The Masks We Wear
You walk into the fellowship hall of the church and see Abby setting a casserole on the table. A sprig of parsley adorns the center of the beautiful baking dish that she brought for the Women’s Fellowship Meeting. The casserole is baked to perfection, and it tastes wonderful. Everyone gathers around to ooh and aah over it. “Can I get that recipe?” You hear over and over again. Abby smiles and graciously acceptes the compliments. You can’t help but notice that not only is her casserole perfect, her hair is perfect! Her clothes are perfect! She is so beautiful!
How you wish you were her!
Gathering up your dishes, you head into the kitchen. There, chattering away at the sink is Linda. She’s making small talk with the ladies as they wash dishes together. You chuckle at a funny story she tells about her children, and notice how everyone seems to gravitate to her. She’s always had the ability to keep everything light and humorous. She seems so confident! And funny, too! Everyone wants to be Linda’s friend! She is so popular!
How you wish you were her!
It’s time for you to head home. You call for your children, bundle them up and direct them to the van. Unfortunately, they are cranky! But, finally, after five trips in and out of the church, and much frustration, you have them all strapped in. You remember that you need to stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries, and the thought of dragging those kids into the store, makes you want to crawl in bed for a few hours.
You glance over so see Tracy walking out of the church. Looking down at your rumpled clothes, you notice that your baby has wiped his nose on your shoulder, and there is some ketchup on your skirt from your little girls’ lunch.
Tracy’s well kept appearance makes you blush with shame. Each hair is in place. Her clothes - just right. You remember that she had mentioned earlier that she had a date with her husband tonight, and now listen as she calls out her “goodbye”. She jumps into her little sports car and rides off into the sunset.
You drive out of the parking lot thinking about the leftover meatloaf and macaroni you will be eating for supper.
“Tracy has it so nice,” you think, as you strap the children into the cart at Wal-mart and shove off down the aisle. “What I wouldn’t give for some Fettuccine Alfredo for supper, and a night without spilled milk to clean up! She is so lucky!”
How you wish you were her!
Abby, Linda and Tracy all looked so nice! So well-dressed! So happy!
In fact, if we were honest with ourselves, we would find that we were comparing ourselves to them on a regular basis. Jealous of their self-confidence. Envious of their lives.
But we could be wishing for more than we bargained for.
Did you know that we all wear a mask? When we leave our homes, we pull that mask out and slip it over our faces. The mask hides our pain. It makes us look perfect. Hiding behind that mask, we appear beautiful.
Every person has a story behind their mask. So many masks are covering up broken hearts.
While Abby, Linda, and Tracy seemed to have a life of ease, what we don’t see is their broken hearts.
Abby smiled when complimented on her casserole, but after leaving the church, she stopped in at the mall. The sorrow and fear was welling up inside, and she couldn’t get away from it. Her heels clicked as she sped up and down the aisles. She felt like she was running to get away from the demons that taunted her. Looking around in haste, she spotted a shoe store. She stepped inside and soon had bought a pair of shoes she knew she didn’t really need.
On the drive home, she smiled at the thought of those cute little pumps. She felt so much better since she bought them!
“It’s a nice little treat for myself”, she thought. But as she pulled her car into the garage, she could feel the gaping darkness beginning to swallow her up again.
Who was she kidding? A new pair of shoes couldn’t ward off the pain. Running to her room, she pulls off her mask. Falling into bed, she begins to sob!
Life has no joy for Abby.
She was molested when she was a child, and has never been the same since. No one knows her secret. She has tried to forget the past, but she feels alone, worthless, angry. She has learned to put on a smile and say the right things. Only her husband and children have seen her anger. They see her depression, but don’t know what to do to help her. Only at home does her mask slip from its place. Otherwise, no one really knows what’s going on behind that mask.
No one but God.
Linda has learned to use humor as her mask. She seems so confident. But after washing those dishes, she headed out to her car. She barely has her car on the road when the tears begin to spill down her cheeks.
She feels alone.
She feels helpless.
Although her husband attends church with her, she has discovered that he has been having an affair. Linda can’t understand why she isn’t enough for him.
Her thoughts go back to the years when she was growing up. She remembers the time that her father also had affair, and how it had crushed her teenage heart. She remembers seeing the pain in her mother’s eyes and her determination not to end up with a life like her mother lived.
It is all a well-kept secret, and the thought of her friends finding out what her life is really like, scares Linda to death. She has arranged her life so that it appears to be perfect. She loves to tell stories and make people laugh, but in the quietness of the car, her sorrow is over-whelming. It’s when she is alone, that the anger and bitterness boil to the top, and the mask comes off.
No one knows what is really going on in Linda life.
No one but God.
Tracy noticed you getting into your mini van. She questions why God has blessed you with 4 children, while leaving her with none.
She didn’t notice the stains on your clothes. What she noticed was the children calling back and forth to each other, as they climbed into the van.
She imagines your evening at home, full of laughter and love. She sees your husband playing with the kids after supper, and you kissing their cheeks as you tuck them into bed.
She sighs as she gets ready to go out for supper again. It’s a nice break, but how she longs for a child to fill her empty arms.
Tracy removes her mask, then climbing into the shower, she turns on the water and lets the tears stream down her face. No one knows the pain in Tracy’s heart.
No one but God.
It is easy to compare ourselves to others. We think they have a perfect life, but we would be surprised at the sorrows our friends are hiding behind their mask.
Although we hide our true feelings behind our masks, our Father knows exactly what we are going through.
So many people have really tough situations come their way in life, and we become so adept in hiding our pain from one another. But stuffing that pain deep down inside doesn’t make it go away for good. It is only a matter of time before that pain comes bubbling back to the top.
It reminds me of the day I decided to paint my rusty clothesline poles.
The sun was shining brightly, and there was a soft breeze. It was the perfect day to paint those nasty poles. The kids were taking their naps, and I had about a half hour till I needed to start on our supper.
I grabbed the paint can and headed outside. Looking at the back of the can, I noticed the long list of instructions.
“Too long!” I thought. It had everything from “shake can well” to “prior to painting, use steel brush to scrub surface.” Giving the can a few shakes, I decided that the paint would work just as well without doing any scrubbing.
Humming a tune, I began to paint. Soon those poles looked so clean and new. A beautiful white. Putting the cans in the trash, I went inside, happy to mark that chore off of my list.
A few days later, as I was hanging out the laundry, I noticed some rust on the poles. Looking closer, I realized that the paint was already peeling off where the rust spots had been. Disgusted, I berated myself for being too lazy to properly prepare the surface of the poles. Now, the job needed to be done again.
There are a lot of people in this world who are just like me with those poles.
When bad things happen, we use our masks to cover up the pain. But just like painting over that rust didn’t take care of my problem, covering up our pain doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes we need to let God run a steel brush over our lives to get rid of the rough edges.
Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” God wants us to have joy in our hearts. Though our hearts are often broken, let’s let our lives be broken before God, so that He can complete the work He wants to do in us.
Let Him remove your mask. Give Him your fears, your doubts, your anger, your sorrow.
Tell your Father what you are hiding behind that mask, and watch as He prepares the surface of your hearts, so that He can make you clean and beautiful again.
©Lynette Carpenter 2006
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