In October we put the Masks on. Young and old alike slip into different costumes and attires, some more ornate than others yet all with the intent of becoming somebody who we are not for a brief moment of frivolity and escape. We laugh and giggle as we attend the parties, walk the streets and revel in the differentness of the moment. We get to be somebody else for a few seconds, appearing as another of our own choosing.
What if we weren’t becoming somebody else? What if we were more accurately expressing who we really are? What if the mask we put on was more of a complex portal peering into who we truly wanted to be?
I think back to my early Halloween costumes. Various super heroes, each year’s get up determined by the stage I was in and the feeble materials I could weave together to construct my disguise. I remember a year that I dressed up as Zorro, wearing a black garbage bag as a cape and my father’s black cowboy hat. I painted on a massive mustache and wrapped a piece of cloth around my head with two poorly placed eye holes cut into it (I could barely see out of that thing). I grabbed my plastic sword in my right hand and giant eagle bag in the left as I rushed out of the house to trick or treat in the cold of October (finding out that garbage bags do very little to insulate oneself against Western PA’s frigidity).
As I grew older, during tumultuous teenage years I would brandish a brown trench coat of my father’s, tie a piece of fabric around my head pushing the bowl cut flowing locks out of my eyes and carried a bo-staff I had broken off from the big sycamore in the front yard. I had whittled away at it with my pen knife making it as straight as I could, covering it with black electrical tape. A few playing cards later and I would be Gambit of the 90’s X-Men fame.
As I look back on those costumes I realize that they said something about my heart at the time; a thermometer dipped into my psyche. When I was very young I wanted to be a dashing hero, potent and wise, saving the day and disappearing into the night. I was not very brave, in fact I was downright cowardly, I dreamt of being the opposite. During my tumultuous teenage years I wanted to be a smooth talking ladies man who was charming and confident. The mere thought of talking to girls put my stomach into knots, the acne, braces, thick rimmed glasses and deep lack of anything that resembled self esteem or confidence constantly reminded me I was indeed nothing like Remy LeBeau.
I desperately desired to be these symbols as I was hilariously lacking their attributes. On lonely bus rides to and from my prison known as school I would imagine myself to be these heroes, decimating my foes, winning the woman and righting all of the perceived wrongs in my tiny little world.
I believe on a heart level, what we dress up as, what we fantasize about is more real to who we are than almost any other factor. Consider how limited we all are by our genetics, environment and resources. Would Bruce Wayne be Batman if he wasn’t a Billionaire son of an ambitious doctor, who experienced the death of his parents at an early age? Who would Peter Parker be if he were not bitten by a radioactive spider? Even to some extent who would Peyton Manning be if he were not Archie Manning’s offspring, growing up immersed in every element of football. There is a sense of fate and destiny in all of those stories, fixed outcomes that many of us just don’t have the gifting to achieve.
But we can do anything in our minds. Any. Thing.
In our fantasy worlds we can be anybody we want to be, that is why it’s is so appealing. We can get utterly lost in it, burning through hours playing role playing games, reading comics and watching movies. But does that make it any less “real.”
There becomes this expectation that during our culture’s month long celebration of Halloween (or all year long at Comic Book Conventions) you can dress up as anything and it really has no bearings on who you are, you’re just having a little bit of fun. That is why if you head to a costume shop of any kind you will be assaulted by all of the sexy outfits that exist. Sexy Nurse, sexy fox, sexy cow, sexy serial killer……
There is a desire to be sexually adventurous at least for one night, at one event. It really doesn’t mean anything does it?
People think that they are dressing up as somebody who they are not; yet in reality they are probably showing us more of their true selves more than they realize. Just the selves they would be if it weren’t for those pesky societal norms and moral expectations levied against us.
It becomes scary when our true selves become obsessed with the dark, with vengeance with killing maiming and devouring (most of our first person shooter game). Let’s be honest our fantasies can take us to some chilling places. If I were to plug a flashdrive into your brain, download the content for a day and upload it to Vimeo (let’s be honest, there’s not way we’d get that stuff past Youtube’s filters) how would that make you feel?
