Where you live, this may have already been a reality, but where I live, today, a ‘mask rule’ has come into effect. In all indoor public spaces, people are expected to wear some sort of face covering as a means of slowing or preventing the spread of Coronavirus.
My wife has kindly made me a mask that properly covers my fat, hairy face in a way that does the job and feels almost comfortable. (The disposable ones made my face look like…well, never mind about that.) Those who like to sew are getting very creative with patterns and materials, so that all of us, perhaps especially children, can try to have a little fun with what is otherwise not a very fun undertaking.
This got me thinking, though: masks are really nothing new in our society. It’s just that now, we can see them.
You know what I mean: people wear masks that cover up any number of things, even if it isn’t oral germs. Maybe it’s uncanny, heavy makeup to avoid looking too young, or too old, or too vulnerable. Maybe it’s a permanent smile to cover up the pain we feel inside. Maybe it’s a face that betrays nothing, to keep people at a distance. There are all kinds of scenarios that might exist, but make no mistake: most human beings are used to wearing masks.
Interestingly, these same masks are often placed between our true self and the God who made us.
This is a profoundly sad reality, because what we tend to forget is that God sees us as we are, knows us as we are, loves us as we are, and longs for us to be more like him. Yet we tend to put our best ‘face’ forward with God, for any number of reasons.
Sometimes, we think God won’t accept us if we feel a certain way. (Usually, this is because someone else won’t accept us that way, and we universalize the principle.) Sometimes, we think we’re not allowed to ‘be real’ in God’s presence. This tends to be a matter of culture or conditioning.
If we have an image of God as being like Santa Claus, for whom “you’d better not cry”, it gets stuck in our heads that God won’t accept any emotion except happiness, or, at best, ennui. And that’s too bad, because if you take even a cursory glance through the Psalms, you’ll see every emotion known to the human race expressed before God. What’s more, the people of Israel believed all these emotions to be so important, they enshrined these songs in their Scriptures!
In the Psalms, you’ll find joy, sadness, anger, lament, even a desire to see others die. There are no masks in the Psalms.
And we don’t need them, either. Except in cloth form, in indoor public spaces, for a season. The good news is that we can still weep or laugh or gnash our teeth with that kind of mask on.
“Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem” (Psalm 137.1, NLT).