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the problem with masks

After the typical “How are you?” introduction discussion, I took a sip from my “Unlimited Sip Club” cup from Panera. (Man, how they have lost a lot of money on me over the years!) I asked him, “Sounds like you’ve been through and still going through a lot. How are you holding up? Tell me what you’re going through?”

He pulled off his cap, ran his fingers through his hair and with a faint smile said, “Nah man, I’m good. Don’t worry. I got this Trey. We are just going to keep on keeping on. Gonna grind it out. I’m no different than anyone out there on hard times . . . I don’t really need or want to talk about it. I appreciate you, but we will work through this. I’m just not up to wrecking my brain and getting into deep discussions right now. I’m no different than anyone else who might be in hard times. All that matters is putting on a show for my kids so they aren’t held back by anything negative mentally.”

I’ve heard a response similar to this a thousand times. This brother, who is an alcoholic, with a marriage hanging on by a thread, has lost his home, struggles with anger issues, depression and occasional suicidal thoughts; looked me in the eye and said these words over our early morning coffee. A friend, so concerned about him, reached out via the MPACT brotherhood website page and put him in touch with me. The friend was beside himself because his lifelong buddy (Godfather to his son) had grown distant, isolated and only had shallow discussions with him. He knows his brother needs help, but the brother just won’t get real with him.

Men! Oh, how we’ve been wired over history. The great problem solvers. Warriors; ready to go to battle. We have been wired to go away to war and win, be the great protectors, make the big decisions, build walls to keep our families safe, break down walls we feel are obstacles to our successes in life, love, career and families. We shudder at the thought of letting anyone know our weaknesses and fears, so we grind it out in a false bravado trying to manage through our worldly issues to show the world we will not fail or, at least, die trying. There are numerous men’s ministries that cater to this machismo façade. “Let’s pray brothers for strength and break some things on stage! Oh, and then, make sure and check out my ripped abs on my Instagram page bro!” (That reminds me, I need to go to the gym and cut my calorie intake)

“Putting on a show?” Oh, the masks we wear as men in today’s world. I’ve worn so many over the years. I’ve said the same words that my new friend shared as he put a wall up around himself, right there in that booth in Panera. I put up that same wall and put on a mask, many times myself. The problem with wearing a mask is the fact that when we first put one on to cover up our insecurities, fears, weaknesses and mistakes from our friends and family; is that the mask becomes very comfortable as we continue to grow deeper and deeper in the “putting on a show for the world to see" mentality. It may be the biggest lie Satan tries to convince us of. He wants us to focus on our shortcomings, he wants us to look at our mess as a mountain of junk that can’t be fixed. He wants us to focus on our mess and try on our own to cover it up knowing we will eventually fail miserably, thus making the mountain of a mess grow and grow and grow until we withdraw and turn to other things to help us deal with the mess. (Sound familiar?) This particular brother has had his mask on for so long that it is actually glued onto his face. Or, as my friend, John Lynch says so well in his book "The Cure", we reach for a mask and we hide behind it, never knowing the grace and true peace of walking a life “In Christ” who allows us to rip those masks off and walk arm in arm with a brother who is just like us with the same baggage we are trying to hide. John so eloquently says, “Imagine a place that’s so safe that you’re loved more for sharing your weakness, instead of less.” I’ve personally discovered that this is coolest place to be . . . EVER!

My new friend is wired like most men and his story is what our ministry is all about. His response is very typical. He’s bound in chains due to one of two reasons; not knowing who Jesus is or, if he does know the Lord, he doesn’t truly know who he is or who the Lord says he is as His forgiven, holy, justified and righteous son. Our identity should always be our starting point when we are in need. When we don’t know these truths about the gospel or what the Lord does for us and to us upon our belief in Christ, men typically resort to exactly what my new friend said he was going to keep on doing . . . “putting on a show”.

Imagine knowing and living the truth of who God says you are.; His forgiven, holy, justified and righteous son! Imagine knowing the truth that you can just come as you are. Imagine taking off the mask and seeing His light like never before. That you don’t have to put on a show anymore. Imagine understanding that your problems, fears and failures don’t define you upon your belief in Christ. Imagine actually trusting and letting Jesus turn your mess into a message of grace. That there’s no need to put on a show, even when life circumstances are horrible. As I spoke these biblical truths with him that morning, I could see interest and contemplation in his eyes. "What do you mean Trey. God really did forgive me for these things I've done?" He then began to speak from the heart. I saw his mask begin to crack as he shared the essence of his pain and confessed to a brother with no fear of judgement or condemnation. I saw a weight, lifting from his shoulders as he realized putting on a show got him nowhere. (See James 5:16 and Galatians 6:2)

My new friend and I have had a few more Panera coffees and are diving deeper into these truths. Seems he’s been a believer in the Lord for years but had never explored the power of Christ in his life to fulfill and motivate him to move forward. He never really looked at the bible through the lens of the finished work of the cross; only as rules and law that the religious harp on as they focused on his flaws. The Apostle Paul’s words on the power of God's grace and strength are taking hold as his revelation grows. Now, he’s beginning to see he can’t do anything with his mess on his own anymore and that his mask is getting more and more uncomfortable. He actually had a great “REAL” conversation with his wife last week. They decided to quit putting on a show, take their head out of the sand, and let the power of Christ in them deal with their mess. I really feel they are on their way back. I see the positive momentum growing in their life. They seem to see that their mess is going to be an incredible message that might motivate others. Step by step, day by day, my new friend is realizing his identity, who he truly is, IN CHRIST, and that his focus, as he grows, is shifting from his mess to the message of the love and grace he has through Jesus. I can’t wait to hear him share his redemption story in person one day. I know many will be inspired by his message.

So, brothers and sisters, if you're hurting, confused, scared or just tired of wearing that mask and putting on a show, please reach out to us at MPACT Ministries, where you’ll be loved more, not less, for sharing your weaknesses.

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