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Dear Paul,

On your retreat, I realized that I wear masks all of the time. It is so bad that I am not even sure who I am any more. What advice can you give me to help me remove my masks?


Dear Friend,

Thanks for writing. I want to let you know that I have asked some of the wisest people I know, including quite a few teenagers who serve on the REAP Team and who have attended our retreats, for practical advice on how to remove masks. Here are some excellent tips –

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU WEAR MASKS

People in various kinds of recovery groups would tell you that the first step to healing is to admit that you have a problem. I am proud of you that you have done that. I think that everyone wears masks sometimes, by the way – and we need to establish this fact (not so that we go a guilt trip about it) but so that we can begin to remove them. So here are some questions – When, and with whom, do you wear masks? Is it with friends? A certain group or groups of friends? At school? At home? With adults?

Hey, there! My name is Lara and I am beyond thrilled to introduce myself as the REAP Team’s newest Retreat Leader!

I’m a big fan of laughing, Mary (Momma Mary, that is), green tea (preferably iced, always unsweet), and Chick-fil-A (I love it so much I gave it up for Lent one year). In my free time you can find me playing my cello, running with my sweet doggo, Grantley, or managing his Instagram account, @hello.grantley. I believe that St. Catherine of Siena got it right when she said “Be who you were made to be and you will set the world on fire.” The world needs more people who can be brave and bold and step out in faith…and that’s what I’m striving to do!

We all struggle with the temptation to wear masks, and it’s a lifelong struggle. We face temptations regularly – often daily – to try to be someone we’re not. Whether we are just trying to fit in, attempting to hide our hurts with the “I’m fine” mask, or doing whatever it takes to make others like us, the struggle is real. But, since this temptation is common to all people, we are in good company!

I think you could even make a case that Jesus was tempted to wear masks; in the Bible it says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but never sinned. So, even though Jesus experienced the temptation to be fake, He never was. He was Himself all of the time. And by looking to Him, we can find help and inspiration as we strive to be true to ourselves.

Those of us who have devoted our lives to helping God’s kids by serving in the fields of youth ministry and education can tend to feel overwhelmed most (if not all) of the time. Whether we are full-time, part-time, or volunteers, it’s demanding and tireless work.

And we spend so much time and energy dedicated to improving the lives of other people’s children that those of us with children of our own can sometimes wonder… what about my own kids? Am I giving them the attention that they need, or are they being unintentionally neglected because of the amount of time I spend in ministry?