February 12, 2009

Still crazy after all these years

A few years ago I attended my high school’s 20th reunion. It was great to see some of the old crew, now much older than last time I saw most of them. But I noticed that I tried very hard to present an image of myself that would be seen in a positive way by those who didn't know any better. After that reunion, I wrote an article about my desire and the obvious desire of others to present ourselves in a more positive light than may have been the complete truth.

Hopefully I have matured a good bit since that reunion.

But then Facebook happened. And once again I found myself face-to-face (well, kind of) with people I haven’t seen for quite some time. Once again I find myself tempted to cast myself in a more positive light. I’m tempted to post profile photos from my college days. I'm tempted to list myself as a publications technician or simply as a graphic designer rather than as a designer/desktop publisher.

And so I am reminded of that article I wrote a few years ago. Perhaps rereading it will help me to get refocused. And I’ll share it with you as well. Perhaps it will help all of us.

Hiding Behind the Mask

by Richard D. Gelina

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, was traveling in London and decided to play a joke on a handful of his friends whom he expected to meet with during the London visit. The joke was simple, but effective. Doyle wrote a note to each of these friends. The note read simply:

All is found out.
Flee at once.

Doyle expected to have a good laugh with these 12 friends when he caught up with them later that month. But he never was able to enjoy his practical joke. Because of the note he had sent them, within seven days all 12 friends had fled from England.

Apparently, many people have things hidden from public view that they never want to get out. Apparently, many highly respected people have skeletons in their closet—skeletons they are so adamant about not facing that they would rather leave their country, possibly for good, than have to face people who know their secret. Apparently, I was not the only person who was afraid to attend the reunion because I thought my old friends would be able to see through the mask that I have so carefully crafted over the years to hide my true self from those around me.

Why do we try to hide from friends? Why are we afraid to simply be ourselves? Do we really believe that a lie is going to be better than the truth when we re-establish 20-year-old friendships?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and I'm not qualified to make an educated guess about anyone other than myself. But I suspect that most of the people at the reunion are a lot like me. We certainly had many things in common 20 years ago. Not that much could have changed over the past couple of decades.

For my part, I had grandiose dreams 20 years ago. I was certain I would be famous—probably as a musician. I was certain I would have had a strong impact on society and culture by the time I was 40 years old. I was certain I would be well-loved, well-known, and well-respected.

But here we are in the 21st century and very few of my dreams have come true. I'm not a famous musician. I'm not wealthy. I'm not well-known, in fact I'm probably less well-known now than I was in high school. I'm overweight. I drive a Mitsubishi instead of a Porsche. I live in a duplex instead of a mansion. I am facing unemployment.

Jeremiah 9:23–24

This is what the Lord says:“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.”

Looking at all the apparent failures in my life, I have crafted a mask that I hoped those who knew me 20 years ago would accept. They'd look at the mask and say, "Wow, Rich is a great guy—just like we always knew he was."

But the mask will never work. As we look at each other's masks, we don't truly connect with each other. After the initial rush of adrenaline caused by seeing people we haven't seen for years, we all go our separate ways once again because we haven't really connected. I've shown my mask to you and you've shown your mask to me, and we've each admired the other person's handiwork. But deep down inside we all know the masks are false through and through.

I would like to propose a theory about what causes us to think about ourselves this way and what causes us to be so false with each other.

I think we sometimes feel like failures and we present falsehood to each other because we are not seeing our lives and each other's lives through the lens of Jesus' love and forgiveness. We will never reach the greatness we conceive in our own minds as long as we are seeking to do it on our own and for our own glory.

This is what the Lord says:

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23–24

I look at my life again, but this time I look at it from God's point of view. Now I see a man who was chosen specially by God to be the recipient of his favor. I see a man who has been redeemed—washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. I see a man who stands before God completely blameless, having no shred of sinfulness because of what Jesus Christ did, and is doing, for me.

When I look at my life now, I see Almighty God determining my fate so that I am Jesus' brother; I see God calling me to himself; I see God justifying me and even glorifying me, a reality I will not know until I reach heaven (Rom 9: 29, 30). I see God doing all these incredible, fantastic things for me personally for only one reason. Because I deserve it? Far from it, otherwise I would never have needed to create the mask. God did all these things for me "to the praise of his glorious grace."

Praise God! I don't need a mask. I need only the blood of Christ, which was shed for me and applied to my account before the foundations of the world were laid.

What glorious love is this? Thank you Lord Jesus Christ.

I'm forever grateful to you
I'm forever grateful for the cross
I'm forever grateful to you
That you came to seek and save the lost.

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