Masquerade! Paper faces on parade
Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you
Masquerade! Every face a different shade
Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you
Take your turn, take a ride
On the merry-go-round in an inhuman race
Eye of gold, eye of blue
True is false, who is who?
Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds
Masquerade! Take your fill, let the spectacle astound you
Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads
Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you
Masquerade! Seething shadows breathing lies
Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you
Masquerade! Leering satyrs, peering eyes
Masquerade! Run and hide, but a face will still pursue you
(snippets of the song ‘Masquerade’ from The Phantom of the Opera)
At the risk of sounding absolutely un-pastorwife-ish, I love Halloween. And no, not just because it’s also Reformation Day. The concept of dressing up and temporarily becoming someone/something else has always appealed to me. My favorite childhood pastime was pretending—whether that meant putting on fancy dresses from Goodwill and applying an obscene amount of lipstick or going outside decorated with berry juice and being Pocahontas for the afternoon. (Actually, Pocahontas was a bit too pretentious a name for my eight-year-old self. I preferred Shining River Maiden.)
So obviously, an entire 24 hours dedicated to pretending to be other than reality dictates is personally satisfying. And our culture has done a really good job of building up the hype around it, inspiring creativity and imagination to let loose on this fun-filled festive evening. The fact that copious amounts of sugar are involved just sweetens the deal. (Eye rolling is only mildly allowed here.)
The issue I face, though, is what happens on the other 364 days of the year? Have I made such a habit of putting on masks that I have forgotten the actual me underneath? Counselors will tell you that masks are invented for a reason. Maybe being abused as a kid birthed a mask of perpetual victimization. Or being rejected caused a mask of independence. Or a gnawing insecurity created a mask of boisterousness. Or a fear of ridicule sparked a mask of sarcasm. There are so many masks out there to be adopted and tweaked, and they’re mainly a protective measure against whatever it is we’re scared of.
Would you give me permission to sit down and whisper truth to your heart? There is a God who loves you lavishly, who is crazy about you despite your flaws and rebellion. He is big enough to walk with you through this scary life and gentle enough to carry your masks. They’re not heavy to Him, not an inconvenience or a waste of time. Because here’s the danger: though who we pretend to be is a protective measure, if we pretend long enough, it begins to poison who we really are, feeding what we are actually scared of.
For instance, I am terrified of failure. So I mask it with perfectionism, always striving for excellence in a manic avoidance of letting someone down. But constant striving to do right and be right wears on a soul, makes it weak and prone to cracks. Sooner or later, I will fail. I will let someone down. (Probably multiple times, because when I fail, it’s kind of a spectacular all-or-nothing event. This in itself is God’s grace to me because I also struggle with pride.)
If I can release my death grip on that need to please everyone all the time, surrendering my mask to the One who died for me, that’s all the freedom I’ve ever sought. Reality says that my identity is not tied to my performance. I’m not how much I do or how well I do it. That gospel lyric is sung over my life, but masks have a way of blocking our perception of what’s true. It’s only when I hand over my pretending that I can recognize what is real.
This Halloween, would you search your heart? The best treat you could give yourself is to give up the tricks that work on everyone else; allow Christ to point to how you create safety for your heart. What does that mask keep you from? How does it affect your life? What gospel lyric has the Lord been singing over you, waiting for you to understand? As the line in ‘Masquerade’ says, His is “the face that will still pursue you.” He chases you with love, with compassion, with a fierce energy bent upon His glory and your good. Isn’t it time for us to light up those paper faces on parade? I’ll go first.
“I, Kassie Prather, renounce the mask of perfectionism. It was meant to protect me from failure, but the God I serve has called me out of my performance into His. The Lord’s grace is sufficient for me, and He covers every failure past, present, and future with His blood. I am made whole and holy in Christ, and this is who I am.”