In our series Under the Mask, we’ve been taking a look at all the ways we as followers of Christ can try and put on masks to cover up what is happening inside. Hopefully, this will be an exercise in us growing in being more real with ourselves and letting God into our messes.
Our final conversation in this series is on the mask of right relationship while feeling or being estranged.
This series is not about the masks we know so much about now, but rather the masks that are so easy to wear that cover what is happening on the inside.
We have looked at several things over the past month.
The mask of peace while feeling or being distressed.
The mask of joy while feeling or being full of sadness or being empty.
The mask of security while feeling or being overwhelmed by worry.
The mask of love while feeling or being ruled by hate/indifference.
The mask of right relationship while feeling or being estranged.
While we have not and will not hit every potential mask that it is easy to wear, I hope the recurring theme has crossover to other areas of our life. It is not only about willpower.
This doesn’t mean the effort is unimportant. Where you focus energy does matter. Working towards peace that is available—realizing that true joy is about gaining perspective. Pursuing trust in God and becoming trustworthy to achieve security. Focusing on not being indifferent, not just not hating instead of love.
It can be easy for these masks to perpetuate themselves if we aren’t intentional in these things. I look peaceful/loving/joyful/reconciled; therefore I’m okay.
Fake it until you make it is more comfortable than the process of growth over time. But it’s a shortcut that doesn’t usually pay off. It doesn’t allow us to learn really important internal realities. We can nail the external, but what really matters is gaining an internal perspective.
We’ll keep coming back to that probably until Corner closes its doors. Keep pursuing the internal perspectives. Don’t take shortcuts. It’s worth it.
Last year as we prepared for 2020, we saw repetitive prayer requests, pain points in community, our own personal challenges, and felt God’s heart really stirring us toward this idea of reconciliation. That’s been our focus all of this year.
Without pandemics, reconciliation is still complex. Without global movements to bring about racial justice, reconciliation is still urgent. With both of those in place, reconciliation becomes one of the most important things we could be talking about and will continue to talk about.
The need for personal/organizational/cultural reconciliation is deep.
And in the midst of the need, it is easy to put on the mask of being ok with everyone.
Out of all the masks we’ve talked about or could talk about, this one might be the one that’s hardest to remove or not wear.
For myself, this mask has been one that has been easiest to put on because the risk of taking it off sometimes feels too great. Keeping this mask in the long term is only going to keep me from being able to breathe well. To keep it on forever would kill me.
Maybe you’re hearing these things and realizing that you don’t have a definition for yourself for what estrangement is.
The dictionary definition of estrangement is no longer being on friendly terms or part of a social group.
But what is it truly? What about estrangement in your life? Your relationships? Your own story?
Think about a personal experience you’ve had with estrangement.
If you’re like Zach, it’s easy to wash over estrangement and maybe not even realize that we’ve done it. Fear, pain, anger, etc., whatever the reason is. In what ways do you just try to get past estrangement instead of interacting with it?
What does it look like to wear the mask of reconciliation when estrangement is actually still in place?
It looks like:
Pretending that something didn’t happen.
Sweeping the past under the rug and not talking about it.
Pretending you’re okay with someone when in reality, you’re not.
Gossip against people you’re not liking, or you feel hurt by.
Why do we do this?
We are afraid. Maybe we’ve been hurt by someone, and we want to protect ourselves. As we have found with the other masks (and this one is no different), they’re often founded in fear. Fear is very powerful. But why do we let it dictate our lives? Why do we let fear drive and get us to the point that we feel like we can’t be real about what’s going on inside of us and instead resign to wearing these masks?
I just got done watching a show on Netflix called Alone. It’s like a better version of survivor. Ten people get dropped into the wilderness with very few tools, and whoever survives the longest wins. What’s wild was to see some people who went into the challenge overweight make their way through and lose so much weight that their body started to consume muscle mass. They could choose to ignore it, but it wouldn’t change the reality that their body was slowly dying.
We can choose to ignore the pain of specific estrangements, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist. It’s still there. It’s even affecting life and will still bring about some level of pain moving forward, primarily if not dealt with. Yet, it can be easy to want to still avoid or hide.
What are the ways that people hide their personal estrangements from themselves and others?
Here’s some of Ty’s story.
My parents divorced when he was three, and my dad ended up with full custody of me. This meant every other weekend visiting my mom, and that was fine until I was 14. My dad had an opportunity in another state, which meant moving. I remember so. It was the night before my 14th birthday my mom called me to let me know that she’s finally figured it out.
She talked with her boyfriend at the time and let me know that I can come live with them in Bagdad, Arizona, which is a tiny mining town just north of Nothing. That may sound like a joke. But there is a ghost town that had the name Nothing south of Bagdad.
When I tell her that I can’t live with her, that I have to move with my dad, she tells me, “If you move to Missouri, then I am done with you.”For the next three years beyond holiday E-cards and the rare phone call, I had basically no contact with my mom by her choice. The court orders made my mom responsible for paying for a plane ticket for me to live with her during the summers, and my dad had to buy the return ticket.
My mom never made it happen. The next time I saw my mom in person was when I was 18 at a truck stop in Kingdom City, Missouri.
Since then, my mom has made significant efforts to reconcile with me. And while this has happened, there is still so much complexity in our relationship.
The humanness of the situation is I struggle to want to have a relationship with my mom when her old personality traits surface. Sometimes a text or even a phone call feels like too much. However, I believe in the importance of seeing the relationship reconciled in some ways. I believe that God has a huge premium placed on reconciliation. We are talking through the way the Bible discusses this truth today.
If my story were a parable Jesus told, his punchline would have been something like, “There is a day coming soon in which the dead will be reunited with the living again.” Which, of course, would go over the heads of the crowd gathered around Jesus.
If your personal story of estrangement was a parable, what would it teach people?
Estrangement (and reconciliation) both come with a cost. Take a look at the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18 or the prodigal son in Luke 15. Both of these stories center on relationships between people and the associated costs of those.
What are the costs of having right relationship with someone?
What do we need to focus one? Just fixing relationships that are broken? No, that’s like arriving at the party after it is over or showing up to your kid’s piano recital after everyone has already gone home.
What if we focused on the pursuit of right relationship?
There are countless things that can break relationships.
Not dealing with pain, failure, or disappointment. Not wanting to face the uncomfortable.
Not being gracious or accepting grace. Lack of communication, expectations, time, or energy. We could all go on and on building this list.
But what if we focused on the pursuit of right relationship?
Jesus gave this command to his disciples before his death.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
Let this conversation encourage you toward the step you can take today to remove the mask that maybe you’ve been wearing for a long time. Look inside yourself at your internal reality, and don’t just let this be something you do because “we said so.”
When it comes to focusing on building healthy relationships, what do you need to process?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read John 13:31-38
Who has been someone in your life that when he or she tells you to do something, you do it without question? Is this an unusual relationship for you? Why do you listen to them (differently)?
How have Christians historically responded to Jesus’ words in verses 34-35? (successes and failures)
How have you responded to Jesus' words in verses 34-35? (successes and failures)
What do you need to focus on in order to love more like Jesus?
Bible Reading Plan
1 Thessalonians 1
1 Thessalonians 2