Take off That Mask!
By: Rev. W. Jeffrey Campbell, Houston, TX
I have a refrigerator magnet that has 30 different facial expressions on it. Beneath each face is a word that describes the facial expression. Along with the magnet comes a smaller magnet that is shaped like a picture frame that says, “Today I feel…” Occasionally I go into my kitchen and move the magnet to the emotion that I am feeling on that day. Here are some of my choices:
It is amazing how God has gifted the human race with so many different ways to communicate our emotions. We have verbal communication, written communication, gestures and in many cases if you are like me, the face will tell the whole story.
In Nehemiah 2 when the exiled prophet enters the presence of the king and queen it is not his words or his gestures that catches the attention of the king. It is his facial expression. Nehemiah writes, “I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
In this moment God uses Nehemiah’s look to draw on the king’s concern for Nehemiah therefore setting the stage for the prophet to share with the king and queen the sad state in which the people of Jerusalem were living. Nehemiah’s prayers are answered as God gives him favor with the king who asks the questions, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” But that is not all! The king also sends letters to safe-guard him on the journey and request materials from the keeper of the king’s forest. In addition, the king also sends army officers and cavalry with Nehemiah.
In our journey we have been taught directly and indirectly to wear masks so that who we truly are and how we honestly feel cannot be seen by others. When in actuality there are times in our journey when it is necessary and profitable for the world to know how we feel and that can only be communicated if we take the masks off.
Ø Your co-workers and family members will never know how much their comments about “sissies and faggots” are hurting you if you stay behind the mask by joining in and or sitting there in silence. And, yes, this does still happen.
Ø If you are living with an HIV diagnosis behind a mask, your friends will never know the pain they are causing you when they make comments about others that sound like, “Girl, have you seen him lately? He looks bad! I think he got that stuff!”
Ø Your partner will never treat you any differently in the relationship if you stay behind the mask and never communicate what you REALLY need in order to be happy.
Ø You will never know how really wonderful and valuable you are until you take the mask off and say to the person looking back at you from the mirror, “You are Black, Beautiful and Worth it!"
Nehemiah took off his mask and the king saw his sadness and then heard his concern for his people and his request to return and rebuild Jerusalem. What is being left undone in your life and our community because you will not come from behind your mask?
Take off the mask and give them face! The favor of God will do the rest!
Until next week…ROTFL with WJC
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further discussion.