To celebrate Jaime’s birthday, in 2008, I surprised her with tickets to “Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party.” So, on a Friday night, in October, she and I got all dressed up…as Senator John McCain (me) and Governor Sarah Palin (Jaime) – the then Republican Presidential ticket. It was an amazing evening! People were stopping us for autographs, we got an award for best costume, and I even got to take a picture with a kid who had come as President George W. Bush! After some time, we went back to our car and got our things to change into more comfortable clothes, to enjoy rides and shows, late into the evening. I pulled off my John McCain mask and I was covered in sweat! And it wasn’t even a humid evening! My face and my shirt were both soaked! I was more than glad to get rid of the mask and be just “me.”
A couple of weeks ago, I committed to a two-year journey with a group of guys who were, like myself, interested in going deeper in their faith and growing as leaders of their home and in their community. At our overnight retreat kickoff, the group leader asked each of us to go around and share our journey up to that point. Sharing my story has become routine. I know when to pause, I know the words, scenes, characters, and perspectives I am comfortable with. But for some reason, my stump speech was a mess in my mind. As I laid in bed, thinking about what I would say, a familiar word…a mantra, if you will…wouldn’t leave me alone – “Truth!” And so the next morning, I shared my story. I was matter of fact for the first few lines, and then it was uncomfortable…it was so uncomfortable to wear the mask. So I took it off. And this group of strangers heard my heart. I shared with them things that I don’t make it a point to share with anyone. I let them know the pain I felt in losing my wife, accepting the fact that God’s plans for Jaime were greater than my desire to keep her for myself, and the fact that I just wanted to cry as I told my three-year old that her mommy had gone to heaven three days before. The moment the tears began to roll down my cheek, I apologized – “I don’t usually do this…I mean, I don’t usually cry in front of people…people I don’t know.” But my mask was off now and it was painfully liberating. I stopped apologizing and I said something that I posted on the wall of my heart about three years ago, “Losing Jaime was the crushing blow of my life. And although I move forward, in the reality that life moves forward, I crumble inside at times when I think about how much I have lost.”
It was uncomfortable to be anything but real. And that is not normal in the times in which you and I live. From the moment we get up to the time we drift off to sleep, we feel the need to done various masks to hide the pain of the past, the pain of the present, and the fear of what is to come. If we are not pretending everything is OK, we are pretending that what we do to get through the moment will essentially be enough to sustain us. And that, along with the mask itself, is nothing more than a lie. Because I do believe in God – as being more than a thought or hope – I know that He knows me – flaws and all. And yet, He loves me – flaws and all! He never asked me to put on the mask, identify my life with what I do (to avoid the reality of who I am), or create a side-story to my life, so that others will get to know the person I wish I could be. Not only is it uncomfortable to be anything but real, but it is not peaceful to wake up day and day out and lie – lie to myself and to those who think they know me. For those of faith, we know that a lie is what originally separated the perfect fellowship between God and man. And sadly, today, the lie of the mask continues to do the same. You and I have a choice. A choice to love the One who has always loved us – who wants better for us than to painfully put on our mask each day, share our fables, and hide our hurts with an empty display of our accomplishments.
It was uncomfortable to be real. I couldn’t hide who I was, what I had done, and the joys and sorrows I had experienced up to this point. But you know what? Once my mask was off, it was uncomfortable to not be authentic. Reader, I don’t know you (perhaps I do!), but God does and His desire is for truth to take hold all over your heart and life. Only then will you and I find the true peace & joy we were meant to experience on this side of heaven.
Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] – John 14:27 (AMP)