I read a book...you know, the kind that transports you to a distant land and time. The kind that has just enough conflict and comedy, adventure and intrigue. The kind that makes you laugh and cry and turn the page to gobble up each word, swooning over the never-possible notion you could be the heroine. Ah, bliss!
In the story, the girl is in love with a man she fears will never love her in return. She talks of his invisible armor creating an intricate character, an elusive conquest – well protected, guarded. She describes him as "masked,"and is confident her love can remove the mask and destroy the armor, unlocking the mysteries of his heart. And eventually, she succeeds.
GET THE SMELLING SALTS! That's beautiful stuff!
I have a friend whose dog died just a few days before Christmas. It was very difficult, because they had been together for many years. Sadly, my friend contacted me this last Sunday to tell me the other dog had fallen ill, and it was decided she would need to be put down. So rough, because many parts of adulting just stink.
In those moments leading up to our conversation, my friend was secure. However, once my advice was asked for – this person wanting to know my thoughts, valuing my opinion – there was no mask. My friend opened up and became vulnerable. This person risked the possibility of misunderstanding and lack of sympathy, needing comfort and reassurance in making a decision. I could have easily said, "It's just a dog. Do what you have to do," and slammed the door on the opportunity to share intimacy with a friend while one was grieving. I could have missed the subtleties of my friend's emotions and disregarded the person's pain as folly, thus creating additional wounds and driving a wedge of distance between us.
But I did not.
I listened to what was going on, the physical problems the dog was facing, options for treatment, and the sad resolution as to what my friend believed was best. Three days later, the decision was made, and the real pain set in.
Now, I am not vying for Friend of the Year, but I want to praise my friend's courage to be honest, to come to me unmasked and share the burden. This has me thinking...am I ever unmasked? Given the same situation, would I have contacted a friend for help or simply taken care of the task to casually mention it later?
I will admit I am a self-protector – sometimes to the extreme. I want to believe the Sarah I display to the world is my true, genuine self. I take pride in a personal degree of poise and polish – cool confidence in most situations; the ability to conduct myself gracefully no matter the scenario. Unfortunately, that is too often misinterpreted as cold and aloof, and more than once I have been accused of arrogance. This does not lend itself to people finding me warm and approachable. Instead, they usually remain at arm's length or decide getting to know me is not worth effort.
In the Old Testament Bible story, Laban deceived the deceiver, Jacob. Thinking he was marrying Rachel, Laban masked his elder daughter, Leah, and gave her to Jacob. Much to his disappointment, Jacob would have to work seven more years to earn Rachel. This would be the first of many difficulties this family would face.
The mask hides the truth.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes..." Revelation 21:4. I heard a sermon once where the minister spoke of the White Throne Judgment. He envisioned it this way: We will stand in the presence of God and He will project our life before us. As the scenes flash by, we'll be burdened by the unimaginable weight of our sin, our failures, the blessings God had prepared for us, and the minuscule amount we requested. We will become fully aware of our part of the excruciating pain Christ endured on the cross. It is in those final moments when we stand before the judge that we will truly fear and tremble. Then the mask is removed! The Father shows us the spotless lamb, the ram in the thicket that took our place, because we accepted His salvation. The tears will be wiped away and we will come to the full realization that we are the redeemed.
"...for the former things have passed away...Behold, I am making all things new...Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 21:4-5. There will no longer be a need for masks or self-protection or feigned arrogance. The Father will gather His children to Him and we will shout for joy, because we have completed the race. Hallelujah!
Unmasking before God is essential – laying our heart bare to Him, for He knows us best anyway. Being willing to say, "Father, cleanse me of my mask and remove from me any barrier that is hindering what you have in store for my life."
Recognizing that vulnerable is difficult for me, I pray God helps to remove my mask; that I can always show the real, genuine Sarah – nervous and impatient, warm and inviting, uncertain and scared, enthusiastic and willing, flawed, seeking, hoping and determined.
My friend is sad and will be for a while. I hope I, one day, will likewise have the courage to be honest and vulnerable when I need it the most.
Sarah E. Kincaid is a high school teacher in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky. Kincaid's most exciting accomplishment has been publishing her first novel, 'Spring till September' (WestBow) which is the first book in a planned series. She also is a contributing writer with Annesley Writers Forum (www.annesleywriters.com). Kincaid is confident God has a wonderful story for everyone to tell and showing that Christ is in the ordinary parts of lives, making each day extra-ordinary.