Our masks have even gone digital. Our online personas are meticulously manicured. Even if you shun social media, it is highly likely that you are not completely transparent with all your friends and family. We hide. We cover up. We wear masks.
This week I met with a few friends who also work with youth. We get together a couple times a month to pray and to support one another. The tension between the image we project and what’s really going on beneath the surface became the focus of our time. We lamented our preoccupation with the things others can see, while we often ignore the unseen practices that really bring us closer to God.
The book of Hebrews brings us terrifyingly beautiful news. Nothing, not even a half-formed thought, is hidden from God’s eyes. In the sermon on Ash Wednesday I mentioned that God already knows all of our deepest darkness, and God loves us just the same. We were talking about repentance (an appropriate theme for Lent), and how it is a time for us to use certain practices to return our thoughts and hearts to God. We return to God because God is calling us back, even though we hide. After all, we’re only hiding from ourselves and our friends. The terrible beauty is that we can’t hide from God. As Hebrews puts it, we are “naked and laid bare…” Our masks won’t work. Our precious image is useless.
The beautiful things is that when we do spend time and energy on those unseen practices we become more of who we were meant to be. When we spend time in the presence of our Father, the one who sees all, we are freed up to be more authentic with friends and family. It’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes; we were naked the whole time, we just didn’t realize it. Spending time laid bare before God helps us to get more comfortable without our masks, without all the elaborate facades we construct. And that frees us to be more real with the people around us.
Have you ever wanted to just be yourself? With the Father, you can. In fact, with God it’s your only option. I’m much better a letting people know the real me when I’ve been spending time being the real me. That’s what happens when I take off my mask and spend time with God. Are you ready? Reach up. Grab a hold of that mask. Tear it off.
And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. - Hebrews 4:13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Mike is the Director of Student Ministries at BUMC. He’s done ministry with students in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, and now Colorado. Mike recently finished his MDiv degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, and his passion is to lead kids of all ages toward adoption into the family of God. If he’s not hanging out with Middle School or High School students, you’ll probably find him on a bicycle or on skis. He makes killer chocolate chip cookies. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org