I had a dream last night. It was so explicit that I felt, as I have at other times, the dream was given to me for a reason. Perhaps it is for you.
“Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren’t.” ~Rick Warren
Everyone wears masks. Some masks are as simple as answering a no-nonsense “Fine” to the question of “How are you?” instead of giving the long and drawn out honest answer of discouragement and brokenheartedness. Some masks are more complex and worn as a means of self-protection. This was the case in my dream.
She touches up her curls and puts on her mascara. She smiles in the mirror for a final inspection. It will do, she is ready. So is he.
They walk in together, smiling across the foyer to welcoming faces while also being purposeful to stay just far away enough to avoid direct conversation with much of anyone. Too much familiarity puts them at risk of questions they don’t want to answer; and answers most people don’t really want to hear.
There are only a few, a very few, people at this church who know the truth about them. They had expected complete rejection, just like they had experienced at countless churches before this one. But to their surprise, they found understanding and acceptance from people who looked beyond their “differences” and who saw them. Seeking. Hurt. Hungry. And they were welcomed just as they were, just where they were in their journey of learning more about Jesus.
“We all have sin in our lives”, they were told. “My sin might look different than yours, but it doesn’t make it any better or yours any worse. We all fall short – which is exactly why Jesus went to the Cross. To pay the sin debt for all mankind once and for all. If Jesus can be patient with me in my state, who am I to judge you about yours.”
I think it grieves the heart of God when we rank some sins as being worse than others. And let’s face it, we have a very ugly habit of doing so – especially within the walls of the Church. It should not be.
Sadly, I’m old enough to have seen many “messy Christians” (those who didn’t look like or act like they were supposed to) being made to feel so unwelcomed in church that in short order they simply stopped coming altogether. And why? Because they wore jeans or shorts on a Sunday morning? Or they had blue hair? Or they were suspected as gay? Or her belly button showed? Or he had a mouth full of rotten teeth and his breath smelled?
The sin of stealing a few manila folders from the office supply cabinet ranks way below the sin of embezzlement – but both are thievery. Gluttony vs drug addiction. Venomous words vs physical abuse. Somehow, it all too often ends up that the sins that you and I struggle with fall to the lesser end of the ranking system (downgraded with words like “issues” or “struggles”) while someone else’s sins (that are not a temptation to us and therefore with whom we can’t relate) are ranked higher and are undoubtedly more offensive to God.
“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)
As I lay in my bed processing, I felt the Lord invite me to look intently at the woman and the man in my dream. From other details of the dream, I knew the secret they worked so hard to keep concealed from general knowledge.
But I didn’t feel like that was what God wanted me to see. He was asking me to look at each person individually. To see beyond their sin-struggle, and to see the person.
“Who are they?” He asked me.
We all wear masks. I get it. I wear them too.
But God sees each of us from behind the masks we wear. He knows us individually, completely, and His blood was shed just as much for the murderer as for the occasional pencil thief.
“Look closer,” He said. “Who are they?”
A son. A daughter. A creation.
His son. His daughter. His creation.
When I started blogging in 2014, I painted a word-picture for the post “WHO AM I”. I think it is fitting for this post as well, (Besides, I ruined my work in process and so I must now start it all over again) because this is at the heart of what I felt God was pointing me to see or observe about these two people in my dream. Their IDENTITY is not based on the type of sin they struggle with. Their IDENTITY is that of a son or daughter. And if they have reached the point of accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, their IDENTITY is that of His son or His daughter.
When we accept Jesus as Savior, all our issues don’t magically go away overnight. We all know that! But we have so much more tolerance for some kinds of messiness than other kinds. But if the Father can be lovingly patient with me as I continue to work through my food-issues, and temper-issues, and jealousy-issues … can He not be equally as lovingly patient with someone else as they work through their issues – no matter what those issues are?
“Where is the HOPE for them?” He asked. “If not from you, then from who?”
I realize some might read this post and think I’m being “soft on sin”. I am not. I just don’t see it as my job assignment to be the measurer (is that even a word?) of which sin is worse than another. My Bible says that ALL have fallen short of God’s standards for holiness (Romans 3:23). I believe God is well able to do the work Himself of convicting and developing and maturing us individually, so that we can focus on the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and in need of a Savior.
“Beloved, when you correctly understand your identity in Christ, who you are – and what is yours (the power, the authority, the dignity, the calling) as children of the Living God – it will change the way you think about yourself. And that “right standing” will change the choices you make on a daily basis, and will ultimately change the course of your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.”
Pretty deep thoughts for a Monday, I know. If this touched your heart in some way, please leave a comment below. And for something a little lighter, follow the link to the first of a 2-series post entitled “Who Am I”. I hope it will encourage you.
I’m working on a new piece … to reflect Miss Hope’s arrival landside. Come back next week (ish) to watch the word-picture emerge.
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.