Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Removing the mask
Several years ago, I watched an interesting movie called "The Man In The Iron Mask." It was loosely based on characters from The Three Musketeers. The movie started out with an iron mask being welded onto a man's face and head, only leaving room for his eyes and mouth. There were screams from the man during the process. Later in the movie, which is several years later for the man in the iron mask; the mask is removed. By the sounds the man is making, it is obvious it also is a painful process having it removed.
And then the climatic moment of the movie: The final piece of the mask is removed to reveal the man inside. He looks scared, almost inhuman from years of his hair and beard growing in over his face and eyes. He is a most pitiful sight.
I can relate. I wore my mask for years, and like the man in the movie; I didn't put it on willingly. No men physically put it on and welded it to my head, but fear and shame put it on just as firmly as if it had been put on physically.
But unlike the man with the iron mask, no one could see mine. That is the thing about the masks we wear, most people don't know they are a mask; if we wear them correctly. They will just assume that is the real face. My mask was that of a happy-go lucky guy who loves to tell jokes, who had no interest in getting married, and who had everything going well.
The thing about wearing a mask, is it gets wearisome and old after a while. The effort it takes to make sure it is on firmly and isn't slipping can be exhausting. And after a while, you can't remember who you really are.
Over the years, I pulled the mask aside and gave some people a glimpse of what was under the mask. The reactions were mostly positive, with a couple of bad experiences related to showing the wrong people.
And then I stopped caring. I let the mask slip little by little, and people started guessing correctly at what the mask hid. And then one day I did it: I took the mask off. I did something I never, ever thought I would do. On this very blog which I post on Facebook, and which can be read by anyone - family, friends, church members, co-workers....... I publicly stated that I struggle with same-sex attractions. That I, Mark Buzard am not attracted to women, but to men.
There has been no fallout. No one has tossed me aside or ostracized me. Best of all, it has been freeing. The Bible does say the truth shall set you free, and it has. I am enjoying a relationship with God like I have never had. I look in the mirror, and though I see some areas I need to change - physically and other - I don't have the shame I once had. I have accepted this as the cross I must carry, and God is bringing about change in my heart and life that I never thought I would experience.
One of my prayers has been that God would somehow use me. I have prayed that He would use this blog and my writing, if He so wishes; and He has. As I have posted things which I never thought I'd publish on this blog, I have gotten some comments indicating it has helped and encouraged some people.
And I say that thankfully and humbly. If I write anything worthwhile, it is because God has helped me. I am not a good writer. I can't remember where all to use commas, semicolons, and where not to use them.
I lived a lie for years. I became an expert at deflecting questions about dating and marriage, as I felt the one thing I could never say was that I can't date or marry because I am not attracted to the right gender.
I can't live that lie anymore. Yes, I am God's child and my identity is in Christ, so I can never use the term "gay" to describe me. I am a Christian guy who struggles with something, just as we all struggle with something. Mine just tends to be outside of the "nice" issues most Christians deal with. And to call it a struggle at this point is not even really true. God has helped me so much, changed my heart and thinking; that it isn't so much a struggle as it is just a part of me that I have to keep under God's authority....... but then we all need to submit our sexuality to God, no matter what it is.
God loves me passionately and completely. Nothing I have ever done, thought, or said has shocked or surprised Him. He truly can bring beauty from ashes, and make something beautiful out of any life surrendered to Him.
As I have removed my mask and tossed it aside, I have been truly amazed at the difference that possibly only God and I can see. I have never felt so free, so open and unashamed before God. Walls that were around my heart and soul for so long blocking out everyone and God Himself, are gone. I can almost see the chains lying shattered at my feet.
Life stretches out before me like a long winding road that I have never been on, but I don't have the fears that I used to have. I am open to whatever God has in store for me, and however He may or may not choose to use me. If it is only this blog, that is fine. If it is more, that also is fine.
I posted a blog post a couple of weeks ago on the need of community in church. It was a deeply personal from the heart post for me. The response I got was amazing and humbling. I talked about the conference I went to the last two summers put on by Hope for Wholeness, and talked about my involvement with the ministry in the post. As a result, McKrae Game, the man who runs the ministry; is using a slightly edited version ofthat blog post in their newsletter and to promote the next conference.
That makes me feel humbled, and amazed. I don't tell that to glorify myself in any way, but to show what can happen as a result of removing a mask and being open and authentic. I have felt for a long time that God wants to use this area of my life to help others. What that entails, I have no idea; but this is a start.
God can never truly make us what we should be if we wear a mask and never let people see who we really are. I am thankful He brought me to this place, and that He never, ever gave up on me. I am thankful for what He has done and is doing in my heart and life, and that I am no longer a man in a mask.