One of the things I am most certain of in this crazy world is that there is a battle going on around me. I see it in small ways—like the road rage I see (and sometimes experience) on the commute to and from work each day. And I see it in large ways—like groups of girls being kidnapped in Africa and forced into slavery. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m far too focused on the least important battles.
When I was 8 years old, I heard our family friend, Ken Helser, say, “The greatest fear each of us has is what others think of us.” By that time, I’d already experienced abuse and rejection – even at that tender age. And so I thought I knew what Ken was talking about. But over the years, I’ve seen dimensions of fear and rejection that I never could have imagined at age 8. And I learned very early how to put on a mask and to put up walls to protect myself.
Last night, I came across this in our current book:
“There are times when it seems like those of us who believe in Jesus are wearing more masks, and we seem to wear them more often than those who don’t believe.”
I confess: I have a wide variety of masks and I wear them often because I’m trying to protect myself from getting hurt. And that’s all well and good (not really), but while I’m living in this world where I’m surrounded by battles, I’ve got to stop confusing mere masks with armor. See, I like to think that my masks protect me, but really, they just get in the way of me being able to fight properly.
An example or two?
When the shepherd David got ready to go to battle against Goliath, King Saul looked at the little runt and thought, “He’s going to go out there and get smashed like an ant.” And King Saul offered his armor to David. But to David, the armor would have been ill-fitting. It would have only served to cover him up (like a mask) and get in his way. So he refused it.
A slightly more recent example?
A few years ago while I was running youth camps, I experienced a young girl named Keira. She was beautiful and outgoing and really seemed to have it all together. For me, working with youth was difficult. I had been rejected a lot as a teenager, and those insecurities didn’t go away just because I had gone through some birthdays. I was a youth “leader,” but most of the time, I felt so inferior to these kids. And so I often pasted my smile on and acted like I had all of the answers, even when I didn’t. But then one night, I stumbled across Keira, crying in the dark. It was unexpected. And I realized that my pasted-on smile and my mask were in the way. That night, on my knees, holding Keira on a dirty basketball court, I took off my mask and told her about a previous suicide attempt in my life. And when I took my mask off and told her my story, her mask came off too, and she told me about her suicide attempt, and how, even that very night, she was thinking of suicide.
I think back to my experience – and to David’s experience – and I think, “What would have happened if I had kept my mask on that night? What would have happened if David had?” And I shudder to think. Maybe it would’nt have been a big deal. Maybe David would’ve beaten Goliath in spite of the ill-fitting suit. Maybe Keira would have found somebody else to talk to.
But maybe not.
I don’t want to think about what if…?
Today, I have a reminder – and you have one if you need it. We are warriors and we are in a battle; we must not confuse our armor with mere masks. Lives depend on it.
This post is part of a series on the book, “The Cure” by Lynch, McNicol, and Thrall. You don’t have to read the book to weigh in on the post. If you have written a response to this chapter, however, please feel free to link it up at the widget below before heading to Connecting to Impact to visit with my friend and co-facilitator, Jason.
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