We all wear masks. I know, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. We all actually do wear masks. Usually a lot of them. We tend to have one after another after another to hide the things that we don’t even want ourselves to see. I think probably my biggest mask is being a jerk. I’m vulnerable, and when I feel vulnerable I can say some unkind things to make myself feel less vulnerable. To be honest, I know how much words can hurt, and so even the unkind things I say tend to be fairly mellow. I don’t try to hurt people, just to put them off their guard, to shock and disorient them enough to let me crawl back in my shell. I think being a jerk is my version of a skunk’s spray. It’s certainly not particularly attractive, but it doesn’t do any real damage either.
After that are the masks of being a nice guy, and a tough guy. These masks let me present two faces to the world that I tend to like about myself. One that’s kind, caring, a good listener, and non-judgmental, and the other that’s hardy, uncompromising, and unafraid. Then there’s the mask of martial arts and the respect it draws, the mask of intelligence, of philosophy and theology, the mask of nerdiness and introversion that lets me withdraw from the world. All masks, all things to hide the parts of myself that I don’t want anyone to see.
I think, and I don’t really know… I’m rather afraid to look myself, but I think that if you actually looked under all the masks, all the misdirection, all the meandering that I do in my life, that what you would find is a sad little boy who just wants his parents to love him.
They didn’t you know. Oh, I’m sure they did. I’m sure that they loved me, and that they took care of me, and did their best to show me that love, but for all significant purposes (or at least purposes significant to me as a child) they didn’t. I didn’t grow up knowing that my parents loved me. I grew up knowing that I was in the way, that the world would be better off without me, that no one would ever want me, and that no one would ever love me. Honestly, deep inside, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over that.
I know that my parent’s love me, just like I know that God loves me. Sometimes I even feel loved, rarely, but inside I don’t know that the little boy ever got the loving feeling that he needed. So, I hide it away, this core of pain, and I cover it up with one mask after another, and I pretend that it doesn’t exist.
I know that I should turn to God and ask him to heal this part of me. Honestly though… I’m not sure that I’m ready to let go of it. Strange as that sounds, it’s a part of who I am… maybe the core of who I am. Just like my rage was a part of me. It took over a decade for me to let God have that, and even then I didn’t want to, I just knew that I had to. This… I think this is going to be harder. It will change me, it should change me. Hopefully, when I’m finally ready to give up this pain, God will take and transform it into something wonderful, but… it won’t be me. At least, it won’t be the same me that I am now, and that is intensely frightening.
I’ve told many people that the quest to become more like Christ means that we have to become less like ourselves. This is an easy principle. It’s simple math: two objects of equal mass cannot occupy the same space. Thus either I>Christ or Christ>Me. Either there is more of me and less of him, or more of him and less of me, but there is not more of him and more of me. See, really easy principle.
The reality of that principle though. Actually letting go of those core parts of myself that make me who I am so that he can replace them with the things that make me who he is. That’s exponentially harder. But every time I do let him have something deeper, he replaces it with something better. Hate for love, suspicion for trust, rage for peace… pain for joy? I can’t imagine what it would be like to not hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever been there. I don’t want to trust it yet, but I know that I will, eventually.
I guess when I finally do it will probably go up here.