It’s hard to be around such a shell of a person, my friend shared late one evening while sitting on my couch sharing about his alcoholic mom. She has no opinions on anything. It’s like she doesn’t have a thought of her own, he added.
A year ago I sat curled up on my bed, snuggled in a fuzzy blanket, with my hands curled around the flaps of my softcover book. My eyes following one of my favorite author’s stories. I arrived to a part where the author talked about how she believes when we are born a teeny tiny light of the divine is placed inside each one of us. Therefore, the same light is in each of us. Some understand this as the word nomaste – the divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you.
I loved this so much I decided I was going to nomaste the hell out of everyone. I was going to see God FIRST. If we were all made from the same creative God, each on our own human journey, who was I to do anything but honor them. It sorta felt a little ET-go-home-ish. Like whenever I’d encounter someone I felt like my little tiny creepy finger was reaching out to find the light within them.
Thing is, I found that people hide their light. And some people are REALLY good at hiding it. But I recently sat down with a my friend, Levi, and he shared this:
If you look at a sculpture of a bird it first started with a piece of wood. And the bird was already inside of the log, yet it was hidden. It’s not about adding but rather finding the beauty that is already waiting to be unleashed from deep inside. The process of removing excess, or carving out, is certainly a painful one, and yet without it we can't get any closer to the art that exists inside.
Discovering the real truth in land, people, relationships, and even a meal is less about adornment, but rather allowing its pure essence to be uncovered.
That true, raw, and unadulterated essence is the incarnation of the divine.
And I think that’s it. I think we can’t always see the divine in each other because there are so many layers hiding it.
Adam and Eve hid first. They didn’t trust God that what they had in life was enough so they ate an apple. I wonder what would have happened IF the FIRST thing Adam and Eve did when they doubted it was all enough was go DIRECTLY to God and say, I don’t feel like I’m enough. I’m doubting you. I’m scared.
But they didn’t. Choosing the apple I think was less about being sinny but more about it being the first time they were afraid to show up to God with all of their thoughts and insecurities.
But then they had done that one thing God said not to do and they let fear grab hold of them again. They were afraid they didn’t have a merciful and compassionate God and so they hid and made the first mask in the history of mankind; it was made of leaves.
I’ve started to see everyone’s behavior as masks. Sometimes we put up masks like at a masquerade ball but other times we wear costumes so in depth we take another form on altogether. Both are made of fear: fear of being found out, fear of rejection, fear of losing connection, fear that we are unworthy. And we all have really creative ways of hiding.
We call each other names.
Sometimes we tell people we don’t care, when we actually really do.
We put down.
We tell people they are doing it wrong when in actuality it may just be different.
We become addicts – to anything that makes us feel temporarily ok.
We get angry.
We manipulate and control.
Anything to shift aside that which could possible put us in a place of rejection.
For me, I internalize it. When I feel shame I beat myself up. I pretend I’m okay but in truth, I’m sick to my stomach most days. I call this my “pretending mask” and it’s a silent mask. But it rots me from the inside-out. It was actually my friend Amanda that began to slowly help me remove my mask. This fall, every time we hung out I’d puke out my ugly. It was so much I was convinced I’d never hear from her again. I was too messy and broken. When she'd leave my house, as soon as I’d close and lock the front door, I’d carry my heavy and broken spirit upstairs and slip into bed; ashamed and embarrassed. I’d tell myself to NEVER let that happen again. NEVER let someone see me so weird. But within minutes I’d get a text from her. Things like: I love you, friend. I think you’re amazing. I love your heart. I love your search for God. I’m so thankful for you.
In my most vulnerable and insecure moments, she made no apologies for my humanness; instead she taught me to see myself how God sees me. Her unconditional love removed my mask.
Relationships used to be really scary to me. If someone got mad I’d think it was MY job to make them un-mad. So I’d yell back (made perfect sense at the time!) Now I know I have a really simple job – to tell people I love them. If someone is yelling I don’t have to yell back. Instead, I sit back and ask myself what they are really trying to say – are they scared? are they hurt?
I try to figure out how I might help them set down their mask. And I’ve found when the mask gets set down it’s such a sigh of relief, like “oh there you are! I’ve missed you.”
And I’m starting to think that part of the good news is that we get to be mask-taker-offers. What if we get the joy and honor of showing people God himself. Love is patient and kind. And it doesn’t keep track of ALL those times you messed up. Love says, I see you, all of you, and I love you.
What if we could peel back the branches of shame and showed up in people’s darkest and ugliest and stared them in the face and said: Yes, I see that. You are yelling but what you are really telling me is you are scared that if I really knew you I’d reject you. That if you told me your ugly, I’d run. That’s not the case. I am here. I am not leaving. You are worthy. You are loved.
Would masks just start falling off of faces?
Would people just start removing their costumes?
Oh my God, we’d be one big nudist colony! So honest, real and exposed.
My friend’s mom is whole underneath all the masks of addiction, shame and voiceless living. It’s just that nobody taught her what it looked like or felt like to live fully her, honest and unashamed. Nobody taught her that her voice matters and that her thoughts are precious and important.
Underneath all that weak is an incredibly strong and beautiful woman.
I nomaste that.
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery