Many churches, including ours, are opening their doors again. Drive-in church, live-streaming videos, and Zoom meetings have kept folks as connected as possible throughout this quarantine. As our pastor explained the temporary procedures for our church gathering next week, one statement caught my attention: “If you choose to wear a mask, that is okay.”
Masks have become an everyday necessity in the lives of so many. Several places of business will not even allow patrons to enter unless they are wearing a mask. I fear that these physical masks, while very helpful, have created a problem no one could have predicted. We have gone into hiding.
As I walk through the grocery store, I see eyes, but no facial expressions. Sometimes it even takes me a few minutes to recognize the person behind the mask without being able to see their identifiable features. So often I speak and smile but get nothing in return. We have been hiding out so long behind our masks that simple social gestures have been neglected and the joy of a smile has been forgotten.
These masks are meant to keep out germs, not keep out life. The more we wear them, the “safer” we become as we maintain our distance through hiding. No one has to know we are lonely, sad, depressed, or angry. No one notices the half-hearted smile or full-on frown. We hide our emotions, concerns, fears, and desires. And it’s okay because we are wearing a mask to keep ourselves and others safe, right?
Don’t hear what I’m not saying: keep wearing your masks to the store or church if that is what you feel needs to happen. But as we emerge back into life and enter into relationships once again, make sure not to hide yourself behind a spiritual or emotional mask. We need each other. I, for one, have missed my tribe of people. Phone calls and texts are a good substitute, but that face to face contact of just being together does wonders for the soul.
If nothing else comes from this time of quarantine, I hope we leave with a greater desire to seek out and hold dear our friendships and relationships with one another. I hope that we don’t stay in a place of isolation, loneliness, or bitterness but instead, take off our figurative masks and reach out to others.
I hope this crazy season ends soon, but until it does, masks are part of everyday life. Just make sure to engage with the world around you and not neglect the ones who are your biggest support system and friends. Make sure people know you care, even if they never see your smile.” Let your light so shine before men.” Come out of hiding. Take off that figurative mask. Let’s do life together.