Looking for the Real You

“Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

When restrictions on the COVID-19 pandemic began to lift, I made an appointment for my car at a local dealership to have some work done. Not knowing how long I would be, I decided to take my laptop along to help pass the time. After checking in, I proceeded to the waiting area where I inquired about the guest login password to access their Wi-Fi network.  I found a comfortable seat and then turned on my device which uses facial recognition software.  As the system tried to sign in, the following words appeared on the screen: “Looking for you” followed by “Trying to find you.”  This went on for about a minute with my concluding that I must have been given incorrect password information.  Then I suddenly realized that the camera on my laptop was not recognizing me, because I was wearing a face mask. Glancing around to see if there was anyone watching, I gently pulled the mask loop off my one ear to reveal my face. And, just like magic, I entered cyberspace.  I chuckled and mumbled to myself, “How stupid!”

Historically masks have been used for many purposes, and they are commonly worn by healthcare professionals. I am not sure I would recognize my dental hygienist without one. They are a familiar and vivid element in many traditional pageants, rituals, ceremonies, and festivals like Halloween. In order that people wouldn’t recognize him, the legendary Zorro wore one over the upper half of his face. Theatrical masks play two roles – one for the wearer and one for the viewer. In “Phantom of the Opera,” the main character’s mask symbolizes his vulnerability and the injustice he suffers from, as he is forced to hide his face because it causes too much horror in other people. On the TV reality competition, The Masked Singer, celebrities perform wearing head-to-toe costumes while face masks conceal their identities from other contestants, panelists, and the viewing audience.

Some people wear a facial covering because they are purely motivated by ethics or fear, since they have been told it symbolizes concern for others as well as a guard for their own health. In ancient cultures, masks were worn by those who wanted to disguise themselves from participation in acts of hedonism. There are those who cover their face with a mask of happiness, so that others do not see their loneliness.  In current times, it is not unusual for us to become remarkably accustomed to wearing a mask of pretense. Even for those who know God, the “Good Christian Mask” can play a prominent role in one’s life at times. Whatever the reason, God always knows and understands the person behind it. God sees through your mask, right down to the real you. He sees all the flaws, mistakes, and failures . . . yet He loves you completely and unconditionally. David understood this when he said, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” (Psalm 139:7). When it comes to our relationship with God – there is nowhere to escape His love, and no mask will hide us from Him.

Wearing a mask all the time can be harmful by preventing us from developing genuine relationships. Instead of building one another up and encouraging each other in the faith, we pretend that we are just fine as we hide behind our masks. It’s important to also understand that those flaws we attempt to cover also prevent us from experiencing intimacy with God. Rather than spending time trying to impress others as we mask our true self, we must try to pursue an honest relationship with Him and rely on His strength. By doing so, it becomes the work of the Spirit to remove the veil. The Apostle Paul stated it this way: “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Instead of striving for other people’s approval and praise, live to please God alone – no matter what others think of you. Remove that mask you are wearing in order to adapt to the world around you. Establish your identity on earth by shifting your focus on becoming a disciple of Jesus.  Don’t hide behind a mask, for Jesus would tell you He’s been looking to find the real you now for some time!

REFLECTION: Do you ever try to make yourself look better than you sometimes are? What masks do you find yourself wearing in order to face the world? How does growing in Christ change us by allowing freedom to remove those masks that hinder an intimate, spiritual relationship with Him?

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