As many of us are preparing for the holidays it is good to ask the question, “Can we go home again?”—can we go back and reestablish the roles and we grew up with? We might ask the question, “Can I go back and wear the clothes I wore in grade school or, “Can I go back to my place at the family table where I learned my role in my family and life?”
The thing that inspired this question was a recent trip to Yucatan, Mexico to lead a conference and marriage retreat. In the week just before I traveled to Mexico, I also led a pastor’s retreat in my hometown of Latrobe, PA. For the record, I had never led anything of a spiritual nature in my hometown. The two trips coming close together caused me to ask, “Can I go home again?” I can imagine that those I knew growing up might be a little unsettled with what I do in this autumnal season of life. They may go so far as to think me a hypocrite. (An actor in an ancient Greek drama wore a mask to portray a character.) They might recall the mask I wore as a younger person and struggle to see me now in the guise of that mask. (By the way, no one in my family has done that to my knowledge.) The one with the problem accepting me and separating myself from my family mask is me, not my family.
All of us grew up in some kind of family system, whether good or otherwise. In the truest sense, all family systems are unique at some level. We grew up and learned that to meet our basic needs to be loved and accepted that we would have to make a few adjustments. We saw ourselves in a certain way and our families related to us according to their own needs. Some needed us to be strong while others needed us to be submissive. We all, in a sense, put on some kind of mask to fit in and to survive. We became what others told us we needed to be to belong. We acquired a false self in order to survive and find our place in those younger years whether they were filled with joy or a jungle. Some were heroes and others functioned as the baby of the family. The masks served a purpose whether or not they were a true representation of our truest self. Then at some point we grew up and moved away from the family drama. We walked onto new stages differentiating ourselves from the roles and masks we put on as children. The masks we wore no longer fit us and we went off to discover and become the person who lived behind the mask.
Sooner or later we “put away childish things” as Paul suggested, including the masks that no longer fit us. “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11 NAS95)
Our families may try to keep us in those masks they’ve grown accustomed to. It is no surprise that Jesus experienced the same issue when he stepped into his destiny as Messiah. His family and friends tried to refit the mask they were comfortable with.
And He *came home, and the crowd *gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” …Then His mother and His brothers *arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!“ For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-21, 31–35 NAS95 emphasis mine)
The Scripture speaks for itself. Jesus was not the same person the crowd was looking for. He was immersed in the heart and will of the Father. His relationships were redefined. His true identity was out in the open. Note that Jesus never wore a mask; any mask was a product of the expectations and understanding of his family and friends who thought he had lost his senses when he was openly being the Messiah; his true self. He was not being disrespectful to his family; he was the Messiah!
The truth is, we can go home again, but we may bring a mask-less version or ourselves that our families will have to learn to know. We will sit at the table at Thanksgiving or another gathering and our families may still be looking for you. (For the masked person they grew up with.) We are not hypocrites; we have simply outgrown the masks put on us as children. The stage has changed and the mask can now come off. We are who we are by the grace of God who calls us to live in our truest and beloved selves in his presence: unmasked, radiant in the love of Christ. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAS95)