I can still remember the Saturday night rituals at my house when I was six-years-old. My mother wound my sun-streaked ash blonde hair in what seemed like a hundred pink sponge rollers. She’d swipe her middle and pointer fingers through the sticky jar of blue Dippidy-Do, slather it on a swatch of hair, and then wind the sponge round and round. My “ouches” and winces were met with “be still” and “stop squirming.”
Why did she put me through the torture and sentence me to a fitful night’s sleep trying to find a comfortable spot to lay my head? Because the next day was Sunday and we were going to church lookin’ good. On Sundays our family drove to church, many times fighting all the way, and walked through the pristine double doors of the church with smiles and platitudes.
“How are you?” the fellow parishioners asked.
“Fine,” we mechanically replied. “And how are you?”
“Fine,” thank you.
But we were anything but fine, and I imagine that the folks on the pews beside us were anything but fine either.
My home was riddled with unhappiness. My father drank heavily, and Saturday nights were usually the worst. My mom was extremely unhappy, I was lonely and afraid, and my brother, most of the time, was just plain mad. But nobody knew. We hid it well.
What is it about church that makes us put on masks to cover up what is really going on inside? Forget the fig leaves. We’ve moved on to designer clothes, shiny cars, and smiling faces in order to attend the masquerade ball we call “church.”
Why do we do it? Is it because we don’t want to appear weak? Is it that we want to appear strong as the rock of Gibraltar even if our husband just lost his job, our son is flunking out of school, our parents are dying with cancer, and we just discovered a lump while showering that very morning?
“How are you?”
“Fine, just fine. Praise the Lord.”
[tweetherder]Sometimes the church becomes our stage where we play “Let’s Pretend.” But as the audience applauds our performance, the Director’s voice grows faintly dim.[/tweetherder]
Here is a scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that exemplifies what I think God longs for in the Body of Christ. The White Witch has turned many of the inhabitants of Narnia into stone statues. Then, in a valiant display of courage, Aslan, the lion Christ-like figure, pounces into the courtyard and breaths life into each of the statues…bringing them back to life. Let’s join in the party for just a moment…
The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colors; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow.
I fear that many of our churches have turned into the stone courtyard where everyone tries to blend in and conform to the image…not of Christ…but of what others expect from church-going-folks. However, [tweetherder]Christ-follwers were never meant to be a gathering of identical statues, but of colorful, wildly wonderful individuals…real people…unmasked.[/tweetherder]
Now I know we can’t spill the beans and tell everyone who asks how we really are. Not everyone. But I am suggesting…praying really…that you will have a few people with whom you can be truly honest.
Here’s a little something a friend of mine who has Multiple Sclerosis taught me by his example. When people ask him, “How are you today?” he responds, “Thankful.” He’s not fine. Most of the time he is in pain. But oh, he is thankful. And he is honest.
Here’s my question for you today? Why do you think people put on the “I’m fine, just fine,” mask at church? And how can we encourage each other to take the mask off and live in authentic community?
One reason that God wants you to take off that churchy mask, is so that you will tell your story. Revelation 12:11 says, “They overcame him (satan) by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony (by telling their story).” No wonder the enemy wants you to keep your story hidden. He knows that God can use it mightily. Ready to start using your story to change the world? Check out my book, Your Scars Are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past, and begin the amazing journey today.