“All falsehood is a mask; and however well made the mask may be, with a little attention we may always succeed in distinguishing it from the true face.”
What’s in a Mask?
Over the course of time “masks” have come in all shapes and sizes. Masks have been used for everything from military equipment to attire for festive social gatherings. I think it would be safe to say masks have most certainly established their presence in many cultures especially for celebration, religious practice and icons within media. What is the purpose of a mask though? The primary function of a mask is generally to conceal one’s identity and to convey a specific meaning through the masks image. I try to avoid superhero references, BUT think of the whole concept of masks especially when it comes to a character like Batman. Batman wears a mask to both protect himself and his loved ones, but to also represent an image that is not necessarily the man beneath it. Bruce Wayne hides himself and represents something that he in himself is not, through the mask of Batman. I use this analogy as a segue to the figurative masks we ourselves often wear. As you go throughout your day, you may not come across literal “bat people” wearing actual bat masks, but people wear masks, just in a more figurative way. Some of these masks can be physical. For women their mask may be makeup painted on out of insecurities, or men with the time invested into hair, beards and other facial features. You may laugh at that, but the amount of time I have seen some men put into their hair, makes the ladies seem effortless. The masks that a majority of us wear though are not as physical, bu metaphysical. We put on faces, personalities, and quirks forming an image in hobbies, in trends, in everything external, attempting to avoid the insecurities of our flesh, instead of embracing the security of who we are in Christ.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The photo above has a slightly interesting history. Not incredibly interesting, only slightly interesting. I found the mask in an art room, at a school, and took one photo with it over my face. As I looked at the image captured a thought came to my head regarding believers and the masks we wear. The masks we wear are figurative and a used to hide our true identity beneath them, because as we attempt to hide about us what we think is bad, we also hide that which is good. No matter how beautiful the image of Christ beneath is, the masks we place over Him are eerie and ultimately our true face become difficult to see. We hide the appealing beauty we possess, underneath repelling images that are a facade. Look at the photo above, the face is not pretty, its not flattering, and it hides the person beneath. Just as the mask above conceals my true physical face, so does the flesh conceal who I truly am in the spirit. Not only that, but like the mask above, sin and our flesh create an image of our old identity to detract from the new identity we have in Christ. While our flesh may be one mask, it can come in a wide array of shapes, styles, and sizes, like the vast selection of masks found in a costume shop. Once a mask is put on by a person, they represent whatever image the mask bears. Their image is guided by what they want to hide, not who they were made to be. If I wear a mask of a clown, people will see me as a clown. If I wear a mask of a cat, people will see me as a cat; the mask I wear draws attention away from my identity and to the mask, associating me with the qualities of the image, not the person beneath. In the Christian life when we wear a mask that mask is the flesh, and when we wear a mask representing our flesh we draw attention from our spirit, from Christ. While we may be in Christ while wearing the mask, we will be associated to whatever qualities accompany the mask we wear. What masks do you wear that hide Christ in your life?
What’s in Your Wardrobe?
My wardrobe is FILLED with masks.My favorite masks are those worn to hide areas in which I am insecure. I wear a mask to cover insecurities like being overweight, my singleness, the fact I am still in undergrad school at 28, having Bi-polar disorder, and anything my flesh can use to take focus away from my Christ centered position. What these masks really do is hide Christ and reveal my discontentment, my covetousness, my sinful heart. I also have masks that attempt to make me look spiritual in moments where I am really not. For example there are times when I post a quote, or to look really spiritual, a verse, in the hopes of making myself not only look super duper Christian like, but to impress people. At other times I have been in community prayer and made attempts to pray in a manner to sound deep and inspired when really it was all a ruse to impress people. The mask of false spirituality looks Christian, but it is not Christian. The flesh cannot duplicate that which only Christ can produce. I could write volumes on my masks, but in this post there is one particular mask I want to talk about, a mask in which it seems we often do not take as seriously as we should; that mask is pride.
Say it Again, but with a lot Less Fake this Time
In the recent weeks I have been examining my heart and life for pride. AHHHHH, THAT SOUNDS SO POSH, SO NICE! SO FAKE! I AM DEALING WITH PRIDE! That is my reality right now, no bells and whistles, just straight to the point truth. Pride, no big deal right? See that kind of thinking is wrong! When we hear the word “pride” many of us hear a broad word that does not sound as bad as what it is, when really pride is a silent killer. I mean one of the sins that brought Satan’s fall was pride. Look at the sins of Israel, their biggest problem was idolatry, and their idolatry was rooted in pride. Pride does not have to be a man standing with his chest out, hands on his hips, looking all smug mug, it can also be a deviant fella, pathetic, poor, and in rags. PRIDE IS A BIG DEAL!
