This past Wednesday night, we had an open floor discussion about whatever the youth wanted to talk about. I was a little nervous about this at first because you never know where it can lead or if it will ever get past the blank stares, crickets, and “I dunno…” stage.
But I was curious, what is on your mind, what you want to talk about…I am leaving it up to you. Right away, my question was answered with another question.
“What is wrong with the youth in the world today?”
Wow, that is a heavy question. Coming from a youth too, I wanted to hear more.
Our conversation quickly became about drugs and alcohol. Which sadly and yet not surprising at all, everyone in the room had been exposed to one or the other, or even both.
I was surprised that when given a chance to talk about anything, this was what they chose. And everyone opened up and shared something. About their thoughts on it, how it made them feel.
Peer pressure, parenting, low self-esteem, a strong desire for attention…many reasons and excuses were given as to why.
In life we wear many masks. We want to fit in wherever we are, whoever we are with, we want to matter. At school, we want to fit in with a certain crowd, so we wear that mask that makes us appear that we belong.
We go to practice, rehearsal, or whatever extra-curricular activities we are involved in and put on another mask. We go home to our parents and put on another mask. We go to work and put on another mask. Go to church and we put on our God mask. A different mask for every occasion. Are we ever really truly being ourselves or merely a version of it that is being covered and hidden by our masks?
Do we ever really take off our mask? Which version of is the “real” version? Do we even know?
Is it really that hard for us to just be ourselves? We are made in the image of God! We are perfect in every way! That weird birthmark you may be self-conscious about, maybe you think you are a little over weight, not smart enough, clumsy, nerdy, whatever you think your flaw is…remember this, you are made in God’s image! Why put a mask on that?! Why would we take something made and created by God, loved by God, cared for by God, and cover it up with a mask.
What if instead of trying to do everything so we fit in with a crowd, we did everything as if we were children of God and treated everyone else as if they too were a child of God.
What if we stopped hiding who we are and succumbing to peer- pressure that more often than not is misguided and self imposed.
In the Lectionary for today, the Old Testament reading seems to fit perfectly with this message.
So I pose a new question, not what is wrong with the youth today...is it really just the youth? Or is this something we all struggle with?
This week, I challenge you to remove your mask. Be yourself, just the way you were made to be. Because you are perfect.
My child, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you.
Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and of people.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.