Nowadays, we are all very conscious of the need to be properly attired when we leave our homes. “Modesty” now includes the requisite face mask. The other day I went for a run and, down the road, realised I had forgotten my buff, which doubles as a face mask. I felt as if I had committed an unpardonable sin. Whenever I ran by someone, I either held my breath or crossed to the other side of the road. I felt like a leper. I’ll not make that mistake again.
It has been said a million times, but I’ll say it again: These are strange days. If we all had stethoscopes, the local Spar would look like a hospital. Earlier this week I preached a funeral service wearing a face mask. And each person at this small gathering was wearing a mask as well. I could see eyes, and I could see tears in many of those eyes, but being unable to see their full countenance was disconcerting. It seems impersonal to not see the fullness of one’s face. Particularly in times of grief.
I read a report that those with impaired hearing are frustrated because masks inhibit lip reading. When we wear masks, smiles and frowns and scowls and even laughter are difficult to discern. It is hard to get a full picture when speaking both through and to masks. The Phantom and Zorro value a mask, but “till we have faces,” it seems that something is missing. I’m looking forward to the day of unmasking. In more ways than one.
C. S. Lewis wrote a novel called, Till We Have Faces, which was his rewrite of the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche. The title keeps reverberating, I keep thinking of these words, for I long to see faces!
I am grateful for the phone, and for Zoom, and for seeing people in the shop, but God has designed us for face to face, personal fellowship. As I write, the words of the apostle John are very meaningful: “I have many things to write you, but I don’t want to write to you with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face” (3 John 13).
When it comes to true fellowship, masks get in the way. Masks inhibit fellowship—including verbal masks such as, “I’m fine” when we are not and including the plastic mask of a forced smile. Meaningful relationships require transparency and masks make that difficult, if not impossible. I alluded to this yesterday, but, let me once again make the appeal: If you need help, ask for it. And don’t be offended if someone lovingly attempts to “de-mask” you.
When you consider the ministry of the Lord Jesus, he graciously and yet intentionally sought to take the masks off of those who needed help. Whether it was the adulterous woman at the well (John 4), or Peter after his miserable fall (John 21), or shocking Judas with, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48), Jesus sought to get beyond the partial and the superficial in order to effect real change.
An inseparable part of being a Christian is being a church member. And church members gather. And when we gather, it is to be face to face fellowship.
Because of the virus, when we gather again, we will probably still be wearing masks. Let’s just make sure that we are not hiding behind them. In other words, let’s work on being lovingly transparent, and being open to such transparency. Let us do so until we fully have faces—glorious ones at that: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).
Hoping with you and hoping to see you,