Loud and Proud
As I was saying before I am dealing with pride. Pride in my life manifests in a number of different ways. My education is one way in which my pride has shown forth. There have been many occasions where I have fought the education system because of course work or believing instructors were not adequately doing their job. The pride in me says the teachers, the system, they have no idea what they are doing and I could do it better, when truthfully I could not. In another way pride has come through a lot when interacting with my peers. The second I feel like someone is not smart enough to follow what I or a teacher is saying, I belittle them, because my pride tells me I am better and they are lesser. Pride makes me covet because most of my friends are married and I am still single. Why do they get to be married and I don’t?! I deserve it more than they do! Or at least just as much! When really there are good aspects to singleness, and NOBODY truly deserves to be married more than anybody else, yet God allows the blessing all the same. The more I dig the more I find artifacts of pride buried deep within my thoughts, feelings, emotion and heart. That is why pride is scary, you never really take it that seriously and then out of nowhere every aspect of your life seems infected by it. Pride is one of those issues where we will spend all our energy and resources in attempting to deal with the symptoms, instead of the actual cause. Symptoms of pride can be lust, sexual immorality, depression, self pity, self glorification, arrogance, disregard for other people, rebelliousness, covetousness, lack of faith, faithlessness, idolatry and really any sin has the potential to be rooted in pride. You cannot be rid of the symptoms, unless you first are rid of the cause. Pride is like a weed, unless you kill the root along with the plant, it will just grow back. I have a lot of weeds to kill.
A Low Lonely Road
Wear a mask long enough, and you will become less like who you are and more like who the mask says you should be. I am Chris Cantrell, I walk around with a furled brow look of disapproval, I am cleverer than everybody else, and need no one, but myself. Talk about a low and lonely road, I should know, I have walked it. For years pride kept me from so many good things God had for me. Most of my Christian life I avoided the Christian body because I saw myself above them, what did I need to be judged by exclusive sinners, under the guise of believers for? I thought I could make my own way and do my own thing, becoming above it all. How wrong I was! The point of that example is that I was wrong and for years I allowed my flesh, my pride, to keep me from God’s purpose for my life. My pride told me the road was high, that I was better for it, while in reality the road was so very low.
A Tenant of the Universe, Not the Universe Itself.
So how do we deal with pride, how do we defend ourselves from our flesh, how do we take off our masks? Seeing as I am fresh into this battle I know just about as much as you do. What is “pride” though, we have the word, what it looks like, but what is it? Basically pride takes our person, our existence, and places it at the center of the universe where everything, good or bad, is about us. You become all that matters, placing God and everyone else on the sidelines. So if pride is placing yourself in the center of the universe why not take yourself out and put God back in the position? Obviously, we can never truly take God out of it, but we can attempt to usurp the position from Him. Our goal should to resist, to see Him as the focal point of our existence. Simply speaking that is the answer, and yet is much easier said than done. Just because we know our identity is something far better, underneath the mask, that does not mean we are going to always take them off. Our flesh loves itself, it does not want to let go without a fight. What I am finding though, and I say this having failed tonight at it again, the harder we think about what we are doing, the harder it is to have pride. I think that is they key to dealing with pride. It is recognizing in our thoughts, feels, and actions that what I am about to do is not about God or other people, but about myself, then altering that course of action putting Him back at the center. As we take off the mask to walk on our spiritual identity, catching ourselves, controlling what we think and do, our heart will change. The more we take off the mask, the more we will act like our identity under it. Just like Superman, his mask (Clark Kent) is weak, it does not truthfully represent who he is, while under it his actual identity (Superman) is strong. When Superman wears his Clark Kent mask he is weak, but when we takes that mask off to live as who he truly is, the guy has all the strength in the universe.
I’m No Superman
This post is nothing more than another believer working through his struggles, trying to figure this whole “pride” thing out. As I am still human I realize the masks will never be gone indefinitely, at least until death, but that does not mean we should not strive to wear them as little as possible while we are alive. Each one of us under this theistic worldview will struggle and at times fail, but the point of this journey, this adventure, is letting Him pick us up in those failures to continue onward toward the end. This is an adventure, it is not always safe, and at times is not very easy, but ultimately this adventure is worth it. Will you take your mask off with me to continue int his journey together?