Unmasking Your Soul
Are you serving out of your natural motivations?
We all have natural motivations which, when they are being lived out of, create a sense of internal value within one’s self and our behaviors flow out of us naturally. However, due to lies we believe that create gaps in our souls, we chase acceptance, significance and security through what we do so we put on masks to try to add value to who we are and what we do.
Most of the time, we put on rented masks. This is not an ideal situation because you’re pretending, but you do get the results you’re looking for. For instance: a soul seeking acceptance might be over-the-top funny and always joking, choose favorites, or only hang out with what he perceives are the “cool kids” in the youth group. A soul looking for significance will try to win every event at all costs, bring the most kids to camp, have the best equipment, and do more to get more accolades. A soul seeking security won’t be willing to change anything even if everything isn’t going well. They become suspicious of everyone: leaders, students, and church leadership included. They will go to incredible lengths to argue that what they’re doing is the only right way to do it and condemn churches and others if it’s perceived that they have more (people, money, events, whatever…) than they do. These borrowed masks are trademarks of an unhealthy soul.
Sometimes we’re forced to put on iron masks. Unlike rented masks, iron masks are forced on the ones wearing them. Just like Leo DiCaprio in the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask” it comes from a place of abuse. In this case, you are not free to choose your behavior but feel forced to act and speak in a specific way that is not out of your natural motivations. Instead of getting a desired outcome, the iron mask is to avoid negative outcomes or consequences since your preferred behaviors are deemed unacceptable (this might be by leaders, parents, pastors, elders, spouses, even students). Changing your personality because it’s being expected of you is abuse. If this is happening to you, you are being abused. Your soul is being diminished and you, your family, the ministries you’re involved in, and all of the people in those ministries are suffering because of it. God made you YOU…with all of your motivations and natural behaviors and He’s given you gifts and abilities that He wants His Spirit to use for His glory and honor.
You may or may not know you’re wearing a mask, but if you find that you act differently at home than you do at church or at work then the odds are pretty good that you are wearing a mask.
To be aware of and take off the masks all you have to do is SPEND TIME IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS!
When you spend time in the presence of Jesus, He…
1. Reveals who you are.
I recently asked a group of men the question, “Who are you?” Every one of them looked perplexed at first then intensely focused on trying to find the answer. Here is what should be the most basic of all questions and should have an immediate answer to it. RIGHT??? Who are you? Finally, after about 2 or 3 minutes one of the group decided to say something just to break the awkward silence and started talking through what he was NOT. “I am not who other people think I am. I am not my occupation. I am not what my wife says I am,” he said. We got a good laugh out of that last one.
He helped get us get on the right track, but still, no one could definitively answer the question and that’s because we all have an identity crisis. The reason we all have this identity crisis is because we have all been taught to detach ourselves from our creator and savior. We can’t know who we are if we don’t know what we’ve come from. We’re taught from grade school that we come from primordial ooze in school. And we’re taught to separate the sacred and secular in church. We’re taught that our existence comes from our parents and that our physical bodies and life on earth are separate from God’s kingdom.
When you spend time in the presence of Jesus…the manifest and tangible presence of Jesus, He will reveal to your soul that you are a child of God. It’s one thing to cognitively know that you’re a child of God. It’s a very different thing to FEEL that you are a child of God. To know deep down inside your soul that the question of your value…the matter of your worth was settled on the cross and that there is no room for discussion or dispute on that! God the Father looks on you and says, “My child, I have made you worthy of my Son’s sacrifice! Walk in the newness of life that His resurrection provides for you. THAT IS WHO YOU ARE!”
2. Gives you the courage to Embrace your limits.
We tend to take on more than we are able to in ministry (whether the demand is too much time, too much to oversee, too many speaking engagements, commitments, ministries, meetings, the list goes on). Being secure with your identity (your worth and value come from who you are NOT what you do or are able to do) will give you the courage to say no and be willing to disappoint anyone at anytime. Jesus doesn’t want superstars. He’s not attracted to the guys who can ‘get it all done’, lead the masses, preach the best sermon, pray the best prayers (whatever that means), etc.GOD IS IRRESISTIBLY DRAWN TO THOSE WITH A BROKEN SPIRIT AND A CONTRITE HEART! In order to be close to Him, to hear His voice, to be in His presence, you have to simply come to him with open hands and an attitude that says, “I am helpless. I can’t do any of this. I NEED YOU.”
How deeply you seek Jesus’ presence is directly proportional to how desperate you are for Him.
