The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

Save the costumes for Halloween

The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was in fourth grade. I think it was fourth grade. I dressed up as a clown, complete with the rainbow colored wig and big poofy pants and even the false nose. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly. There’s something fun—maybe even liberating—about dressing up and pretending to be somebody else.

Too much after that age, though, I think trick-or-treating is usually frowned upon. You get weird looks if you show up on somebody’s doorstep in a costume with a plastic bucket begging for candy.

Grown-ups don’t put on masks and costumes. At least, that’s the general supposition by the adult world. And I find that entirely ironic, because adults are better at wearing masks and costumes than any other demographic in the world.

The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I’m not sure where the desire to dress up as someone else comes from, but there’s something fun about it. Wearing clothes you wouldn’t normally wear. Acting in a way you wouldn’t normally act. I mean, give me a Jedi robe, and all of a sudden I want to get in a laser sword fight with somebody. That’s not a normal inclination for me to feel.

But practically speaking, outside of Halloween or fall festivals or whatever you want to call it, a lot more people get up in the mornings and put on costumes than you think. Most of them are adults, and they do it every day.

They wear clothes they don’t like to impress people. They paint their face up to present an image that doesn’t really exist. They force themselves to act in a way that’s inconsistent with their values or their personality. They’re playing a part.

Know anyone like that? Or maybe you’re that person.

Maybe it started out fun. You got to pretend that you were someone the world calls important. You got to become what the world calls successful or beautiful or accomplished. And that’s a good feeling for a little while. But even the most fun costume becomes a chore after you wear it for a long time. And what started out as being liberating turned into chains around your ankles.

Granted, just because you wear clothes you don’t enjoy doesn’t automatically mean that you’re wearing a mask or that you’re covering anything up. But the people I know who have to dive in to a hugely competitive job market or a truly aggressive corporate environment have to put on a face that isn’t their own. Otherwise, they’ll never succeed.

But if you spend too long wearing a mask, covering up who you really are, you run the risk of convincing yourself that you are that person.

So often we are dissatisfied with the way we look or our lack of talent in a particular area, and we do everything in our power to change it. And that’s not necessarily wrong. We should always try to improve ourselves. But when that desire to change comes from an internal motivation that we aren’t good enough the way we were made, that’s different.

I’m a firm believer that people need to be who they were created to be. We don’t need to change ourselves. We don’t need to pretend to be someone else. We don’t need to exchange our gifts for someone else’s. God made us exactly the way He wants us, and if we try to change that, we’re telling Him that He doesn’t know what He’s doing.

So what if you’re short? So what if you’re tall? Too skinny, too round, too light, too heavy, too this, too that. So what if you have a big nose or a double chin? So what if your shoes can double as tugboats?

Know what? God made you. Yes, you have a responsibility to be healthy. Yes, you have a responsibility to live the way God has said is right, which means being true to God’s Word. But none of that means you need to put on a mask in order for others to accept you. Your real friends and the people who matter will accept you for the person you are.

So just be you. And save your costumes for Halloween.

Egyptian statue's head at the British Museum, London, England, UK

Do the license plates match the driver?

I did something yesterday that I’ve never done before. I rented a car and drove to Colorado Springs. When I woke up yesterday morning, I hadn’t planned to do it. When I posted yesterday’s blog, I didn’t realize I’d be writing today’s blog at the St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs.

But my life is just kind of funny like that.

To make a very long story short, my parents were vacationing in Colorado and my mom ended up having a problem with one of her fingers. Basically, she had to go in for emergency surgery. And I waited around home as long as I could, but when things started getting (more) complicated, I couldn’t stand it any longer. And I jumped.

One rented car. Most of my desk work from the office. An awesome boss who understands. Seriously…. the whole thing just ran really smoothly and I made it safely to Colorado Springs in about eight hours.

What was interesting to me, though, is that my rental car had Missouri plates. It was a little dark blue Nissan Altima. Really nice car. Did the job very well.

But as I was driving along the highway, another car pulled up beside me. A couple in the front seat looked at me and then drove on past, and I realized they had Missouri plates too. Maybe they knew someone with a dark blue Nissan Altima from Missouri? Maybe they thought they knew me? (or maybe they were just being weird)

Either way, they were obviously disappointed when they drove by and saw me inside. Not from Missouri. A Transplanted Texan who calls Kansas home.

They saw my rented car and expected to see someone they knew inside, but when they got a look at the inside, it wasn’t what they thought.

And I couldn’t help but think about how that relates to other aspects of life, especially in my study about attitude.

Egyptian statue's head at the British Museum, London, England, UK

Egyptian statue’s head at the British Museum, London, England, UK

Today’s verses are Matthew 23:25-26.

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

How many times do you meet someone who presents the image of a “Good Christian,” the consummate Christ-follower, the role model believer? I’ve known a lot of them. But once I really got to know them, once I peeled back the layers and the masks and peeked inside the car windows, I got to see them for who they really were. And I was disappointed.

