I wear the mask

Subtitle: Note to self…

Note: Rummaging through old, long-forgotten files (in an irony-of-ironies-moment in this coronavirus-induced mask-wearing time), I came across this poem that I wrote on Monday, June 1, 1987, a week before my 35th birthday; the heart, the point of which is a lesson I have needed to relearn and to practice every day.


Paraphrasing the prayer, I
“live and move and have my being”
in a sphere
that, each day, demands that I (or so I hear a call to) don a mask;
the mask of fitness, boldness, happiness
(my take on the Olympic hendiatris: citius, altius, fortius)
and all to hide the oft helpless, hopeless soul I really am.

Oft, after yet another make-believe day,
I, confused, do not perceive (remember?) my real self:
Is it (am I) the mask or the one behind the mask?

Oft, when I ask myself, given a choice,
I choose the mask:
the appearance (the performance)
of how I want to be seen by others and by me.

Yet when God, Who fully knows me, says, “I love you, Paul,”
I, still confused, do not know to which “you” God speaks:
Is it the mask or the one behind the mask?

If I choose the latter,
believing that God could not possibly love helpless, hopeless me,
then I reject God’s Love.

If I choose the former,
believing that God must love how I appear to the world to be,
then I reject God’s Love;
for God, according to the hymn, loves me without one plea.

Now, finally, I see that if, when I hear, heed God’s Word of Love,
then and only then can the Apostle’s words become my own:
“Wretched man that I am!”

And then and only then can I respond with love to God.

And then and only then real relationship with God
and with you
and with me
for I am unmasked.

© 2020 PRA

2 thoughts on “I wear the mask

  1. Paul,

    I absolutely LOVE this….I was just thinking the other day what God would think about this whole mask controversy?? Does he love those who refuse to wear masks as much as he loves those of us who do? The Commandment says thou shall not kill, but aren’t those without masks threatening the very lives of the people they come in contact with??

    In addition and more to your point in this post, I think some people who are wearing masks for COVID have been wearing masks for most of their lives and are now “double-masked” in a sense… I know God can see through to the “real them” but for the rest of us, especially with those different from us, we have to figure out how many layers of masks are they really wearing and how do we get to the “real” them?

    Much love!!!!


  2. The God I believe in loves the creation and all creatures therein unconditionally. So, whether we wear or refuse to wear masks (indeed, I also believe, refrain from causing harm to others and ourselves or causing harm to others and ourselves), God’s Love abides.

    Nevertheless, I also believe that we humans are responsible for our actions (and inactions). As a Christian, I believe in a God of love and justice, benevolence and fairness for all at all times and in all ways. Thus, for me, wearing a mask in public is an expression of my seeking to live out my faith.

    Now, at some deep (deepest) degree of our human being, all of us wear masks. I think for the simple – and, perhaps, obvious – reason that, as the Apostle saith, “Now, we see in a mirror, dimly.” That is, as I interpret the saying, we don’t…we can’t see and know ourselves completely. Less deeply, but no less truly, on a conscious level (that is, pertaining to what we do know – or think that we know – about ourselves) not one of us reveals fully at all times what we’re thinking and feeling and intending. To whatever extent that is true, we wear masks. And this doesn’t even touch on our act(ion) in presenting to the world what we want others to see and, thus, perceive or judge us to be…

    In a word, life is complicated. We humans are complex. Thank God, though God being the most complicated, most inscrutable Being of all, on the score of loving us is simple. God always does and always will.



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