The Man Behind the Mask

Several years ago, a visiting minister shared an interesting story at Grace Fellowship which made a deep impression on my heart concerning openness and transparency. Jerry, the minister, told us about a hunting trip in a vast wilderness area in a northern state. The area where his camp was setup had become notorious for crime, but still offered prime hunting.

One evening Jerry overheard a campfire conversation concerning a man supposedly living in the mountains around their camp. The storyteller told of a strange man who stayed to himself, always carried a high-powered rifle, and whose arms were grotesquely disfigured. But, strangest and most unsettling of all, the man always wore a mask. In fact, no one had ever seen the man without his mask. Although the man had never caused any trouble, his legend was quickly growing in the area. “He's probably a murderer!” someone said. Another referred to him as the “mountain madman.” As each man around the campfire added their own speculations about the masked stranger, Jerry’s spirit was troubled. Sure, the man’s behavior was odd, and a bit unsettling, but it was impossible to know the reasoning behind his actions without more information. Soon, the conversation around the campfire changed to other subjects, but Jerry would not forget the man in the mask. Hopefully, he would have an opportunity to speak to him and share the gospel with him.

A few days later, Jerry ran into a friend who lived in the area. The man excitedly told Jerry that he had recently met the man in the mask! Jerry pressed for more information. The man’s vehicle had broken down leaving him stranded on the side of the road in a remote area. As he began walking to find help, a truck pulled up beside him and the driver offered him a ride––but, as the man was thanking his kind rescuer, he saw that the driver was none other than the masked man himself! With no other real options, the man climbed into the passenger seat. After a few nervous minutes, the man began to look over at the alleged mountain maniac. Yes, the man’s arms were disfigured, but it was obvious he'd been horribly injured in a fire of some sort. Around the edges of the notorious mask the passenger could see that the man’s face was also scarred––he wore the mask to hide his scars.

As Jerry’s friend shared this story, Jerry realized, the man in the mask was no madman. He was a man terribly wounded; probably accustomed to rejection and cruelty. This was a man who had decided that his only escape from the pain of life was isolation. With the growing paranoia surrounding him, it was plausible that the man felt the need to carry a rifle for personal protection.

After hearing these things, Jerry could not sleep that night. As he tossed and turned in his RV, he prayed for that poor man and finally decided to let him know that someone cared. The next day, he took several Bibles into the wilderness and left them at the head of some of the trails. Inside each, he wrote a note to the wounded man telling him that someone did indeed care. A few days later, Jerry went back to check on the Bibles, one had been taken! Hopefully, the poor man behind the mask picked it up and read of one that was scarred to heal his deepest wounds.

Friend, are you like the man behind the mask? Do you bear scars from sin? Has sin disfigured you and left you feeling ashamed? Are you repulsed by the man in the mirror?

Your mask may not be some horror movie hockey mask. In fact, there may not be anything frightening about the mask you wear. Over time, you may have so perfected your guise that even the most discerning eye cannot detect that your persona is merely a facade. Maybe you wear the mask of a

respectable Christian man or woman, but internally you feel like a hypocrite. Perhaps you wear the mask of a “self-made” man, who has subdued life and climbed the ladder of success, but behind your mask you are anything but successful. It could be that you wear the mask of a tough and hardened person, even considered bitter by some, but it is just a façade to keep people from getting too close because you do not want to be hurt again.

Over the years, I have met many mask wearing men through our efforts in various men’s ministries. Sadly, some become so identified with their masked persona, they lose their willingness to “be real.” Why risk it? If I can make life work while wearing a mask, why would anyone want to risk taking it off? BECAUSE IT’S NOT THE WILL OF GOD TO BE FAKE! The moment you don a mask, you put a barrier between yourself and God’s provisions of grace through Christ. It is as if you are saying to God, “I don’t trust your ability to restore and renew me, so I’ll do it myself.”

On the other hand, I have seen many men take off their masks, some for the very first time. It is always thrilling for me to see a man feel the warm sunshine of God’s favor on their natural face for the first time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I should have done this years ago!”

To see how this works in real life, think of David in 2 Samuel 12: Nathan the prophet has confronted him over his sin. For the past few months, David has been hiding behind a mask, pretending to be the successful King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart. But, in reality, David was an adulterer and murderer. When Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man…” David had a choice: Kill Nathan and continue his life of lies to its bitter end, or take off the mask and accept God’s grace and mercy. We have Psalm 51 because David made the right choice.

Friend don’t wear a mask one day longer. Trust God with the real you today.

- Jon Curtis Isaacs

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