Do you ever feel as if you have to wear a mask to hide who you are? We all have things about ourselves that make us feel insecure. Maybe it’s some aspect of how you look, or a personality trait you want to hide. Have you ever felt like you need to hide certain parts of who you are so you can be accepted by others, God, or even yourself? What if I told you that putting on a mask helped me to stop hiding?
I’m a girl who is equal parts grit and glitter. I learned how to fish and bait my own hook by the time I was 5, but I also had a pink tackle box. Lowe’s is a dangerous store for me. I enjoy power tools, and thanks to my friend Morgan Harper-Nichols, I discovered couplings from the plumbing department make great hair accessories. (I have my own drill, but why won’t my dad let me use his table saw unsupervised? Not fair!) Needless to say, I enjoy playing with makeup. I own more shades of lip gloss than I can count. I can also be self-conscious about how I look. I don’t usually mind standing out, if it’s in a good or “socially acceptable” way, I mean not too many people have naturally curly red hair with the occasional streaks of purple added. Last year, all that pretty lip gloss had to be covered up, and suddenly my hair was no longer the first thing people noticed about me.
While you may be used to seeing my picture and me looking nothing out of the ordinary, if you met me in person, I’d likely have a mask on.
This time I don’t mean a metaphorical one. I have Mast Cell Disease, a rare disease often best described as “allergic to the world.” I need to wear a filtering mask to protect me from airborne triggers that cause me to experience anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic. Pollen, perfume, dust, and smoke are just a few of the many things, that if I breathed in, my life would be in danger.
A little over a year ago is when it became necessary for me to wear these masks. Quite frankly, I wanted no part of it. At first, I’d try to wear one only when I was outside and quickly take it off once I was inside, hoping I could avoid indoor triggers like perfume or dust. After an allergic reaction to potpourri at a doctor’s office, I realized I needed to keep these masks on. My self-consciousness was on a collision course with my physical safety. That is when I had to take off my mask of perfect make up, wanting to stand out only if it was for something that I felt made me look better, worrying about what people thought of me, and put on a physical mask.
There’s a stigma that is often attached to someone who looks different. Wearing a mask immediately causes someone to stare. Quite frankly, I expect that. We naturally look when something is out of the ordinary. It’s what comes after that initial look that can be hard to handle. In talking with friends who also wear masks, I knew to expect some people to move away from me or some may ask me to leave the store I’m in, assuming I have a contagious illness, without even asking why I’m wearing a mask. I also knew some people may ask questions, and I welcome those. (To learn how you can help encourage people with chronic illnesses, click here: https://jesusineverymoment.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/10-ways-you-can-help-someone-who-has-a-chronic-illness-find-jesus/ )
I’m the kind of person who will usually walk with my head high and look people in the eye. I like to smile and say hello. I had a choice to make; would I try to hide now that I felt self-conscious, or would I keep my head up? I made the choice to keep my head up. I didn’t want to hide anymore.
As if to let me know it was time to let go of all self-consciousness my first outing with my mask on also coincided when I had a torn meniscus in my knee. I had to use those silver-colored crutches and was wearing a printed mask. I definitely stood out. I was literally hopping through the hospital and spotted a little girl who was about 5. She was holding both of her parents’ hands and had her head down with her blonde hair covering her face. Her pink glasses had a light blue teddy bear printed patch over one of the lenses. Obviously, I wasn’t the only self-conscious one in that hallway. She spotted me, and looked up. I stopped for a minute so I could wave and smile, hoping she could see the smile in my eyes since my mouth was hidden behind the mask. She looked at my mask, my crutches, and back at my mask. Then she looked me in the eyes, stood up tall and smiled. Her mom smiled, nodded her head, and wiped away a tear. Without saying a word, that moment spoke volumes to us all. That moment was A Jesus Moment for me, anything good that happens no matter what the situation. Jesus once again reminded me He was there, and I wasn’t cast aside as useless just because I looked different. Sure, I could’ve seen that precious girl and told her she looked beautiful, but it meant more for her to see someone else who had to wear something that made her look different.
It’s amazing how much you can say without speaking a word.
That day I saw this verse in an entirely different way:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
God has given all of us a light to shine; who was I to let mine be dimmed by a mask?
Even in needing a mask, God provided something special. It was at the urging of some friends who also have Mast Cell Disease that I finally decided to wear a mask. They introduced me to Vogmask. The company has amazing heart. Those masks, aside from the whole lifesaving part, give me A Jesus Moment because of how they look. By now would you expect me to want something plain? I love the prints on these masks. If you saw me in person, I’d likely be sporting something like this. It’s actually kind of fun at times. When I visit a familiar place people will look to see what print I’m wearing.
Months after I saw that little girl, God gave me A Jesus Moment of my own while wearing my mask. One evening I was leaving that same hospital, (minus the crutches) and across a crowded lobby one of the valet parking attendants pointed at me and yelled “Now THAT’S fashion!” Of course, everyone turned to see who he was pointing at. This time, I’m certain they could see the smile in my eyes as I stood taller. No more hiding behind a mask.
What about you? Are you going to hide behind a mask, or will you let your light shine?
I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment. Have you ever hidden behind a mask only to realize how freeing it was to take it off?
For more information on Vogmask, including how to order and product specifications, visit www.vogmask.com
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