We so often live with two competing desires:
- To be known and loved for who we really are, and
- To hide certain things about ourselves.
We want to hide. Sometimes it’s shame. “What if they knew ….” Sometimes it’s weakness and brokenness. Sometimes it’s some thought or feeling of ours we’re afraid will hurt or disappoint someone we love. On the other hand, sometimes it’s something precious to us that we’re afraid someone will trample on.
So we filter and self-censor. We wear a bit of a mask. This is especially so in our “online life.” And that’s not always wrong. Sure, we can (and do) easily err in the direction of not revealing ourselves, but still, not everyone has a right to know everything, and not everyone can be trusted.
And yet we also deeply desire to be fully known, and loved and accepted anyway. It’s one of our deepest longings. To not wear any masks.
What’s striking is how tempting it is to wear a mask with God. Intellectually we know that’s silly. God knows absolutely everything about us. But still, we feel like we should try to impress Him most of all, and to hide anything we’re ashamed of, and certainly not to let Him know if we have doubts that He’s there or that He cares or if we’re angry with Him or hurt by something. We might even avoid praying just because of this, because we don’t feel we’ll earn His love, or because we’re afraid He’ll know how we’re really feeling and reject us.
It’s true we can’t earn God’s love. His love is a gift, and everything lovable about us was already His gift. We can only give back what He already gave us. We also can’t really hide from Him. He knows every deep, dark secret, everything we think about Him, everything we are. He knows it better than we do. And still He delights in giving us His mercy, as I heard in a homily today.
We can trick ourselves, or allow ourselves to be tricked, into running away from the one place in this life that we can truly be ourselves without any masks and still be truly loved: God’s presence. As one of my favorite spiritual writers says, we have a certain right to begin where we are, and while God may love us enough to help us change, we can know with total confidence that if we turn to Him sincerely, He will love us right now, no matter our shame or weakness or brokenness or fear. We just have to let Him love us.