Praying the Masquerade
Recently the question was asked of someone close to me "Do you feel you have to wear a mask?" The question had nothing to do with the pandemic.
Today, because of the current pandemic physical masks are worn, valued, judged, and debated. The hope is that the mask will "protect from harm" the one wearing it and the ones nearby, particularly the vulnerable. But we also wear masks that are not made of cloth. We wear masks shaped by our expressions, mannerisms, tone of voice, and words; they are defined by what we offer and what we hide, emotionally and mentally. Are we aware of the layers of our hearts that are offered or hidden... for whatever reason? Is there spiritual significance to the masks we wear? What does God think of the mask I wear and of all that lies beneath it?
These questions have simmered in my heart. To be human is to present a limited view of ourselves at times. Sometimes it is intentional, and, I expect, that many times it is not. Sometimes we may wear a mask, or perhaps we simply offer a limited view of ourselves. Pretense can hide what is beneath, perhaps it is a protective front to guard the tender or wounded places. Sometimes a mask is worn to deceive and sometimes to distance. But perhaps it is wisdom that projects a limited, but true, first expression of ourselves, while withholding the deeper nuances of self until a relationship has grown into a mature trust.
When I googled "image of mask" there were hundreds of images of masks that surfaced... but most of the masks pictured would not have been there 6 months ago... before pandemic. There were images of health care masks, DIY instructions and examples, masks for sale, the right kind of mask, etc. If I scrolled for pages I started coming up with a few halloween masks or masks for a masquerade party (Sounds like fun).
So how would you describe your mask? Is it intense and colorful, bold and expressive? Or is it quiet and reserved? Our personality and story will influence how we self-protect, how we perform or hide, and how we view the invitation to offer our more tender, deeper selves. And what lies beneath the mask?
I created a worksheet with the above image to pray the "masquerade." One can use words, phrases, colors, or little doodles. What do folks see when they engage with you? What do you offer to the world? I would suggest that most often what we offer holds at least an element of truth regarding who we are (even the self-protective masks)... but it is never all of us. What is hidden beneath the mask?
I sat down to pray with my own ideas of who I am: what is hidden and what I project or offer. I found myself putting subtle calm colors and predictable lines on the mask. In contrast I found myself drawn to intense colors and quirky marks for the space beneath the mask. It may be interesting to ask your inner circle to pray with you as you consider these questions... their perspective may be helpful in your prayer. Notice God's invitation.
This reflection is becoming a place of deeper prayer for me. As a nine on the Enneagram I value peace. I do not like conflict, so it takes faith and intentionality to engage conflict in a healthy, strong manner. It takes courage to offer those bolder colors to the world. Where do you need courage to know and offer yourself more fully? What might God be asking you to pay attention to under the mask?
This spring I wrote a blog post titled Fierce Adoration (button below). I identify with the Mary that sat quietly at Jesus' feet. But there are times my heart longs to boldly offer the passion of my heart like Mary did later in the story when she anointed Jesus' feet with perfume. For me that passion often gets expressed in creativity, in artwork or writing, especially since it begins quietly, slowly increasing in strength and intensity as I attend to my heart.
Perhaps your emotions and passions do not surface slowly. What about the individual with strong emotions and quick responses, someone more like Peter or Martha in the Biblical story? Their journey may be different. What was hidden beneath Martha's quick tongue and critique of Jesus and Mary in Luke 10? Perhaps a longing to be with Jesus herself? Was Martha even aware of the tender places within her heart? Did her competency as a host, her perfectionism and judgement hide a heart that longed for intimacy? Was it because of the strength of her personality that she even invited Jesus and the disciples in the first place?
What would it be like to "pray the masquerade"?
Even if I do not intentionally choose to wear a mask, what would it be like to pray the layers of my heart, the hidden and the not so hidden?
Do I wear a mask to self protect? Do I wear a mask to hide the vulnerability of my heart?
What does my mask look like?
Is there a time when a "mask" is godly and right?
There will probably be times we choose to keep our thoughts and reflections to ourselves because it may not benefit those around us. Is that a mask? Maybe not. Sometimes love and wisdom withholds offering all that stirs within. We can trust the Spirit to guide our discernment. A growing self awareness is going to be significant in our journey deeper into the heart of God.
Know this: God sees you and me, mask and all. Even if I hide or limit what I reveal, God's perception is not hindered and his love for me is not limited. May God continue to interpret us to ourselves and transform our hearts into the likeness of Jesus. May we continue to live into all that is true and good by the strength of the Spirit within. May God heal and integrate our hearts...deepening the truth within.