It’s no big surprise that people use masks as a way to pretend to be someone else. We see this on Halloween every year with an array of masks from famous people to zombies to storybook characters. Masks are an easy way to hide. But it might be hard to breathe beneath the weight of the mask. It is hot and uncomfortable and sometimes you might just want to tear it off. Isn’t this true of the masks we as humans wear every day? We wear masks to impress people, to hide our feelings, to hide our shame or guilt and even to hide from God. But just like those Halloween masks, eventually it becomes harder and harder to breathe. God knows this, and wants us to tear off those masks. Because the reality is that “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be revealed.” Luke 12:2
I’m no different than anyone else…I’ve worn those human masks, haven’t we all? But I want to talk about this particular mask. This is my radiation mask. This is the mask I wore for 33 days during my cancer treatment. It appears imperfect and full of holes. You can still make out my face beneath it. There is no hiding. During treatment the holes allowed the Proton radiation beams to enter my body in the most precise way. But those holes did so much more. They allowed me to open my eyes and see the machine above me that had a cross indicating the exact center position. But to me I saw the cross that led me to my Savior. I saw this cross before every treatment and prayed for strength and endurance. Since my diagnosis, the first thing that came to my mind was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God is my strength.
The holes also allowed me to breathe. At first the natural reaction is to hold your breath for some reasons, but once you release that first breath it is a burden lifted. Unlike other times in my life where I felt the weight of my burdens and found it hard to breathe, this time I realized that with God as my strength that I didn’t have to hold my breath. Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” God is my Father.
So as I lay there on the table, bolted down, vulnerable and alone, wearing this mask I didn’t choose, I had no choice as I saw it but to surrender once again to God. To trust him with my life. To give him my disease. To give him my praise and thanksgiving, even in my weakness and suffering. To give him my all. Even though I didn’t know what my future would hold, or what my results would be, I had to just relax (hard to do bolted down) and know that He had me in his loving arms. Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed For I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God is my shelter.
I feel like my mask, with all its holes opened me up to a two way conversation with the Lord. I could see out and He could see in. He could see my fears, my anxieties, my worries; but He could also see my faith, my surrender, my desperate need for Him to take over and heal me. James 4:8 “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” I would never wish this disease on anyone, but I wish that everyone could wear this mask just once. Because what appeared imperfect and full of holes to you, I see as perfect and Holy. Formed to fit me perfectly; formed to transform me. I see this mask as the shield of Jesus Christ that protected me and healed me. Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” God is my shield.
I struggle today with wearing the human mask of trying to show everyone how strong I am. I don’t like being weak. But God sees through this mask as well. I have nowhere to hide. I am suffering with pain and infection and unforeseeable treatments to repair my mouth. Today I admit to you how weak I really am. But not in God’s eyes. So I must remember when I feel like I can’t breathe beneath the mask of strength, that 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says “But He said to me, ‘My grace is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God is my champion.
If it weren’t for this mask, my cancer wouldn’t be nearly dead. Psalm 30:2 “Oh Lord, my God. I called you for help and you healed me.” After 33 radiation treatments and 6 chemo treatments it’s true my cancer appears to be dying. It wasn’t without many trials including, a rush to the ER, a last minute hospital stay and blood transfusion, months of not being able to eat or drink without pain, a terrible infection, jaw pain, dead exposed bones, a huge hole in my mouth and countless other tribulations too numerous to mention. But each of these trials forced me to put my trust and faith in the Lord. It has made me so much stronger in my faith. I never doubted God. Romans 4:20-21 says “Yet he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” God is the Alpha and Omega.