One thing about the past six months that I think we all could agree on is the astounding way changes have happened across the board and around the world. Shut downs, shelter in place, schools and churches closed and masks are just a few of the abrupt halts to our sense of constants that we took for granted.
And while we would perhaps reach a consensus that there have been extraordinary adaptations needed in every area of our lives, we would most likely enter a rather heated discussion about how we feel about it all.
Since we know I am not one of those who loves debating, I will let that side of it rest and just present to you some of my observations about mask wearing. Now don’t you worry, this is not a pro/con, political, medical, socio-economic discussion about masks. This is just some things I have noticed personally about what happens to me when I put mine on.
In my weekly existence my mask-wearing happens when shopping or entering a restaurant or business, waiting on customers once a week in the store where I work and for an hour on Sunday morning.
And yes, I do wear my mask the entire service except for the part where I take communion. Our church has social distanced seating and requires masks for entering and exiting, in the aisles, singing and any visiting inside the building. But I just leave mine on since who knows what the CDC will tell us tomorrow and I would rather err on the side of caution to protect others.
I have noticed some things about me when I am wearing my mask that I find interesting. For instance, I find that I am less self-conscious when I have my mask on. Having a poker face is something I have never been accused of.
My emotions and mood are easily read by people who don’t even know me. While others can fake a smile or a neutral position in a conversation, my face is an open book. You never have to wonder what I am feeling or thinking.
This has made me feel vulnerable and over-exposed quite often. My heart and brain are not always ready to share what my expression has already betrayed. In social settings, I am often floundering to explain something that I would have preferred to just keep to myself.
Another thing I have noticed is that I assign a lot of value to a person’s face in its entirety. Apparently I don’t notice body shape and height, hair color and style, nor the physical gestures and gaits of my fellow humans.
Russ seems to recognize everyone with half their faces covered, and a boat load of people know who I am. However, I am clueless when some masked person starts talking to me.
Thankfully I can often recognize the voice as we go along, but I am completely disoriented as I try to look at the eyes only. I never realized how much I rely on the mouth and full facial expressions of others in communication.
On the flip side, I have also realized how much importance I put on my full face. With the mask on, I feel like half of me is missing. I care less about what I look like and I have less desire to communicate with others. It is like I have put down the blinds at the end of the day and closed off to the outside world.
Having struggled with two bouts of depression in my adult life and dealt with family who struggled more than I care to remember, it is eerily like standing on the brink of that mental and spiritual isolation. This is why mild panic rises in me when I see photos of large cities with massive groups masked or hear some modern day news-prophet declare that this will be our new normal forever and ever, amen. I pray this is not so.
Finally, I have observed that when I look at all those feelings above and yet put on my mask and journey on, I can understand submission so much better. I know there are those who are concerned about political powers that are taking away our freedoms, but I view this time as a season of learning and humbling for a woman who has never known anything but abundance and ease.
This time of mandatory mask wearing is helping me to understand true submission. I don’t feel resistant or resentful wearing my mask. I feel obedient. I feel that any adjusting my comfort and feelings is refining me and helping me lose some more of my selfishness and vanity.
I know so many are having to wear masks all day with ears that hurt from the strain and irritation to the skin. I am aware it’s hard to breathe through layers of fabric and it’s annoying to have your glasses fogged over. For those who have to communicate as part of their job, it is difficult to hear and be heard. I pray this will pass for all of us, but in the meantime I want to learn what God is teaching me during this trial.
God bless your sweet little masked faces today. You are so very loved. Hang in there…this too shall pass, but let’s be better on the other side <3