CHAPTER 1: Masquerade
The older we get, the quicker we recognize it. It could come through a broken relationship, a job loss, or something more subtle. We've all been there, and we've all been both the victim and the user of its trickery. The dictionary uses words like "pretense" and "deception" to describe its meaning. To masquerade is to act with ulterior motives; to put highest priority on the ends and little on the means we use to get there. Often times, we wear the mask without knowing it. We become accustomed to its form; our motives hidden even from ourselves. Sometimes it's as simple as a desire for self-preservation that draws us to pick it up and try it on. Other times it's more complex and involves a community of thought, whereby the 'mission' of any given group becomes more important than the individuals that make it up. The latter is the most dangerous, the most difficult to recognize, and usually the most frightening to escape.
The song, Masquerade, was born from a personal experience which required some seemingly drastic decisions, uncomfortable conversations, inevitable misunderstandings, and what often felt like moments of extreme self-inflicted isolation. However, once the mask was finally removed and the truth revealed, the light began to shine into places I never thought would see illumination. I fought with the mask for decades, gripping and pulling at its strings. It never worked. It only seemed to get tighter on my face.
It wasn't until recent years I discovered (thanks to some good friends) that vulnerability is the only solvent that works to remove the mask. It is risky, and yes, it hurts. Vulnerability carries perhaps the greatest risk of all: the fear of abandonment. It goes to our core. And shame is the fuel that gives it strength; that keeps it stuck in place. Shame tells us that if we remove the mask, our greatest fear will come to fruition. We will be abandoned once and for all. We will be left completely alone. This, my friends, is a lie. And sadly, it's a lie that not only we as individuals buy in to, but some of our religious institutions use to do what they must in order to fuel their own existence. But this is nothing new. It all started with the first lie in the garden; when the enemy introduced doubt with the simplest of questions, "Really?" Doubt fuels fear. Fear fuels control. Control requires manipulation. Manipulation dawns the mask.
The good news? The story doesn't end here. This is just the beginning of the book. Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting a singer-song writer by the name of Rich Mullins. You may know the name. I remember standing in line to get his autograph at a local bookstore. On my copy of his CD he simply wrote the phrase, "Be God's." At the time, I found this to be very odd, and wondered what he meant by such a seemingly random statement. It would take some thirty-plus years to figure it out; to discover that to 'be God's' has much more to do with letting go than grabbing hold of anything.
The story of the song Masquerade is only the beginning. It is merely the first chapter. The songs to come are in no random order, and tell the continuing story of the painful, yet freeing removal of the mask.