Ask Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold if their fantasies ever became realities. Don’t know those names? Does the word “Columbine” stir up any memories?
Chilling thought huh?
From my understanding of Scripture, when Jesus tells us if we lust after a woman we are committing adultery with her in our hearts, or when we hate our brother we are guilty of murdering him he is not merely making life harder on us; heaping more archaic rules on our weary shoulders. Jesus is pulling back the veil and showing us the reality of the human soul. He is showing us that our true selves is that which we fantasize about, that which we would do if only we had the resources or if nobody else was looking.
No affair starts without a fantasy, no murder without hate. It doesn’t have to go that far to define us. May our heroes be true, may our true selves seek to do good. May the intent of our hearts be to strengthen and protect.
It says much of us if when we desire to be Spider-man giving it all, Superman swooping in and Captain American standing up for what he believes in.
God looks at the heart.
Our Masks are portals into our soul.
I have heard it said of those who hold to traditional biblical standards “History will judge you as it did the racist proponents of segregation! Your children will be embarrassed of you and your legacy of hate will be a stain on your family for generations. They will think of you as an intolerant Nazi, fueled by antiquated, oppressive standards.”
That may be a paraphrase or a conglomeration of statements I have read in the occupied territory known as the internet, yet it details many people’s view of us, the “bigoted, biblicaly based.”
History can judge me.
I’m fine with that. History changes and fluctuates, it has been rewritten so many times that I’m still not entirely sure who to trust. The victors define History until somebody conquers them and rewrites the whole thing with their own pen and perspective.
History doesn’t scare me.
If we are all “Unique Apes” as Richard Dawkins claims, then I don’t care one iota about what History or a collection of Unique Apes have to say about me. If we are all grunting, grumbling, complex creatures whose origins are a cosmic accident of sorts, then why should I care? Give me my 70-90 years and forget my name (because it only meant something to a few other Unique Apes in my small context anyhow).
But if there is a God, who created everything, who knows everything and who is weaving a divine story of redemption, if there is meaning and hope apart from what we have created……well now, that is different.
What if that God has established a standard that does not waver from who He is? What if we cannot find true fulfillment in anything that is apart from Him?
And what if one Day He, not History will judge us?
Here is what I will do: I will raise my children according to His Word, not yours. I pray that they accept fulfillment and purpose only from God and that they seek His face. I will teach them to love everybody, to see people as image bearers of God with value, worth and purpose regardless of the broken choices they make.
I understand that they may not believe this way. They may learn to live like Unique Apes and someday judge me according to the culture and time that they live in. That they may participate in tacky, hollow, mass weddings at a popular awards show in a neon, faux church of their own creation, following their own doctrine in an attempt to give myself and my people a shining middle finger. They may strive to rub my face in it and shame me into agreement.
If that happens, so be it. It’s sad, but I’m not angry, broken or deterred in my belief.
I don’t fear History.
I Fear God.
God is not a matter of opinion.
He doesn’t care where His approval rating stands, how many books He’s selling or how focus groups are rating His appeal to 18-25 year olds. This may come as a definitive shock to you: God isn’t concerned about your opinion of Him. You are not going to “shame” Him into changing nor could you do anything to make Him rethink who He is. You aren’t going to hurt God’s self esteem.
God is God. He is self defining, a fixed point of reference. When Moses asks God for a name He tells him “tell them that I AM has sent you.” A literal translation of that title is “I Will Be What I Will Be.”
In our culture often times we believe that everybody, regardless of position or title must eventually bow to the will of the people. If the majority of people want something, and they make enough noise eventually those in control must give in (or face insurrection or at least bad political memes on Facebook).
You can’t impeach God.
You don’t have to believe in Him, you can ignore His Word, you can kill His people, and discredit them, yet that doesn’t make you “right.”
Sin is defined as “missing the mark” and this is true, but whose mark are we talking about? Mine? Yours? Miley Cyrus’s?
Sin is anything that is not God, anything apart from Himself, His personality, His standards. He defines right and wrong. Not us, them or you.
We ask so many questions of morality, social issues, environmental concerns etc, but when we ask those questions do we ever truly ask “What does God think about this?”