For the past few weeks in our care group, we have been talking about the challenge to live our lives more for Christ. So, far, we have said we need to preach the gospel to ourselves each day and then try to apply the gospel to everything in our lives. This week, we continued the discussion by talking about barriers to developing deep relationships, since it is through fellowship that we can spur each other on toward these difficult goals.
First, we acknowledged we all wear certain masks. For instance, we might say “Everything’s Fine” when things are falling apart at home. Sadly, this sort of mask seems prevalent in churches. We wanted to figure out why we use such masks when they limit our true fellowship.
Fear – or maybe insecurity – can be a significant factor. Maybe I’m afraid that if I open up, I will be judged harshly or that people won’t like or respect me. We know the dark corners of our own hearts. We try to hide those areas and hope no one, including us, ever stumbles on them again. Of course, in a church setting, we should be keenly aware that we are all sinners. Unfortunately, we tend to believe we are congregations of judges rather than realizing we are the convicted. No wonder outsiders sometimes call us hypocrites!
Because we have an unfortunate tendency to judge or even condemn one another, some folks put on a mask due to their experiences. Someone in a church previously hurt them or shamed them inappropriately. People sometimes leave church and even their hope behind when they have been betrayed by the hateful accusations of others. We walk away from church because of the people in the church, not because of God. Yet, it is our relationship with God that suffers.
Another reason we wear masks can be to worship our own idols. For instance, my idols tend to be peace and time. If opening up is likely to lead to a disturbance of my idols, I am less likely to open up. I put my mask on and just say everything is fine.
I was really moved by the candor and emotion in the room as several of our folks discussed their masks, their fears, and their pains. It was exciting to see us make a forceful decision to lay the masks aside for a few moments. It gave me even more hope we can continue getting to really know each other and, thereby, live out the challenges we have discussed.
It is difficult. But taking off the mask can also be incredibly rewarding. The level of connection deepens. The commitment to one another intensifies. And I believe our walk with God becomes more sure-footed.
What mask are you wearing? Do you think it’s possible to remove it?