“’Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’”– 1 Samuel 16:7
“Who wants to join me on this mission to save the lost and impoverished people of Mexico?,” my youth pastor asked with excitement. To me, the question was rhetorical. It was as if I had just called by Bob Barker to “come on down” to the showcase showdown of a lifetime. I was 14. I had “asked Jesus into my heart” four years earlier at church camp and even though I had grown up in church, I was still finding out what living as a born again person was really all about. Mexico was my answer.
Obviously, my 14-year old lens was a selfish one. I embarked on the trip with hopes of what I would get out of the experience, rather than what I would give. However, it turns out my 14-year old self was right. As much as I gave of myself of on that trip, God multiplied my personal gain tenfold. That missions trip changed my perspective on life forever. To this day, when I watch house hunting shows where the buyers roll their eyes at the dated kitchen and lack of master on- suite, I recall the one room houses with dirt floors and a 10 gallon bucket for a toilet. Perspective is such a beautiful thing sometimes.
Aside from the perspective changers I received, I also got one bit of advice that has stuck with me for all these years. On the trip, one of my youth leaders gave her testimony. As she told her story, she said something that dug deep in my soul and caused my heart to pause, “Jesus doesn’t want to see your mask, he wants to see your heart.” Because I had grown up in church and had a beautiful “saved at church camp” story, I had never been willing to let others see my shortcomings. At church, at school, and even with Jesus, I had been wearing a mask. I had struggles-deep ones (at least from a 14 year old perspective)- that I never brought to Christians for counsel or advice, I was too ashamed. I needed to take off my mask. I needed to let everyone see my heart with all its bruises and stitches. I made a vow that day that I would never be one of those “fake Christians.” My fourteen-year old self was wise enough to see that it’s almost impossible to share the gospel without sharing your whole heart. Sadly, I have broken that promise a few times since. I wore a mask while dealing with two difficult pregnancies, when I lost my job, and when I battled postpartum depression. All were times when I desperately needed help but was too afraid to take off my mask and ask for it.
As I sit here nearly 15 years later, the issue of wearing a mask still tugs at my heart. I have been around Christians for my entire life. I have known many, many Jesus freaks. But those who have had the biggest affect on my life have been those who wear their hearts on their sleeve. Those wonderful authentic people who share their struggles, their sins, and their salvation with everyone they come into contact with. Those are the people that cause unbelievers to see that Christians are the real deal. In my many years of church going, I have also known many great people who love Jesus but live in fear of taking off their mask. These Christians never talk about their marriage problems, or ask for advice about a difficult parenting issue, they never ask for prayer for personal problems, they never discuss their sins or struggles. These Christians appear flawless and perfect and they like it that way.
The problem with wearing a mask is that it can become a second skin, and before we know it, we forget to take it off at all, even for Jesus. As Christians, we must be so careful. We want to live glorious and godly lives. We don’t want people to see our scars, lest they may assume that our salvation has somehow been tarnished. But underneath our masks, we all have scars. We have bruises. We have laugh lines, and wrinkles, and dark circles under our eyes. We have all had struggles, past and present. If we never share them with each other, the face behind our mask grows uglier and more tired, giving us all the more reason to cover it. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” Some translations replace the word “faults” with “sins,” but I like the idea of admitting your faults rather than airing all your wrongdoings. When I ask for prayer from my bible study friends because I have been explosively angry at my children, I am confessing my sins but I am also admitting my faults. And this admission is not just to clear my conscience.
James 5:17 goes on to say, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” This is a promise that if we admit our faults and ask for prayer, help is on its way!
I encourage you, sisters, to take off your mask and show your heart. Paul, a disciple of Jesus Christ himself, refers to himself as the chief of all sinners, the worst sinner of all, and the foremost sinner. If Paul was so willing to wear his heart on his sleeve, what are we so afraid of? The Bible calls us to encourage one another daily, to stir up love in one another. How can we be encouraged if no one knows our struggles? How can we receive love if no one knows we need it. We must take off our masks.
Be vulnerable. Tell a hilarious joke at bible study. Ask for prayer after you have a huge fight with your spouse. Ask for advice about how to handle your child’s new lying problem. By being your true self, you will be an encouragement to others without even knowing it. Jesus, and his people, do not want to see your mask. They truly want to see your heart, scars and all.
Adrea Youker is a homeschool mom of 2 boys who drive her crazy and fill her heart with joy! After her career ended just 5 years after it began, Adrea embraced God’s new plan for her family. Instead of sitting behind a desk and mediating legal dilemmas, she now finds herself sitting behind the kitchen table teaching school and mediating arguments about who’s turn it is to watch Netflix. She just began working on her own blog, http://www.suddenlysahm.com, which is coming soon! When she isn’t writing, Adrea is running her church’s homeschool co-op, reading a good book, or digging veggie straws out of her couch cushions.
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