Removing the Mask and Being Real

Dear Friends,

Have you ever worn a mask?  The kind of mask you wear to hide who you really are, to pretend to be someone you're not, because you're afraid of being real and open with others.  I know there's been times in my life when I've firmly fixed my mask in place as I've left home and before meeting up with people.  With my mask on, I've said to people I'm ok, I'm fine thank you, but inside, the person who I really am, I'm struggling, I'm depressed, my poor health is getting me down.  I've kept the mask on in the past because I'm afraid of being judged, of being misunderstood, I'm afraid of letting myself be vulnerable, of people seeing the real me.

Wearing a mask for any length of time is hard work, it takes a lot of energy, it's exhausting and impossible to maintain.  It's certainly not a healthy way to live my life.

Perhaps you've worn a mask or are wearing a mask now to stop people getting too close to you, you may have been hurt by someone in the past, they may have let you down and you don't want it happening again, so you wear it to protect yourself. Do you wear it to keep up the illusion that your life is perfect, that you have no troubles.  Maybe you don't want to be seen as a failure or weak so you keep a mask in place.  Perhaps you wear it to make people believe you're the person you think they want you to be. Maybe you wear it because you fear being misunderstood or judged or criticised by others.  Or do you wear it so that people will believe that you are a very spiritual person who doesn't struggle with sin and temptation.

Two things have helped me to remove my mask and be real.  Firstly, it's about my relationship with God. He loves me as I am, unconditionally, and because he loves me and accepts me there is no fear of his rejection, his displeasure, or his judgement. It says in 1 John 4:10-18 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins...16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect... 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear." (NLT)    He created me deliberately, he knows and understands the real me.   I can be completely honest with him, I don't need to hide who I am, hide how I'm really feeling, or pretend that I have no problems or struggles, I don't need to pretend that everything is ok when things are far from ok. "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord." Psalm 139:1-4 (NLT) It is very freeing and liberating when I realise that with God there really is no need to pretend to be something I'm not, that I can be who I really am. "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (NLT). You and I have the privilege of a relationship with Jesus in which he calls us his friends.  (John 15:15)

Secondly, it's about having real, intimate friendships with others.  Over the years I have learnt the value of these friendships and God has blessed me with some great friends.  The kind of friendship where there is no need for masks, where we can be real and honest with each other.  When we can share about how we're really feeling, the worries and concerns we have, the struggles that we go through, the mistakes we've made.  Friends who listen and show they care, who empathise with what we're going through, who encourage and offer support, who accept us for who we are and love us without judging or criticising.  The kind of friendship in which we can pray for one another, where God is at the centre, whose presence is felt when we meet together, a friendship which also encourages and challenges each other in our relationship with God.  In these friendships we "Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other." Romans 12:10 (NLT) These friendships are to mirror the relationship we have with God.  In John 15:12 Jesus says "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you."  (NLT)

These genuine, intimate friendships take time to develop, they won't happen overnight, time needs to be put into them, and it's also about making these relationships a priority. I know I can sometimes caught up in the things I'm doing, the things I think need to be done, so much so that if I'm not careful I can miss out on valuable friendship time.  We can all fill our time with all kinds of things but it shouldn't at the expense of our time with friends.

I believe life is far more about relationships - our relationship with God and our relationships with others - than it is about our to-do list. We need God and we need one another if we are going to live the life God intended for us. 

To Think About:
Have there been times when you have worn a mask to hide who you really are?  What have been your reasons for doing so?

What's your relationship with God like?  Do you feel free to be your true self with him?

What value do you place on your friendships?  Do you have at least one or two friends who you can be real with?  What can you do to invest in these friendships, to nurture, strengthen and deepen them?  If you feel you are lacking in this area ask God to show you who is already in your life with whom you could develop this kind of friendship .



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