Note: I just read Mike Ridenour’s post at New Hope for Dry Bones and remembered that I had written about masks several years ago. So, thank you, Mike for your wonderful post “The Church Needs You.”
While running errands for work, a rock hit my windshield and chipped it. Not good news! A few other things were rolling around in my mind, too, that were not particularly pleasant. Then I entered an intersection and had to stop quickly to avoid hitting a young woman who obviously did not notice the light on her side was red, not full-speed ahead green. So, I began to think today was not going to be my best day of the year.
As it was barely 10:00 am, I decided just maybe there could be some good left in this day if I would ask God for a quick attitude adjustment. So I prayed.
My next stop was to make a deposit at the bank. The teller smiled and offered a mint. Another lady just passing by wished me a good morning and asked how I was doing. Of course, I smiled back saying, “Fine, thank you.” As I continued on to my car, I thought, “Please Lord, keep my mask in place.” The way I felt inside was in direct conflict with the happy face I wore and the cheerful words I said. I had on my mask, the face I show to the world at large, and thankfully, it didn’t slip right then.
I’ve known for a long time when someone asks, “How are you?” they expect a “Fine, thank you” response. They do not want to know how many crinkles my day started out with or that my car tire is going flat. They don’t want to know that my heart hurts because of a painful relationship, or that my responsibilities are too much to bear today. No, just a “Fine, thank you” response is acceptable. Anything more is letting my mask slip and that would never do!
Actually, it’s probably a good thing I wear a mask most of the time. It’s not so much lying to others as it is handling myself confidently, acting as if today is a great day, and I’m happy. There are times that in the appearance of normalcy, my day does actually start to get better.
There are those other times, though, when the difference in how I really feel and the way I try to behave causes such a conflict that I hide from the world a while. I don’t have any positive words to offer. I couldn’t smile if my life depended on it and the grimace that would appear if I tried would probably horrify people in my world. The face behind the slipping mask is too grotesque to imagine right then.
Thankfully, my husband understands these moods and he doesn’t expect anything more or less than whatever I am capable of giving. If there is nothing to give, he accepts that and just holds me tightly, comforting me. He lets me be still and quiet, or loud and ranting, as the mood swings to its conclusion.
Then, before I reach for the mask that the world will see, I pray. I know that God looks at me lovingly. No mask is needed with Him. I can be assured of His patience as I yell, His gentleness as I cry, His strength as I fall. I can know that every day is not a day of masks. Some days, I will feel thankful and blessed. My natural face will reflect the good feelings inside. Maybe, on those days, I can watch others and as I notice the masks they wear, perhaps I can stop a minute and pray for them, hoping soon that they, too, can say, “Fine, thank you” and mean it.