Masking and Unmasking
Thanks to a dear friend's handiwork, I'm sporting a stylish face mask as I get my groceries and essentials. This new fashion experience is part of the whole working out what safety looks like in 2020. Certainly my stylish new mask represents a huge improvement over the handkerchief/bank robber look I have been rocking for some time now. There's a big relief for everyone.
Masking to inhibit the spread of COVID 19 strikes me as ironic. While it is wise to cover my face during this pandemic, the event itself has uncovered many things. Under the weight of stress, confusion, and isolation, problems bubble up. Stay-at-home orders have unmasked struggles in relationships, families, and ourselves that our busy lives can often hide.
Here are a few to consider:
1. Our fear of death has been unmasked. We're not designed to live forever on this earthly plane, but modern medicine and the sophistication of new therapies have given us a false sense of security. COVID lurks in miniscule particulates, so we don't know where it is or when it will strike. The random, deadly nature of those strikes highlights a stark reality. We are all going to die--we share an exit strategy. What we do with this reality is the key. Does it spur us on to cherish the gift of eternal life with Christ and share the truth of the Gospel with others who do not know it? Can we, like Paul, say that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1: 21)?
Paul's not making a morbid, death-wish pronouncement in this passage. In fact, he goes on to say that he has plenty of ministry left to do and dying isn't really on his agenda. He has, however, done his homework and made peace with that fact that he must fully rely on Christ. That work allows him to trust God's sovereignty. When I am tempted to get caught up in an anxiety cycle, I can reflect on Paul's words. Do I truly believe God's in control? Do my actions reflect that? If and when things open up again, can I walk in a balance of faith and wisdom?
2. Our sinful strongholds have been unmasked. Deep heart attitudes and the frustrations that communicate them are rising to the surface. Strong desires for control, anger and despair over unmet expectations, self-absorption and egocentricity are just a few of the nasties floating around with those COVID 19 molecules. By way of contrast, Luke 10:27 records Jesus' clear, prescriptive methodology for mental and spiritual health; "You shall love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The order is vital and it applies today too--God's glory should be first foremost in our daily thinking, and loving and serving others comes next. Do my actions in daily stay at home reflect that? Am I spending time feeling sorry for myself, drowning in my own vat of self-pity? Am I just thinking about me and my fears and frustrations again? Can I redeem this time by finding creative ways to love and care for others?
3. Our idols have been unmasked. Where do we turn for strength and comfort in this odd season? Are we contemplating how the truth of Romans 8: 28 ("for we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose") might be working out in this struggle? Are we asking God what He might be doing here, and to give us eyes to see ? Or are we drowning our sorrows in Netflix and chocolate Moose Tracks ice cream? The issue is focus. Like Peter walking on the water, we have to keep our eyes on Christ to wisely navigate through stormy waters. It is easy to go somewhere else with our time and emotions--to gossip, to gaming, to endless social media. When I'm afraid or upset, do I go to God first? Or do I turn to other escapes to deal with my troubling emotions? No idol can do what God can do. The peace that passes understanding comes from Christ alone.
I'm thankful for the mask that protects me as I go out in a daunting world, but I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! The Gospel is strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow. Unmasking that blessed assurance helps our faith grow stronger in every season. It may be one way God uses the blight of COVID 19 to draw us closer to Himself.