Well, the season has finally come. Fall is here! That means sweaters and hoodies, new TV shows are back, my birthday (shouts out to October 7th, yo), and Halloween to kick off the holiday season. I love this time of the year, maybe it’s due to the break of the heat, or maybe it’s something else. I often get a sense of spiritual refreshment during this season, new ideas and new adventures to undertake. Last year I did a series that related to classic b-movie themes to celebrate the Halloween spirit and reveal spiritual truths in silly movies. I want to do the same this year, but I want to be more focused. You see, recently I have been feeling spiritual attack. The enemy has been throwing storms my way, and through some difficult decisions I’ve made, I’ve had to persevere through some hurtful words. I think we all experience this kind of attack, often it means we are moving in the direction that God is calling us towards. We have an enemy, a very real enemy, not just a little red devil we see in cartoons. His plan is to steal, kill, and destroy us; which makes it hard for us to pursue God when we are attacked. We need a plan, a battle plan, one that we can turn to in moments of spiritual attack. This month I want to have a series based on this, each week giving a new piece to the battle plan for your life. So join me as we create our plan of attack.
We are not made to be alone. This is a truth that God said about us in the very beginning. “It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18a).” That’s pretty straight forward, something I love about the teachings within the bible, simple ideas that radically change lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, the idea that we are not made to be alone, and because of that, God gives us a family. This then lead me to think about what exactly a family is. Sure one way to view it could be your direct biological family, but I think there is more to it than that. One of the best definitions of family that I found while researching this idea was simply this, a person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy. To be treated with special loyalty or intimacy. How powerful is that? Family is a factor that each of us needs in our lives, a community that is loyal to each other and can be there for us in times of need. The traditional idea of what a family is has changed. I used to think of the Norman Rockwell Freedom from Want painting, the one of the turkey dinner, all the family gathered around with big smiles. This simply isn’t the same, family goes through hard times. Families aren’t all white picket fence home owners, we are unique and different. We have families of divorce, children who have been victims of abuse, families that have experienced the death of a spouse, homes being combined after parents re-marry, and countless other looks of family. My family has stayed together, but we have seen what addiction can cause within the family and the death of grandparents. In these hard times of family it can be hard to see the essential factor in family, but family is so much more, and there is always hope when God is a centerpiece in your life.
Last week I talked about making a very important choice, a choice that will affect the rest of your life, but what happens afterwards? How do I go about living my life? So often we are able to make the choice, but we continue to live our lives as they were. This isn’t me saying we should all become hermit people only reading the bible every moment of the day, not a bad thing just basically impossible if you have to drive and interact with people, what I am saying is that we become changed people. A relationship with God isn’t some checklist to complete, that isn’t a relationship. We are in relationship with so many people, friends, family, co-workers; but the most important relationship we have is with our creator. When we spend time with these people in our life, we make an effort to connect with them, that’s what God wants for us. When we make the effort to connect with him, our outlook is altered.
People are funny things. We are individuals with unique talents and interests, yet so many times we try to hide our true selves behind a mask. I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m talking about, that friend who will change their whole personality based on who they are around. People that act one way in front of you, then act like they don’t even want to be seen with you. Ouch. Experiences like that never feel good and when it happens to me, I get so frustrated, but the sad thing is, I’m guilty. We are all guilty of pretending to be someone we are not. As I was thinking about the idea of hiding behind a mask, I was reminded of Scooby-Doo. In every episode there is some ghoulish thing creating chaos in an old mine, abandoned mansion, or creepy museum. The gang of teenagers and their dog jump into the mystery machine in order to solve the case, and every time, it is revealed to be just a simple person hiding behind a mask. Usually it’s the keeper of the house trying to protect what they value, a thief who just wants the jewels, or the business man trying to run someone out of their home. They are all looking for what they believe will make them happy, yet they forget that when we hide behind a mask, we lose sight of what is really important. In the process, we end up hurting ourselves more than helping when we hide behind the comfort of a mask.
