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  • Writer's pictureKristen Hepner

Taking Off the Mask

Time for some real confessions. When I was 30ish, I MAY have stated that I would let my hair go gray…um, I don’t. It’s not that I do not like women with gray hair, I think they are beautiful! There is wisdom and charm that graces them, and I really admire that their confidence allows them to go all natural. I just don’t, at least not yet. Maybe when I am 50.

My husband has always said that he prefers me all natural too. No makeup…Ha! Here’s the problem, if ever I get lazy and don’t swipe my lashes with some mascara, everyone in my community of people asks if I am OK. I think I look sick, or maybe just tired. But in all honesty, I really do prefer to wear makeup. Sorry babe, that all-natural look that you desire will have to be fulfilled at the gym. Otherwise, my “mask” is on my face. Most of the time.

         Wearing a mask of makeup or upgrading my hair may be trivial and fun to talk about as it is very relatable to most women. However, I am becoming more and more aware of a “mask” that we women wear that is suffocating our souls. I know because I wore one for a long time and have the tendency to pick it back up now and then.

         It started very innocently, when I was a girl, as with most coping mechanisms that seize our hearts and minds. A lot was going on around my little self that felt out of control, so in an effort to keep myself in control, I put on a mask. After all, it was my job to convince others, and even myself, that emotionally I was just fine. Over time, my mask became comfortable. I could switch it up depending on who was around me and to make it even better, people liked when I wore it. People pleaser tendency for the win…or should I say lose? Nevertheless, I brought it with me into my adolescent and teen years. The mask was like a chameleon and could blend into its surroundings. The best thing about it? It was cozy and protective. If I was to ever peek out, I became vulnerable, so I kept it on and honestly, over time, didn’t even know it was there.

         I met Jesus with my mask on.

It is interesting as I think about that right now.  One of the things I remember saying to the young woman at the alter that day of my salvation was, “I am willing to surrender my whole life to Him right now, but I am not sure if I will be tomorrow”. In that statement alone, I can see the struggle I was already beginning to have with that mask of mine. Thankfully, Jesus has never let me go and I have chosen Him every day since.

I can see now that His light was bright enough to get to the heart of ME under the mask. I say that because He radically changed my life. In every way. When I surrendered my life to Jesus, it changed the way I dressed and spoke. My life ambitions and the longing of my soul was fulfilled. Finding a rock to stand on by digging into His word gave me a firm foundation that has never faltered all these years.

However, I was never warned about the inclination to switch the mask. No one ever explained to me the importance of throwing it in the trash. So the mask went with me, it just altered in appearance. Unfortunately, wearing a “Christian mask” is still wearing a mask. And honestly, because it is not talked about enough, most women do.

And so did I, for years. Never to take it off. I stood before Jesus, my husband, and others with that mask on. Getting married, having kids, and moving overseas all had really big feelings, but I knew how to contain them with my mask on. It morphed into the image of Supermom and Wonder Woman. I could do it all, with a joyful heart, the Bible even said so. The more that I dove into God’s word, the more evidence I found to bulk up the power of this new “Christian mask”. And over time, my motives became wrong, my heart became squeezed, and resentment for TRYING to be someone God never intended for me to be led to a breaking point.

They say that when you break, there is beauty in the scars. I believe that now, but at the moment, as the mask was being peeled from a face that I didn't know or even recognize, the disorientation was intense. Stripping away things that bring us comfort is scary and courageous. I understood the scary part well, and the Jesus in me made me courageous.

         Jesus loved me enough to not leave me there. Without my consent, He sent people and situations…really hard situations into my life to show me that wearing a mask was not His plan. It was not good or profitable for anyone, especially me.

         He then walked with me through a dark season and taught me to lament. To cry out to Him, to not be OK, to question and struggle with His plan, and to fall deeper in love with Him and His heart. Allowing Jesus to chip off that mask revealed its true identity and I understood the mask to be a prison; a scary place that I still fight against at every turn.

         We are taught, as Christians, to model our entire lives after Jesus. We know the impossibility of doing this well, as we are all sinners, nevertheless, He is our example. He gave everything, including His life for us, and tore the veil, giving us access to God the Father and eternal life. This tearing created freedom for us to live authentic lives, void of any type of mask.

         Recently, the Lord brought me to 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The Lord wants us to go before Him unveiled, unmasked. To be real and genuine, to bare our hearts and souls, not as they should be, but as they are. It is then that He is able to transform us into His image. Not when we “pretend” or try hard, but when we stand vunerable and unmasked, before our Father. It is so fitting that the verse before says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

         While I have not decided to completely go gray and all-natural, I have DETERMINED to walk in the FREEDOM that Jesus offers. The freedom to be who He created me to be. When we put on those masks of what we think it looks like to walk with Jesus, to be a Supermom, to be the most excellent wife, to pretend that we are always “fine”… we are not walking in the Freedom that Jesus offers. However, when we go before Him with unveiled faces, and we think about His glory, we are transformed. His Word says so.

        

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