Let everyday masks fall with God’s help
That faint noise you hear is the sound of pint-sized spooks gathering on your lawn. They will soon be knocking at the door, plastic pumpkins outstretched. Spare yourself the tricks and give up the treats — the unhealthy, sweet, nougat-filled goodies in your cupboard. Keep your stinking apples, raisins, toothbrushes and granola bars. In a few short years, the tykes will have to turn in their costumes, so don’t deprive them of this rite of childhood passage.
This doesn’t mean adults don’t get in on the fun. Americans spend nearly $3 billion each Halloween, not on adorning their children for the festivities, but on themselves. Adults love to play dress-up, it would appear, and not just in October.
We all hide behind masks, masks we have worn for so long we forget the real person who lurks beneath. We so over-identify with our dress-up characters, that is the roles we play in life, that when the roles change — and they will change — we experience miserable frustration.
One Halloween my son dressed as the cartoon spaceman Buzz Lightyear. It was fun — “To infinity and beyond!” — and that’s how long I thought the boy would wear the costume. In his mind, this wasn’t a temporary role he was playing. Buzz Lightyear was who he really was. Every time he had to lay aside his costume, it was the proverbial end of the world with weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was as if he was losing himself, as if he couldn’t live apart from that imaginary facade. Of course the real him was beneath that rayon spacesuit — everybody knew it — except him.
This is a common affliction. We build dramatic images of ourselves: who we think we are, who we should be, what we should accomplish. Once constructed, these have to be maintained and protected. We never let a tear or a crack show in our veneer, and the mask to which we cling slowly becomes a prison. We go through life kicking and screaming every time a perceived threat begins to pull at the hem of our make-believe cape.
Here’s a better way: Fulfill the roles that God, fate or life has assigned to you. Fulfill them with gusto. But never accept the masks you must wear as a substitute for the person you really are. That’s the trick to a sweet life.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.