Masks have a bad connotation. We wear masks to hide our true selves. Maybe we try to look better than we are, harboring bitterness and judgment, reserving it for behind closed doors or in the company of similar minds. Those are the masks we need to put down. Those are the masks we need to admit to and remove and burn. And then replace them with the one that will save us.
Or maybe your mask is one of fear and doubt, fueled by either a lifetime of painful experiences or a lack of experiences altogether, fearing the unknown or the hype, both of which can suffocate the faint of the heart.
I have been thinking of another mask. I’ve been dreaming of a lifesaving mask, one that actually changes your soul. One that takes out the impurities in the air we’ve been breathing and replaces that foul, hopeless poison with truth and beauty and grace.
It’s like what they say on the airplane safety speech. You have to put your own mask on first. You have to adjust yourself first before you can help anyone else. I think in some ways many come to the racism talk like everyone else has the problem and they run around trying to put people’s oxygen on. But if you’re not even breathing right any more, how can you help? You’ll be passing out soon. And as we learned from Tyler Durden people panic and get clumsy as the plane goes down, while oxygen makes us euphoric. And a little more euphoria would be great.
I start by asking myself, what air have I been breathing? There’s something wrong with it. If I’m honest, there has to be. My heart is sinful and deceitful and callous. I am selfish and myopic. I have been letting fear, bitterness, anger, frustration, and prejudice filter through my lungs and cloud my vision. But I’m too busy pointing fingers at other people’s arrogance and intolerance. It has to stop. We’re all fumbling clumsily to adjust each other’s masks and change each other’s directions.
I pray for new air. I pray for God’s own breath to run through me. I pray that I see His creation with His eyes, to see His imprint on every person, His glory manifested on every soul even if it seems in the smallest of degrees. I pray that my mask will flow with pure oxygen, a new oxygen, so that all I do and say will be exhaling beauty, harmony, justice, grace. I adjust my mask daily, even hourly, to breathe in His goodness and His vision for our relationships. I repent of the old air, the stifling, crippling air like a cancer that grows from my soul. I stop trying to strong arm fellow passengers into their masks, groping blindly or fighting my efforts at every turn. I adjust my mask first, and then look for others who ask for help, who want help, who admit their weak-mindedness, in this area anyway, and who are looking with me for the way to safety.
Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is new. Help me love. Help me die to mysel. Help me adjust what I’m taking in and exhaling out. Give us this grace on this journey home.