Once upon a time, in a world I remember fondly and long to return to, the only people routinely wearing masks were surgeons, house painters and would-be robbers.
Whether by government order or personal caution, almost all of us now have—and are wearing—a mask. I have a cobbled collection of them, some made by friends or well-meaning strangers, others purchased.
I don’t like wearing any of them. I do it, in the few places I go these days where I encounter another living, breathing human, but I don’t like it.
I don’t like the feeling of re-breathing the same air I just exhaled, or fogging my own glasses with every breath, or not being able to smile at someone and see them smile back. I don’t like talking with a filter or sweating under my eyes or rubbing the skin behind my ears with thin elastic.
And here’s the one dislike I didn’t really expect: I don’t like not fully seeing someone else, or being fully seen.
Wearing my mask has made me realize I’m tired of hiding. Tired of not fully engaging the ones I’m with, when I’m with them. Tired of communicating through artifice. I’m weary of avoiding another’s eyes because I don’t want my own to give me up, or being afraid to say what I really mean or feel. I used to think I didn’t wear any masks at all. Now I see that I do.
Authorities tell us we wear our COVID masks not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I wear my invisible masks for my own protection. You can be sure that my mask of self-sufficiency is meant to disguise weakness…that my mask of wit is meant to deflect vulnerability…that my mask of indifference is disguising some pretty naked hope. I can only speak for myself of course, but I’m wondering if there might be things you routinely cover, too?
My collection of COVID masks will (God willing!) soon be retired for good. Maybe my invisible mask inventory will one day meet the same fate. I long for the day that fear doesn’t drive me to wear them anymore, and I am grateful for the One who sees me unfiltered, and by His own great unmasking, loves me as I am.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1: 13-14)
(c) Leigh McLeroy, 2020. Used by permission.