Removing the Mask
He was a pastor. A gifted preacher and brilliant Bible school teacher, respected and loved by his church and his large family, particularly known and appreciated for his books and seminars on family relationships.
Then the unexpected happened.
In short, one day he left his wife and family, quit his ministry and moved to a far away country in order to start all over again, leaving his family, co-workers and church members behind in shock.
In a letter, he described his desperation, revealing that he had been depressed for a longer period, feeling like a failure and even planned to take his life.
For the last three years he had been trying to keep a mask and fulfill his duty as a pastor, trying to perform whatever was expected. But now he just couldn’t do it anymore.
The mask had to be removed.
Tragic and alarming! This story may seem exceptional, at least in its final, shocking consequences. However, wearing a mask isn’t that exceptional, not among people in general, neither among believers. In fact, it seems to be a behavior particularly found in certain church cultures, practiced by common people like you and me.
It’s not necessary to be a pastor in order to fall into that pit. Anyone can end up there.
So, what could make believers and Christian workers resort to wearing a mask? And why is it so common? What can we learn from this tragedy?
The reason seems to be fear. The fear of failing and being exposed and rejected, maybe due to a gap between a person’s abilities and the leadership position he was given and unable to fill. In order to compensate for the lack, he resorts to wearing a mask, pretending an ability or spirituality he does not possess.
We could call it hypocrisy, yet, let me add another aspect.
Could it also be due to the gap, which the people around him produced by expecting him to be someone else than he really is? This person may be totally honest, not pretending anything, nevertheless, people identify him with the role they want him to play according to their own concept, according to how they picture him in their imagination.
They may want to see him as the strong leader, the man of God, the apostle, the prophet or the performer of miracles, someone who makes things happen, things that satisfy their desire of affirmation and spiritual experiences.
This could be rapid church growth or anything supernatural, something that gives them a sense of God’s presence, anything that produces the desired spiritual kick they might be missing in their own private lives.
No matter, whether it is a projection of people’s desires or a compensation of their own failures, a tragedy like the one described should not only be seen as one person’s, but also the people’s responsibility, as the outcome of a church environment, a hype that people bought into and cultivated, leaders as well as the ones being lead.
So, what can we do? How can we get out of the trap?
To begin with, there must be an insight. We don’t need to be another spiritual super star or stage hero and there is no need for a success story. Instead, we can remind ourselves of God’s grace given once and for all times and more than enough for everyone of us. Let’s enjoy this grace and together walk the common daily walk of life in love, faith and hope, filled with gratitude.
Lifting any burden of guilt and shame from each other and together enjoy our lives in God’s redemption.
Removing our masks - becoming vulnerable.
It’s not a shame, but a first step into the freedom of an authentic life.
Thank you for this very important statement! I think you are right in describing this tragic story. It is not just one person that failed and went wrong. The responsibility must be shared with the leaders. It is so important to say this!
Wearing a Mask seems to be The Way of life for most Christians! If someone gets real in a prayer group for example, and tells their problem or mention they are in a crisis, the rest in the group become deathly quiet or someone makes an insane move by saying, “Oh she or he must be extra tired. Otherwise they are such wonderful people. We can pray for them.” This shuts down the person who is desperately trying to reach out for help and what God wants to do for that person in the midst of the Body of Christ before it becomes a total tragedy!