If there’s no desperation, there’s not going to be much of His presence. You’re relying on you. The best you and I can hope for in this life is to be able to be used by God…to be ALLOWED to be a part of what He is doing…and by the way, there is NOTHING in life better or more exciting than to be used in this way! I’m not doing for God. He’s using me to do His work.
When we don’t embrace our limits, it’s usually because we don’t want to LOOK or feel inadequate. BUT this wears on our entire being (the body, mind, heart and will)! So what we do instead of admitting to God, ourselves and the people we’re serving is we ‘mask’ those feelings of inadequacy by playing a game of internal ‘whack-a-mole’.
- If you don’t like the way you look, you diet and work out.
- If you don’t like the way you feel, you can take meds, ‘self-medicate’ with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or distract yourself with reading, TV, gaming, going out, listening to music, driving fast, over-eat, etc.
- When you don’t like the way you think, you go to a therapist.
When you mask your inadequacies:
- You might blame others for what you think, feel and do.
- You might start changing behaviors to find the ‘right mix’ to make it all work for you.
- You might work harder, spending 60 or more hours a week doing ministry work.
- You might become so inwardly turned that you can’t see or care about the needs of others.
Jesus never masked His grief, disappointment or His limitations. He slept, wept and left to pray on His own. He TRAINED and RELEASED His disciples to continue His ministry. He told them in John 14:12 that they would do greater things than He did.
You aren’t called to do His work alone. God has called you to be a part of what He is doing, His work, and His ministry.
You don’t need to be the next Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, or Jonathan Edwards to be effective in the ministry God wants to use you in. To be used by God, all you can do is allow God to use you. Since you can do nothing for God and it’s all His work in you and through you, you can be a soul at rest! Which brings me to the next point…
3. Gives you the ability to rest!
Rest isn’t sleep or non-activity. When Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 that we will find rest for our souls, He was not talking about living a life of luxury. The words just before these were, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” A yoke in this context is the discipline of discipleship from Jesus. We learn from Him. The yoke of bondage (the Law) is gone. The yoke of freedom in Christ has come. Rest for your soul does not come from physical rest. It can only be found in the manifest presence of Jesus. He stills the anxious and mends the broken. He calms the storms of our inner turmoil. The hurricanes in the soul are loud and distracting from the gentle breeze Jesus speaks in, but when we’re in His presence and strivings cease, we can hear His gentle whispers of love, acceptance, significance, security, worth, value, and healing.
Just a quick for instance: It’s hard to feel good about yourself and what you’re doing when a teen leaves your youth group for another one. God has a whisper for you in that circumstance, but if you’re listening to the voice of insecurity saying you’re doing something wrong…it’s not good enough…YOU’RE not good enough…you’ll miss His message. During this season in the teen’s life, they might just need something different; maybe there is a positive influence from school at the other group; maybe there’s something someone’s teaching on that speaks to their soul; or maybe…just maybe the other youth group is where God wants them to serve and be served. A soul at rest will hear the whispers of Jesus because they have spent time in His presence.
I used to be that guy who would get offended when a student left the youth group, but after God detached my worth from what I was involved in and put it all wholly on Himself, I understood that God can only use me to minister in the capacity that He wills, to the people He wills, for the season He wills. I learned that I am not the flame or the oil. I am molded clay pottery holding the oil and the light. I am inanimate and do not move myself. God has to move me to light up the darkness. A soul at rest won’t feel an internal struggle of needing more people, more money, more events, but will bless those whom God carries you to with the presence of His Son.
Confession: Father, I can’t do this. I can’t manage, prioritize, care for others or myself by my power, the gifts and talents You’ve given me, or by my will to persevere. I need Jesus. I desperately need You, Jesus. NOW! I need a new, fresh filling of your Spirit in me so that You can perform Your will in me and through me. I offer myself to You again on the Romans 12:1 altar. I confess I can do nothing for You. Please forgive me for trying, and I repent of walking in that way and I turn to You again to set my soul right. Lead me into a deeper relationship with You so that I can exist in Your presence all day every day; because it is there that I understand who I am, my purpose in life, and find rest for my soul. I take off my masks and lay them all before You; and baring all in all humility ask for you to use me for Your glory and Your honor to bring praise to Your holy name. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Andy Hastie is a youth and associate pastor at a church in northern New Jersey. He has more than 16 years of ministry experience as a youth worker, youth pastor, senior pastor/church planter, and associate pastor. He works closely with the children’s ministry as well, because his wife, Darea, is the part-time children’s/special needs/family ministry director. They have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Gianna. Find him on Twitter @ANDYHASTIE30.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.