold us into all He has for us. We can never know others in a meaningful way. And we will continue in an existence that is so much less than God intended for His Church. May we be men and women of God, who take off our masks, who live authentic, albeit messy lives, to impact the world and bring glory to Jesus. Living to show the world: God can handle our messy, and our humanity. He is lovingly shaping us to be more and more like Christ. I don’t imagine a drastic change in the animal kingdom, certainly in God’s Kingdom we have freedom to take off the mask and be who we truly are in Christ.

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

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