So with a painted grin, I play the part again,
So everyone will see me the way that I see them…
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.
~ Casting Crowns, Stained Glass Masquerade
Every hair is in place. Will anyone notice the color has faded?
The top and skirt look great together. Will anyone notice I’ve gained a few pounds?
We walk into church hand-in-hand. Will anyone know we had a fight on the way here?
My Bible is tucked neatly under my arm. Will anyone know I haven’t opened it since last Sunday?
It’s Sunday, and I look great on the outside, but what’s going on on the inside?
And I’ve been around church long enough to know that it’s not just me. Often those who look the most pulled together are the ones who are struggling the hardest to keep it all together.
The church is full of people living out a stained glass masquerade.
The woman whose husband just admitted to an affair. The man who hasn’t spoken to his parents in years. The teens who are contemplating going too far physically or with substances. We all look good on the outside, but we are dying on the inside.
And in the community of believers, where we should feel accepted and loved and valued the most, we put up barriers so no one knows what’s really going on.
Could the root of our going through the motions as plastic people with with smiles painted on our faces and walls to hide our pain be that we don’t truly trust God?
Because if we truly trusted God, we would know that we are forgiven and free from that which so easily entangles. We are free to worship him in our brokenness and in our pain. We are free to dump all of our garbage at His feet, and He will clean us up and set us back on the path again.
And if we can’t trust God to understand and heal our brokenness and pain, how can we trust the flesh-and-blood person sitting near us in the pew to understand where we’ve come from and help us get to where God wants us to be?
In his book The Safest Place on Earth, Larry Crabb identifies and relates to those of us who feel a longing to relate with at least one other person who will feel our brokenness and not condemn us for our failures, who will love us unconditionally and even encourage us to bring our brokenness to be healed.
It’s terrifying to do so (to be honest about our brokenness). It seems so weak, so unnecessary, so morbid and self-criticizing. Worse, in many eyes, to admit brokenness means to admit a poor relationship with God. We often hear that brokenness is the pathway to a deeper relationship with God, but we rarely see it modeled. I sometimes think we want others to believe that we know God by demonstrating how unbroken we are. (pp. 32, 33)
How does the church model a deeper relationship with God through brokenneess? A better question is, perhaps, how should the church model a deeper relationship with God through brokenneess?
The community of God’s people is to be that rock in stormy seas, an island of peace in a world of pain. It is to be the community of the broken: humble people who commune with God and depend on Him for everything good; repentant people who love holiness more than sin; passionate people who honor and search for and embrace their deepest desires because they know their desire is for God.
In the middle of the wild ocean of shattered dreams and broken lives, the community of Christ celebrates God’s forgiveness; they believe in what each other could become, they never minimize sin but they love to maximize grace. They are carriers of Christ to each other. That’s what spiritual friends do when they act together to journey to God. (p. 178)
The only way to break through the stained glass masks of others may be to break through our own stained glass mask first by presenting ourselves to God in true brokenness.
If our masks are off – and we are reflecting God’s glory instead of covering our own shame and guilt – others will be free to remove their masks as well.
Reach out to those in need. Look past the masks, the painted on smiles, and the walls. Look into the eyes of the men, women, and teens you meet on Sunday morning. Ask God to reveal to you who is living life on stormy seas and wild oceans. Open your arms to the broken and your life will be mended as well.
Yours for the celebration of life,
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love. (Colossians 2:2)