"Look at me. You can see for yourselves, and my brother Benjamin can see for himself, that it's me, my own mouth telling you all this"… Then Joseph … kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Only then were his brothers able to talk to him.
– Genesis 45:12-15 (The Message)
When I think of masks, I think of Venice and Carnevale. You know the one I mean – that annual event held before Lent where everyone dresses in beautiful costumes and wears those amazing masks.
It wasn't Carnevale time when I visited Venice, but I do remember peering into shop windows to gaze at the handcrafted papier-mâché masks, the exquisite shapes and colors of the Harlequins and Pierrots, and the beaked, leather Casanova masks.
It's a dazzling display for sure, but to be honest, I've always found the masks slightly unnerving - especially the ghostly volto, the traditional white Venetian half-mask.
For some, the whole beauty of the mask lies in the "conceal" – in the element of disguise and the chance to be someone you're not. To me however, it's the "reveal" where the true beauty lies.
Isn't it beautiful, for instance, that before Joseph could experience reconciliation with his brothers, he had to drop the "Egyptian ruler" mask he'd been hiding behind?
Joseph had to abandon his masquerade and reveal to his brothers the man behind the mask. He had to be willing to embrace his brothers instead of keeping them at arm's length. Only then could his brothers talk freely with him. And only then could Joseph truly be healed of his past.
Funny, isn't it, how Joseph's experiences with his brothers all those thousands of years ago still true ring true today? When someone's betrayed us, we start to question: can this person really be trusted with my heart again? If we think they can't, we may still relate to them, but only in a superficial manner, with our masks firmly on.
Yet reconciliation requires the removal of both distance and disguise. If we truly want to see those broken relationships in our life healed, we have to drop the mask and embrace those whom we've kept far away from us.
Perhaps God is challenging you now about the people you've kept at arm's length from you. Are you willing to drop your mask today to start mending a broken relationship?
The risk of being hurt again may be great, but the rewards of reconciliation are even greater!