Masks of Men

How often do you slow down to evaluate why you do the things you do? I imagine all of you highly introspective people know exactly what I’m talking about. I tend toward introspection myself… much to my chagrin. It just seems to muddy the waters for me, however I do find it to be important to consider the motivations behind my actions from time to time. To me, God makes it pretty clear that what we do doesn’t matter so much as why we do it. We can fool anyone since people can only see the outside, and I’m certain we try hard to fool ourselves sometimes, however God can’t be fooled. He makes it clear that He examines the hearts of men.

I bring this up because last week I was asked a very direct “why” that really stuck out and has stuck with me. I was touring through CrossFit Progression as an introduction to the gym with one of the coaches. After the tour, we sat down in an office and after some chit-chat and the expected informational spiel, I was asked some questions. For the briefest moment, it was like I felt my pulse rise slightly because I felt like I was being interviewed. He asked me, “Why do you want to do this?” CrossFit is an intense training program, so it was completely a fair question… but it caught me off guard. Why do I want to do this? Ummm… I want to get in shape again… I have dreams of competing… I want to be in a community of people who take their fitness seriously because I can’t do it on my own anymore…

Later the same day, I was jogging around Silver Lake still mulling over the same question. Lord, why did the question stand out to me so much? Why really do I want to do it? Is there a reason that You see that I can’t or don’t want to see?    

Let me back up for just a moment to indulge in a little more of my background with this: I love fitness. I was consistently in a number of different sports growing up, and then in college the dreaded “freshman fifteen,” or for me, more like the dreaded “sophomore/junior fifteen” hit. Ha. I say that like I had no choice in the matter. I guess a diet of mainly Taco Bell, Panhandler’s Pizza, Go Fast energy drinks, and semi-frequent Sour Patch Kids candy splurges to accompany Redbox movie nights will do that to a person. One day I noticed my clothes didn’t fit so well anymore. They squeezed and accented in all the wrong places. I took a closer, more critical look at my body and realized, this is out of control. I have got to change something. That would be when I found a kickboxing gym, and a whole new world of fitness opened up to me as well as a new passion I didn’t know I had. I should call it the art of fitness. Or perhaps “fitness engineering.” It really is a discipline and an art of building not an external house, but your own house – your body. I learned not only how to transform my own house, but to help others when I started instructing kickboxing.

So that’s all well and good, but life happens. I moved from Colorado to Minnesota the summer after I graduated, and it seems like life hasn’t quit happening since. Multiple moves, including crossing state lines again and back, more school, marriage, new job, and then the unexpected major surgery last year has culminated in about five years of gradual backsliding in the transformation I worked so hard for.

Okay, that said to illustrate why dealing with this question was strange to me, fast forward back to running around Silver Lake. I did it once, and I want to do it again. I love fitness, so why is this question hanging on me?   

I feel like God gently brought me around to noticing a need in me to be “macho,” to be cool, and to exude strength and independence. A way for me to physically say, “I can do it on my own,” for deep-rooted reasons that I am currently working through and won’t discuss here, partly because I don’t completely understand them myself.  Though in my mind, in the midst of all this, the faintest thought crossed: You don’t need to impress anyone. I’m already impressed with you. 

Later that night, I was reading in Galatians 2, verse 6 from the Passion Translation: “Even the most honored and esteemed among the brothers were not able to add anything to my message. Who they are before men makes no difference to me, for God is not impressed by the reputations of men.” As I read, I noted a superscript next to the word ‘reputations.’ Looking down at the bottom of the page, the translator noted, “or masks.” This popped out to me. The word reputations can be replaced with the word masks. Interesting. That gives this a whole different layer of meaning.

Masks are an external presentation to cover what is beneath.  They are a way to hide, to protect, or portray an appearance that is unlike the face being covered. Reputations totally become a mask if what is underneath doesn’t match the outward appearance. Such a simple and yet profound metaphor.

Paul said that even the most esteemed of men were unable to add anything extra to his message, or rather, God’s message, the gospel. I tend to look at things through a perspective of identity, and when I read that verse, I can almost read it as, “Nothing can be added or taken away from the simple message of the gospel. Similarly, nothing can be added or taken away from who God already made you to be. Lofty reputations we have or masks we wear to appear differently make no difference to God because He knows who you really are. He sees underneath.”

God is incredible, and therefore we are incredible because we are made in His image. When we cover ourselves with a mask, or a fig leaf, or a veil that Jesus gave everything to rend, we distort who we are. If God shows you that you’re wearing a mask, take it off. If what’s underneath is ugly, it won’t change by covering it up. Only He can do that.

“We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil, we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

With all this, I’m not saying we should be second-guessing ourselves on everything. God will reveal when our insides don’t match our outsides in order to enable us do things for the right reasons and to work through why we have wrong ones.

So do you. God is already impressed.
 
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