Oh, the masks we Christians wear! Most of us have a closet-full, and we all know how handy they are when our sandpaper relatives and friends rub us the wrong way. Too insecure to "speak the truth in love," we don those smiley faces and pretend irritating people don't grate on our nerves.
Unfortunately, we can't fool God. To Him, our masks are transparent. Psalms 94:11 tells us likewise: "The Lord knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile."
Representing the REAL us, our thoughts are the hidden video that God sees. Research shows we have ten thousand thoughts that bombard us daily. I don't know about you, but sometimes I don't think Christ-like thoughts; mine -- cynical ones that mock or criticize -- creep in and undermine my Christian faith.
I used to feel so spiritual when I controlled my anger and didn't yell at the guy who cut me off on the highway or when I'd tell only my husband the latest gossip instead of everyone in the teachers' lounge. And surely I was earning more jewels in my crown when I saw someone dirty and smelly and actually gave her a hug -- God had to give extra credit for that. Yes, indeedy, my Christian mask rescued my reputation on a multitude of occasions.
Embarrassingly, I still pull it off the shelf on occasion, especially in places that test my faith ... like the grocery store. Here's how it works: I am in a hurry because... I always am in a hurry. And being so competitive, I chart my course to choose the fastest line -- first counting the number of customers waiting in each, and then checking out how full their carts are. I have no earthly idea why I go to all this trouble, because I WILL NOT win this contest. I stand in line with some necessary item -- like Hagan Daaz ice cream -- while the person in front of me (deliberately placed there by God to test my Christian faith) intentionally has picked up the can of grapefruit juice with no bar code ... or deliberately left her purse in the car ... or selfishly stood in the express line with 13 items instead of 12 (I will count them -- I believe accountability is important). But because I live in a small town and many people know I do Christian speaking, I pull my mask out of my recycled bag, strap it on and go to work.
"Oh, why the grapefruit juice aisle isn't that far. You just go right ahead. I have nothing but time." No doubt she hustles off, wondering, "Gee, isn't that lady pious? I wish I could be just like her."
But what's really going through my head?
"YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! THE CANNED JUICE AISLE IS AT LEAST A MILE OR TWO AWAY! MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY A GROCERY LIST NEXT TIME!"
Of course I don't say that. Instead, I just smile as I watch all of my competitors, those in the other lanes, smoothly move through their check out lines and head for their cars as they defeat me in my grocery line competition.
Some of you might be thinking, "Isn't pretending better than ranting or smashing the cart into the offender's ankles?" Yes, of course it is. Expressing ourselves without giving in to our emotions not only makes us better companions, friends, neighbors and citizens, it is also pleasing to God. But what about those ugly thoughts? Don't they lessen us in God's eyes? Shouldn't we be ashamed to know that God sees us unmasked? Perhaps not.
Our thoughts reveal our Adamic nature while our actions reveal our values. Does God desire that our natures should be pure and without an unworthy thought? Certainly. But that is the dichotomy that is ever present in the Christian walk. We are not fully what we desire to be. That does not make us evil or broken or of lesser value to God. Rather, it is reminder of the unconditional love that God expresses toward his family. We may always want to have that mask handy when we are dealing with those in this world, but isn't it a wonderful thought to know that, when it comes to our relationship with God, who we really are is who He really loves.