No, nobody is perfect, and we shouldn’t expect people to be perfect. We shouldn’t judge people for not meeting expectations. We shouldn’t judge people at all because we don’t know their hearts or their situations. But if you encounter a “good Christian” it’s normal to assume that their character will match their appearance. And that’s not always the case.

Those types of Christians have done more damage to the faith than anyone else. I’ve run into so many people who have chosen not to follow God because they’ve met Christians who don’t act like Christians.

So I don’t want to be like that. Not ever. I want my inside self, my character, my thoughts, my everything to be genuine, to be real, and to be 100% sold out to Christ.

It’s difficult, though. When you’ve grown up in the church, when you’ve lived so much of your life around church people, it’s so easy to put on a face. It’s so easy to put the mask on and act like a super Christian. And I’m not talking about teaching. I’m not talking about sharing the Bible with people. I’m not talking about trying to live a life and make choices that honor God.

But what about if someone asks how you’re doing? What about if you’re struggling with your faith? What about if you’re struggling in general? It’s so much easier to put a mask on and pretend like everything is okay, but that’s not healthy. And it’s not helpful.

No, I’m not going to be perfect, but I can be honest about not being perfect. I’m going to make mistakes, absolutely, but I can take responsibility for them and try never to make them again.

That way, my plates will match the person driving. What shows up on the outside won’t identify me as something I’m not.

Masquerade

Does anyone know why Christians feel the need to maintain a facade of perfection when their lives are actually falling apart? I do this all the time. Even (and especially) if my life is crazy and feeling wildly out of control, I still keep my Good Little Christian Mask in place. And it’s the same when I sin. I sin just like everybody else, but I don’t like to talk about it. Because I don’t want people to think less of me.

Are those the same reasons every other Christian hides behind the mask of the Holier Than Thou? I don’t know. But it seems likely to me.

I don’t like people to know my weaknesses. I don’t like people to think that I’m a bad person. I don’t like people to know that I’m not perfect in every way. Of course, everyone knows all those things already, but there’s something in me that makes me want to put forth an image of perfection in spite of that. But it’s a lie.

So if every Christian is like this, wearing masks to cover up their failures and their flaws, what happens in a church? You end up with a bunch of people who are faking life. They’re fine. Their life is fine. Their family is fine. Everything is fine when it really isn’t. And I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that . . . until someone who knows they’re not fine walks through the doors.

That’s something that has always fascinated me. Christians have this concept that we’re supposed to be “fine” all the time just because we know Jesus. But people who don’t know Jesus already understand the fact that they’re screwed up . . . and they don’t have a problem with it. Most of the time, they try to be better. Christians cover it up.

So that’s why people who don’t believe in Christ feel like they don’t belong in church. They know that they’re not perfect, and hanging around a bunch of people who are pretending to be perfect is frustrating.

The verse this morning is James 5:16.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

We’re supposed to confess our sins to each other. Not to a priest for forgiveness. But to each other for accountability. It’s a lot harder to go back to your specific sin if someone is holding you to your word not to do it anymore.

Christians are people, and all people are flawed. It doesn’t matter what you believe, where you live, how you grew up or who you are; everyone sins. And trying to cover it up not only hurts you as a person, it alienates you from other people. Am I saying we should be proud of our sin? No. That’s kind of funny though. Taking pride in our sin. I know some people who do that, though, but I think those people just don’t understand how serious sin is.

How does covering up our sin help us? Just think about that. Jesus didn’t come to die for us so we can deny the fact that we’re sinners. He came to die for us to make a way for us to escape sin altogether. Covering up, denying the fact that we’re all imperfect, flawed failures, cheapens His sacrifice and it takes glory away from God.

When you get right down to it, denying your own sin is pride.

It’s so odd to me, personally. Because I have no trouble listening to other people confess their sins. I never think ill of them, and I always pray for people to help overcome whatever sin they struggle with. But when it comes to confessing my own sins to others? No. My pride takes over and I don’t want to admit to anyone that I struggle with the same things they do. I have this idea that I’m supposed to be better than everyone else and that everyone expects so much of me that I’m not free to admit any failure of any kind. And that’s wrong. Because I have failed. More times than I like to think about. And the beautiful part of my failure is that God has always been there to pick me up again. He’s never given up on me. Not once. And when I act like nothing’s wrong — when I act like I’m fine and everything is going perfectly in my life and in my relationship with Christ — I take all the credit for anything good in my life, and I don’t deserve it.

Masks are only appropriate in a place where you don’t want to show your face, where you don’t want to admit who you are or where you want to make people guess. People wear masks at masquerade balls with dresses covered in feathers and sequins and weird stuff like that. And while masquerades are fun to attend on special occasions, life was never meant to be like that. But that’s what we turn it into. We hide our faces — our real selves — from the world because we want people to like us, but all we accomplish is pushing the world away because we are hypocrites.

No one is perfect. Everyone has fallen short of the goal. It’s time we stop acting like we haven’t. And once we are free enough to let everyone in the world know that we have all failed, God will be able to show the world that He never has.