To Be or Not to Be

From Greece to the present day, actors and actresses have worn masks during performances to transition from one character to another. During Elizabethan days, one actor could portray various parts of a play simply by wearing a different mask on the stage.

While we don’t wear physical masks as we go through daily life, some of us nevertheless mask the feelings, thoughts, and even pain we are carrying around on the inside.

Recently, I was talking with a friend about a member of her family. Her family member is struggling with the consequences of a decision made years ago. From all outward appearances, the family member seems well adjusted and seems to have their life together. However, behind the appearance—behind the mask they are wearing—is a huge amount of pain and suffering few know about.

While my job as an editor and writer often requires me to share personal experiences, I tend to be more private about my personal life. No, I don’t hold a mask in front of my face. But, I am an expert at disguising what’s really happening inside.

Pulling back our masks can be troubling. Putting a stop to the hiding and masking of our emotions can be a difficult, almost impossible task for many of us. We find our world simply makes more sense when it is neatly tucked away and hidden from public view.

Each week in your children’s missions group, you serve alongside other missions leaders, some of whom are hiding behind a mask. It would be easy to judge them as distant, aloof, or even shy. However, what we sometimes forget is they may be hiding pain we know nothing of. They could be struggling with decisions that need to be made.

As you lead your children’s group, there will also be girls and boys who are struggling. When my daughter was 11 years old, she confessed to me, “Daddy, I’m weird,” as we drove home from church one night. I said to her, “Sweetheart, why do you say that?” She replied, “Well, I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m not a child anymore, and I’m not a teenager either. I’m just weird.”

The children under your care may be experiencing the same emotions. They may be transitioning from childhood into adolescence and find that the journey is a tough one. They may be dealing with abuse at home, whether emotional, physical, or even spiritual. The children under your care may be struggling to understand their place in God’s kingdom and don’t want others to know of their doubts or fears.

As we go through life, the easy thing to do is to judge the people we meet. “They are weird.” “They are different.” “They don’t seem to like me.” While some people are weird, I suppose, and some people are definitely different, the person you are judging may simply be going through one of life’s struggles, or worse yet, a struggle you can’t even imagine someone dealing with.

Take time to understand the people you meet, work with, and lead week after week. Love them through their weirdness. Listen to them as they talk. Pray for them to feel safe and comfortable around you. And, hopefully, given enough time, they’ll lower their masks and allow you to see the people God created them to be.


M. Steve Heartsill is a husband to Tonya, a father to Lauren and Evan, a grandfather to Monroe, and a tolerated human to his dog, Peanut.


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