This month I’ve been doing themed topics around Halloween, and this was one of the biggest topics I wanted to make sure to cover. I love being able to dress up in a costume and have fun with friends. It’s silly and fun, but in life, it is such an easy task to just put on a mask, to be someone God never wanted for us to be. For me, in high school, I hid behind a mask I made. I was afraid to be myself because I thought the person I was wasn’t good enough. So many times people had judged me for what I liked and the way I acted, I was afraid to step into who I really was. For a while I hid, and each day I kept hiding behind this façade, but I never felt complete. I was missing out on what God wanted for me, and the people close to me could tell. I wasn’t connected to the church because I didn’t want it, I had experienced hurt and saw my family struggle with it, and I wanted nothing to do with it. That all changed, when I came to my current church, I met a group of guys who were themselves, people that weren’t afraid to be different and most importantly, they weren’t afraid to be running after God. That’s what I want to talk about today, I want to help you (yeah you!) to learn how to remove your mask, and be the person God made you to be.
Different is good.
You are a unique person, no one else is like you, even if you have a twin, no two people are the exact same. That’s a good thing! Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone were the same? It would be so boring, we would never grow, we would never have fun, and we would just be the same. So why do we want to fit in with everyone? We are afraid to be different. It’s such a foolish idea, if you love something, don’t give it up to fit in. God gave you talents and abilities so you can use them to impact those around you. Just look at the leaders of the church in the bible, each one was different in their own unique ways, and they were used to do extraordinary things! Once you realize that you are different, you can begin to take off the mask. Don’t be afraid to stand out, people will follow someone who chooses not to be of this world, and God wants to move in your uniqueness.
Be in community.
Nothing is more important than surrounding yourself with others that will build you up rather than tear you down. Many of the times we put on a mask is to impress a group of people that doesn’t deserve your time. Every 80’s movie depicts this, the geeky kid wants to fit into the group of cool kids. That was me, the geeky kid, who just wanted to be what I thought was “normal,” but normal isn’t nearly as exciting. Just like every 80’s movie, the kid discovers that being cool isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and they find a group that they truly fit in with. That is such a good piece of truth, we need a life giving community to help us be accountable and build each other up. We all need community, we all need people around us to walk through life together and look out for one another. You are different, and so are other people, come together and learn from each other. We all have a different story, and your story will help someone more than you can even imagine.
One of the biggest tragedies that happens when we wear a mask, is that we miss out on opportunities to step out in faith and take a chance. I used to be so petrified to stand out and take a chance on something, it made me miss out on opportunities. Now, I go into every situation with a trust on God, because often the worst thing that can happen is I fail, and try it again. We learn through the experiences in our lives, we learn through the key observations we make in every situation. I took a chance in starting this blog, I felt like I had some things to share and didn’t know how to share them. So I started writing, a lot, and made this blog with the purpose of getting my thoughts out there that God had given me. Now, I love writing, I love being able to do this each week, but had I never taken the chance, I would have never cultivated a passion for writing. Think about your own life, what is something you’re afraid to do because it may be a failure? I encourage you to try it (unless it’s to be a shark whisperer that I bet takes a ton of training.), the worst that can happen is that you don’t succeed. So you try something else, all while listening to what God is leading you towards. Take a chance.
Just like in Scooby-Doo, we like to be the person hiding behind a mask because we are so lost. To be honest it’s hard to be your true self, to reveal your identity that Christ gave you to the world, but it is so worth it. We stop being the bad guy, and we become the group that wants to solve the mysteries in the world with others around us. For me it meant that I’m a geeky guy who is passionate about Christ and reaching the next generation. For you it could be standing up for what’s right in your career, or just simply stepping out and encouraging that friend you know is struggling. God made us to be individuals, to not hide behind a mask of doubt and fear, but to step into his presence and follow him. Be yourself, because your true self is more beautiful than you can even imagine. Don’t fake your way through the struggles around you, come into your community that brings life, God wants you to trust him with everything. So be different, stand with fellow believers in community, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. Remove the masks that you hide behind in life.
Reveal your true identity in Christ.