When I realized I was to write the devotion for Halloween I immediately remembered dressing up as a kid and pretending to be someone else, like a Disney princess or super hero. There was such power in choosing to be someone else! It was as if, when you put that costume on, you really became that fantasy character. Such a wonderful gift of imagination and make believe! We’d ask each other, “Who are you going to BE for Halloween?” It was more than just dressing up, it was much more BE-coming someone else. I remember the masks we wore in the late 50’s, early 60’s—the plastic masks that covered our whole faces. I couldn’t wear my glasses under my mask, so, besides being in disguise, I couldn’t see anything. It was like being in a hazy fog of plastic. Since I grew up in Montana, we always had to wear our winter coats over our costumes. The plastic mask was really the only part of the costume that showed. From the neck down, we were just Montana kids dressed for winter. Good times!
I’m wondering, all these many years later, if I haven’t worn masks of various kinds all my life. When I was a young adult, just beginning a career, I felt I had to wear a mask of feigned competence. I didn’t feel particularly competent, but felt with all the good education I’d received, I should be, so I wore that mask. I had a mask of assuredness and confidence. It was sometimes a heavy mask, but I wore it faithfully, so afraid someone would see that I really was very unsure of myself. As a young mom, confidence was the last thing I felt as my husband and I tackled the mysteries of parenting. But yet, I wore a carefully crafted Mom mask whenever we visited the pediatrician or attended parent-teacher conferences. I sure didn’t feel the competence I was showing to the world with my mask. For some reason I figured the world would never find out. Now, I think I see that the world has been wearing masks, too. We’ve all been a bunch of mask-wearing people, showing the world what we think it wants to see.
As I’ve delved deeper into spirituality and my faith journey, I can see that there is no mask I could wear to hide myself from God. There would be no need to hide anyway because God loves me just the way I am. God loves my imperfections even as I feel I need to hide them from the world. God rejoices when I learn from my mistakes, instead of hiding behind a perfect, competent mask. God sees no need for me to cover up God’s own creation with a pretentious mask. Franciscans, like Richard Rohr, believe that all of creation reflects the Creator. All of creation is God’s handiwork and that includes all of us. God rejoices in creation, as we have with the beautiful autumn show we’ve been enjoying this fall. But, what’s left of the trees, when all the scarlet and gold leaves are on the ground, are the bare branches, naked and vulnerable. Their glorious last show is underneath them now, waiting to be raked up and discarded. They are truly “unmasked.” And yet still seem proud and strong as they reach toward the sky. There’s no shame in their bareness, they still stretch proud and tall. They seem to sense the love their Creator has for them, no matter what state they are in. Maybe like the trees, we need to let go of our masks to recognize God’s pure love for us. God doesn’t just love creation in its finest, blooming state. God rejoices in creation in every season. As we see the trees shedding their fall glory, let’s remember God has hidden the grace of new life within their branches. And God’s presence within us may shine through better as we can remove our pretentious masks.
Artist God who relishes your own creation: please help us to see ourselves and one another as you see us, with grace and tenderness for all of our imperfections. Help us to gently remove the masks we wear and feel how loved we are, just as we are. Help us to appreciate that our true beauty lies in the image of you, our Creator, present in all of us. Amen