I grew weary of faking that all was good and that I had it all together. It is not and I don’t. The temptation to fake “having it all together” is especially tempting at church.
The group Casting Crowns is a consistent favorite of mine. “Stained Glass Masquerade” addresses the very really problem of wearing a mask to hide your real self. This song speaks powerfully to the all too human desire to be phony at church so that the others (who are also acting phony) will not think less of us. To have an impact in this culture we have to be genuine, real, authentic. The decline in church attendance by under thirty year olds is, in large part, because that generation has a phony detector that is finely tuned to pick up the smallest deceit. They see the masks. They see the phoniness. And they look in other places for truth.
I am tired of the phoniness. I am tired of the masks we wear. Just reading the lyrics of today’s song will not give you the total power of this song but it will give you a taste.
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin’ so small
Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them
Why do we do that? Why can’t we trust others with us? We all tend to put up “appearances” that make us look better to a watching world. But we really don’t have it together. Sadly, there are few places that this performance dance is truer than in the church. All of us need to trust God and others with what is true about us. We need to drop the masks and let trusted others know that we need them. There is no shame in needing community to get through this journey. We all do. But most of us don’t do it.
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade
Jesus excoriated the “religious” hypocrites who were all about appearance and self-efforting righteousness.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” (Matthew 23, NLT)
The anger of Christ was not that the inside was filthy but that they refused to acknowledge that truth while putting on a self-righteous outside display of piety. Here is what I am figuring out. I can’t clean the inside alone. I need to trust others to help me shine light in dark areas.
For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5, NLT)
I need to allow the Holy Spirit into every room. I need a community to encourage and walk with me. I need other believers in my life.
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be
Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay
If we meditate on how much we were loved by Jesus when we were unlovable then the answer is simple. Of course His love is enough to make all of us stay.
Here is my reality. I don’t have it together. I am prone to go into hiddenness and shame. But I have Jesus. I have some really good friends who love me in spite of all of the junk that is true about me. And I have never been more alive and free as I live out my journey in grace.
The body of Christ (the church) must be real to work as it was designed. It is up to you and to me to drop the stained glass masquerades and have the courage to be real and trust God and others with us.
Carly Simon sang “We Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” in 1974. Thirty-eight-years later we haven’t got time for the pain of trying to be happy plastic people under shiny plastic steeples. I am committed to dropping the stained glass masquerades. Can you trust God and others with who you really are? Until you do it is just a sad and destructive masquerade.