“Hi, Happy New Year! Did you have a good Christmas? How are ya doing? How’s everything going?” We often don’t wait for or expect any answer other than a brief smile and the appropriate, “Fine…Fine, how about you?” These are the niceties exchanged at school,at the water cooler at work or as we slip into a pew at church. Life is busy and we don’t often stop to really see people and what is going on behind their “Happy Face” mask- at the heart level.
Life can be brutal and Masks are worn by many on a daily basis because their reality is too raw to expose to the elements. It is the illusory face keeping the lid on their lives or emotions. Such protection is often chemically held in place with copious amounts of food, prescribed or illicit drugs, alcohol or caffeine or various combinations thereof. Toxic recipes are faithfully relied upon to maintain function and operate amongst us. It has become a teetering balance to hopefully cope with the reality of the moment. The happy mask of lies, excuses, omission or denial is intended to keep all the wheels from spinning off of their ” normal” wagon in a work-a-day world.
At some moment in our lives we have all probaby worn such a happy-face mask. Sometimes they are firmly in place for a day or a week to squeak us through a bad patch and for others they are never removed. Perhaps some long ago trauma precipitated a domino effect of skittering circumstances never allowing you to regain your emotional footing. Maybe you can’t even remember what happened to you or what “normal” looks like. Happy Masks keep up appearances to the world, family and friends obscuring the real deal. In some weird way, mask wearers believe their particular struggle: be it loneliness, PTSD, addiction, unworthiness, abuse, grief, poverty or excruciating pain has to be a solitary, shameful burden to bear and no one can understand or help you up and out.
Society has subtly implied that people don’t really want to know the details or the dirt so we learn to “walk it off”, “man up”, and sweep the baggage under the rug. Personal weakness, large or small, is perceived as our scab to pick and no one else can possibly empathize with our particular brand of fearful idolatry. It is enlightening, I believe, that no matter what we SAY- it is what we spend the most time dwelling on and thinking about which defines what we truly worship.
Isolation and silence is the devil’s favorite way of nudging us to the edge of the herd. We have all seen those documentaries showing the wounded wildebeest or caribou. It is the limping, straggling weak-links, alone at the outskirts of our vision that become the easy “fast-food” for the demonic metaphor of a ravenous wolf pack.
Making mask wearers feel unworthy or forever shamed is a horrible lie Satan uses to keep folks isolated. The Bible tells us that we need to be part of the Godly flock, protected by the shepherd. We need to attuned, obedient to his loving voice. Our variant purposes and specialized gifts all work together to make one functioning body. We are not designed to be alone. Our shepherd will leave the big flock specifically to gather up the lost, hopeless lambs snared in the thorns of this life, those limping wounded stragglers snatching them from jaws of the beasts sent to rip them apart. That’s love my friend! That’s forgiveness! Satan lies. He whispers that we can never go back again, No one will love us, we have self inflicted damage and deserve to be sick, or that our bridges are burned and we may as well die and get it done. Lying and deception is the hard substance of the chains intended to ruin our lives. Satan wants us in lonely despair and darkness. Isn’t hopelessness always cited as the primary cause of suicide?
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover: Those that appear to have their ducks in a row are often the ones struggling the most. Sometimes our loved ones intend to shield us from any hint of hurt and worry by keeping their frailty or foibles to themselves. Years have been spent building impenetrable walls, which in the end don’t protect anyone. The lie is that you are in control. That you, without the grace of God can fix what ever it is that’s broken in your world. It’s a sad lie but, that’s what Satan does. He lies and he convinces us that we should too! We believe the lie that we can spin the plates fast enough to keep anything from crashing.
The secret weapon, The nuclear bomb of TESTIMONY, is the best way to penetrate this Iron Curtain mask of deception. I don’t mean testimony in the sense of “How I became a Christian”. For some of us that can be ancient, pretty boring, history. Testimony, should be as easy as collecting pretty rocks on a Colorado hike. When you shake those various stones of rememberance out of your backpack they serve double duty. Each rock is a faith-building example of God moving in your life, blessing you . These unique stones are, simultaneously,an audible-visual-tangible proof to others that you have really been down a particular path and they are invited to participate, victoriously, in this journey!
My testimony may have, unwittingly, tossed a lifeline to someone. In a non-threatening, ” Hey, guess what? “way that is not preachy, critical or argumentative, I turned on a floodlight of hope for someone by showing them my important,twinkling rock: that I was once sick, broken, scared or overwhelmed by life and this is what He did for me! If every single believer began to dedicate time of sharing of this sort of Testimony how quickly would revival and societal change burst out?
