being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
Never Beyond – On Wearing Masks
This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you give a second chance?
kind of really completely incredulously laughed out loud when I saw the People of the Second Chance poster this week.
to the delight of my husband I might need to watch the Star Wars episodes again, but a quick trip to IMDb gave me a good refresher on this villain’s history (check out the link for a brief synopsis if you haven’t seen the movies, which begs the question “Where have you been the last three and a half decades?”).
But, like most conversations that People of the Second Chance start, this one got me thinking. And while I feel a little silly talking about a character like he’s a real person, I’m going to have to for the sake of this discussion of grace.
Darth Vader wasn’t always a self-assured bad guy (of course, it took George Lucus sixteen years to make us privy to that information, but I digress). He used to be sweet, enslaved, Anakin Skywalker. From a young age, he was told he was destined for greatness. His destiny plotted over and determined by those who wanted to use him for his supposed power. He was a victim to political games. Though a Jedi, he still was captive to the human heart. He knew loss, he knew love, he knew greed and power. He felt betrayal, even if it wasn’t always real. Eventually, his anger and bitterness overwhelmed him and turned him into a ruthless, cold-hearted killer. Instead of fighting for good, he turns to the dark side and becomes its champion. Eventually he dies in a battle to the death with his son. At the end of it all, he asks to be un-masked and receives redemption when son and father encounter each other face to face for the first time.
Ahem. Give me a second as I wash the nerdiness from my hands. Alright. Commencing grace discussion in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .
For whatever reason, when I think about Darth Vader, I always remember the shriveled old man under the mask. I assume this is because I was very young when the first movies came out. When I saw this part of the movie, I realized that he was just a man, and not really all that scary.
Aren’t we all a little bit like Darth Vader?
No, not the ruthless-I-wear-a-scary-black-plastic-helmet-mask-and-can-and-will-kill-you-with-a-thought Vader.
I’m talking about the please-take-off-this-mask-and-see-me-for-who-I-really-am Vader.
There is a longing in all of us to be known. But, for whatever reason, we think that’s impossible. Or at least we act like it is.
We wear masks all day long, no matter how worn they are, no matter how cracked they are. We think people can’t see through them. No, we HOPE that people can’t see through them.
Conversely, we are just as content to continue looking at others’ masks without really expecting to see the real person behind them. Whether we only see the mask presented to us and take it as real OR we see the broken, cracked, faded mask and choose NOT to see what’s behind it, we humans sure like our masks. And we don’t usually wear just one. We have one for our families, one for our co-workers, one for our friends, one for the people at church. We have A LOT of masks.
Every night we take off our masks and face ourselves in the mirror. We wonder, for a brief second, what people would think if they could see the real you staring back at them.
“No!” we tell ourselves. “It’s too shameful. Too scary. Mustn’t let them see the real me. They’d hate me. They would never believe the things I’ve done, what I’ve said, how I’ve acted. Every bad thought, every insecurity, every ugly thought, every scar must continue to stay hidden.”
We look at our worn masks, some chipped by stones thrown at us. Others are just old from wear. They’re cracked and the paint is chipping. We tell ourselves that our masks are enough. We’ll put them away for the night, fall into bed from exhaustion of juggling all our masks, and then pick them up again to put them on in the morning.
We’re scared that if people really knew us, if they really saw who we are, they’d reject us.
Being transparent is a weakness because being transparent shows the weaknesses.
But aren’t you tired of fighting? Aren’t all those masks you’re carrying heavy? Have you traded the real you for an inaccurate imitation?
Aren’t you peeking through the cracks of your masks mentally begging the person on the other side to see you, the real you – the broken, needs forgiveness, longs for authenticity, overwhelmed-and-drowning-in-a-fallen-world you?
I’m going to tell you a little secret:
Grace makes un-masking possible. It makes it bearable. It even makes us more human.
When we accept grace from God, we’re also required to turn around and generously give it.
Suddenly, masks are silly.
When you bring grace into play, we’re all equal. We’re all the same. We’re all in desperate need of it.
Your scars, my cuts, his bruises, the bags under her eyes from endless nights of crying all become completely normal. We’re all so very broken.
But we’re all so very within reach of redemption.
Un-masking is difficult at first. Because sometimes, people do reject you. Sometimes, the other person refuses to let go of his or her mask.
But my experience has been that taking off the mask, or refusing to put the mask on in the first place, makes way for the most incredible human relationships.
I have found that when I lay it all on the floor, when I show off all the imperfections that are me, people suddenly feel at ease.
They don’t feel like they have to keep holding up that mask. They are willing to share some of their imperfections. They want to be real.
It’s what I long for, people.
None of us are perfect. Masks are unnecessary. I don’t want your mask. I want the real you.
The raw-bruised and battered by the world-imperfect-tossed out-despised by men-accepted by Christ-grace covered you.
So, let’s not wait like Vader until our dying breath to take off our masks.
Let’s step out into the light. Let’s expose our true selves. Let’s know and be known. Not just to God, but to each other too.