Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mask

This is a mask that I made around thirteen or fourteen years ago.  I was the education director at a church, and most of my duties revolved around the high school youth group.  I really loved this part of my job, and one of the highlights of the year was when we all went on a week-long spiritual retreat out of state at a big conference center. 

Part of the days were spent with other youth directors, and one of the artsy things we got to do was to create these masks.  We papier mached the hell out of each others' faces, and then we each got to paint our own.  We could only use black and white paint, but somehow in mixing it up and sponging it on, I ended up with some brown-ish and navy blue-looking spots as well as shades of gray.  Being uber spiritual at the time, I painted on a big white cross. 

One of the other chaperones with our group asked what it meant to me.  I gave what I think was a genuine answer for me at the time.  The gray side was me without Christ (God, Christianity, religion, the community, etc.--all of the door prizes that come along with him), and the more confetti-splattered side was my life with him.  You know, presumedly more colorful, exciting, real, vivid...you get it.

And there stamped in the middle of it was a cross.  I was marked.  Marked by baptism.  Marked by the Holy Spirit.  Branded by God. 


I still have this displayed in a shadow box, and I still like it, but it holds a vastly different meaning for me now.  For one thing, I haven't attended church regularly for almost two years.  Religion doesn't have the hold on me that it did then, and I've come to understand more deeply how religions form and how they can skew one's worldview.  I've come to a place in my life where I'm no longer able or willing to believe a world of doctrines and views that go against what all of my senses tell me is true. 

Now the sides of the mask have flip-flopped in meaning.  The gray side is me when I was trying so hard to conform to scripture and what I thought was rigid truth.  The more colorful side is me now, letting myself breathe, discovering myself, being open to the world and how beautiful it is, and being open to how amazing and good people are. 

The cross is still there, and it almost looks like a scar to me now.  Don't get me wrong, I don't feel that I was abused by religion in any way, while some people have been...and horribly so.  I'm still marked by it, and I'm trying to figure out what pieces of Christianity still fit into my life.  It's a difficult process at times, but I'm so much happier, and I don't feel any pressure to figure it all out at once.

2 comments:

  1. I love this post. That mask is amazing and the way that the meaning has changed is very interesting. It is always a bit surreal and strange to look back and remember previous thoughts and previous feelings and know that were sincere at the time and yet feel somewhat disconnected from them now.

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  2. Thank you, Kiley. Absolutely--I never imagined then how much my perspective would have changed by now.

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