For those who hate confrontation: It is impossible to deny someone’s personal experience! It removes the discussion from the arena of the philosophical or debate of comparative religions or just a “buck up and keep going” pep-talk. Sharing your eye-witness account from your own perspective by-passes “churchy lingo” and just says ” Hey, guess what? This is what Jesus did for me, this is how he healed me! Hey guess what? Did you know that God still speaks audibly to people? Here is what the Holy Spirit said to me, this is where I once wallowed in shadows and now– BAM! I am over here in this new place- Joyful and sitting in the light!” The implication is, whether it is verbalized or not: He can and will do the same for you, too!
Why is this “technique” so powerful to people’s lives?
First, it is relatable. Everybody likes a good story, especially when it’s true! Everyone can relate to a truthful, personal story. For instance, I was driving through a snow storm last week, Mountain road conditions were bad, I was afraid and I couldn’t see. I prayed, used my authority in the Name of Jesus and commanded the snow to stop and it did… immediately! As if that weren’t cool enough, It only stopped in my lane! No fooling, It was still snowing heavily in the North bound lane! Now, you may or may not believe my personal testimony but I’ll bet you won’t forget it next time you are driving along in a blizzard!
Second, it’s totally duplicate-able. Anybody can share their story. You don’t have to memorize the Bible frontwards and backwards or have a Seminary degree under your belt to tell people what God did for you when you were sick or broke. You don’t have to be eloquent to tell someone that Jesus is still healing people today and then share with them your story. We won’t all have a Billy Graham-sized ministry but at the hairdressers, coffee shop or waiting for our plane to arrive we can talk to folks. Don’t make this hard.
The third point: Utilizing the power of testimony is actively, obediently stepping into Covenant agreement with our identity– who we are in the Messiah. It also follows the pattern that Jesus said he was following. His testimony told anyone who would listen that he was only doing and saying what he had seen the Father do and say! (John 12:46-50). We have been grafted into a family that is in the miracle business! (Romans 11:24, 1Peter 2:9) That is exciting and should be shouted from our rooftops!
Revelation 19:10 tells us that the Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy! Jesus is alive and operational. While he is an historic character he is also living and ACTING everyday by the same resurrection power that raised him from the dead until He returns. We need to stay excited about that! We have been adopted into this legacy- it is huge, thrilling news!
Be careful of making assumptions based on the persona someone projects publically: Beware, too, of the”envy” trap. Those that seem to have the perfect life, marriage, wells of creative talent, money or influence are often not at all what they seem. We just can’t tell by appearances. Happy faces can hide anxiety, despair or a lifestyle endlessly seeking satisfaction like the old Waylon Jennings song touting the pitfalls of Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places! How many, rich, beautiful, talented movie stars can you name who took their lives: unfulfilled by their worldly “success”?
Relevance is instantly realized when one person is helped by telling them -with authority gained by personal experience- that Jesus can put them back together after the floor has dropped out from under them, because he has done so for me: what is that worth? Where do those ripples end?
Find a flock!: A flock that not only preaches Jesus but truly believes in the essential power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most folks who have been wearing ” masks ” are going to need some restoration work and demonic deliverance to get free of all the muck they have allowed in their lives–yes, even Christians need deliverance! You need a group that believes and knows how to deal with these serious, scriptural matters. Furthermore, a community of such like-minded believers provides accountability. Fellowship is intended to provide strength and guidance in personal storms. The power of Testimony is that it builds us all up, increases our faith by revealing the power of God to those trapped in unconfessed sin or bondage. Our frontline stories assure others there is hope! God can super-glue your life back, better than new, if you will just ask him!
Somehow, Testimony was labeled old fashioned or just boastful pride. (Satan is delighted when we fall into that trap!) We may also think people today are too sophisticated, easily offended or too busy to hear about your journey. It is easier for most of us to believe that we could goof up our lives than it is to realize others may have fallen into the same spot! Neglecting personal, true life stories of how the Lord is working not only keeps people from hearing Truth, but diminishes the self-same, transformational pattern the early church used to turn the whole world upside down with the Good News of Jesus! We may like to think ourselves too cool to swallow this miracle working, Holy Spirit jibber-jabber or needful of all this Jesus stuff. Styles may change over time, but people and human needs never change . There is nothing new under the sun, folks!
Without Yeshuah, we are ALL a hot mess waiting to happen: shackled by sin and bound for hell! ( John 3:16-17) Satan’s plan is to keep you” masked” feeling hopeless and firmly focused on your situation. (John 10:10) Your “happy face” mask of strength and self-sufficiency is a pitiful joke. Lipstick on a pig may fool the public, but Jesus sees past the lipstick, every mask, and through all the chaos to your pain and your broken-heartedness. He is willing and waiting to destroy your ” Happy Face” mask, and replace it with freedom and real JOY!
Let 2016 be a new beginning for you and your family. Don’t try to analyze and understand it all…Just believe that He can do it! That’s His job– let him do it!