There has been a series of conversations at our house about what costume our 9-year-old son will be wearing on Halloween. He has decided that his costume will be made from a cardboard box (he feels that it is tradition: in past years, he has been a Lego®, a birdhouse, a television, and a clock). Beyond that, the options are incalculable: he could go out into the neighborhood disguised as a board game, a rocket ship, a refrigerator or a hundred other ‘boxy’ things. For one night a year, my son will get the opportunity to pretend that he is someone or something else.
When he gets older, he will get the opportunity to pretend that he is someone or something else all the time. Lord willing, he will learn how to fashion and wear a mask to disguise his true self in the business world, the social spaces and marketplace. We all, as we mature, put on masks to protect our frail vulnerabilities and preserve our fragile sensitivities. We all learn that there are things about us that we choose to keep to ourselves: we temper our opinions, our preferences and our accomplishments to avoid being rejected by those around us. We all wear masks and pretend that we belong.
Except, we cannot wear the masks all the time. They chafe upon us and distort our vision. They prevent us from expressing our emotions and enjoying nourishment. So, we take them off and show ourselves to those we love and to those who love us. In those moments we find comfort and strength in being know as we truly are.
Beside all this, there is one who knows us, whether we don our masks or not; the one who created us knows us completely. We cannot hide our thoughts from Him. We cannot keep our opinions from Him. We cannot shield our motives from His eyes. It serves no purpose to wear a disguise in His presence, as He see through our cardboard boxes and knows who we are. There is a word in the New Testament that describes our attempts at pretending we are someone or something else, a word which literally means ‘a play actor’: hypocrite. It is this word that Jesus uses to describe those who perform a role in public places to protect themselves:
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. … And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. … When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.” Matthew 6:2, 5, 16
One night a year is sufficient time to wear a costume and pretend that you are a superhero or a celebrity or a washing machine. Perhaps you will need a disguise at the next corporate outing or family reunion. You need not wear these things just to make people like you. You need to know that the One who made you knows what is behind your mask, and loves you just as you are.
A few days ago I received the following text messages (all at 9:48am) from one of my children:
“can you buy me (a particular band’s concert) tickets at (a particular website) at 10 please”
“I will die”
What strikes me about this ‘conversation’ is my child’s overwhelming dread over an unsatisfied need. It was as if my phone was telling me that if I was unable to procure these ducats my child will cease to exist. As it turned out, I was, in fact, unable to procure these ducats and my child did NOT cease to exist. Can you imagine, though, my child’s emotional state in that moment, feverishly spelling out her dire need?
If you are anything like me, I am sure you can relate to my child’s plight because we, too, have been filled with dread over the possibility that a dire need (like concert tickets on a school night) might remain unsatisfied. I ‘need’ things all the time and I regularly text my father, I mean pray to my heavenly Father, to meet those needs: I need more money, more time, more people at church, more patience, more wisdom, more things. Sometimes I even think that something awful will happen if I cannot get what I ask.
“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” Matthew 6:30
The above verse is taken from a larger lesson Jesus gave as part of his Sermon on the Mount. He is teaching his followers about the futility of worry and the working of faith. He has already asked, rhetorically, if anyone has been able to add to his lifespan even an hour through worry. He has said that God meets all the needs of things as insignificant as birds and grasses and then asked the question quoted above. He calls them – and could also call me – ‘you of little faith’. When we fret over what we have yet to get we show ourselves to have a faith deficiency.
The solution to our ‘little faith’ existence begins with God. He is sovereign (meaning He rules over all things) and exercises His sovereignty to express, among many other wonderful attributes, His providence (a fancy word of Latin derivation meaning foresight). In other words God has control and power over all of creation and utilizes everything to provide everything He knows, from the beginning of all time, we will need. Since this is true, if we haven’t got it today, it is because God knows we have no need of it today. God will provide when we truly need it.
A few words after he chides his followers for having ‘little faith’, Jesus reminds them that their heavenly Father knew what they needed. God knows what you and I need, too. He knows better than we do what we cannot live without. He knows and He has promised to provide those things, whatever they may be, to all those who seek His kingdom and His righteousness. So, even though we may think that we will die if we cannot get what we ‘need’, the truth is that the Author of Life will supply it when He knows we need it. I guess I need to stop worrying so much.