In high school, I took four years of French class. I don’t remember much French, but what I do remember are the wonderful Mardi Gras celebrations we had each year! Each year, on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, we would have a masquerade party. We would come to school in costumes and masks; we even sang special songs. One song claimed, “today, I can be whoever I want,” and went on to list characters that one might dress up as.

Of course it was just a silly song, but too often, it seems that we fall into the trap of putting on masks, facades we use to hide our authentic, vulnerable selves. Sometimes, we want others to see us as strong, smart, and brave, like the historical figures and superheroes mentioned in the song. Other times, we just long to fit in, so we mold ourselves into something we’re not to please the people around us.

Scripture encourages us to be authentic and embrace who we are, rather than letting other people’s perceptions of us tell us who we ought to be. In 1 Timothy 4, the author writes to his disciple, a young new leader and teacher, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” In other words, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t called and capable. Instead, be true to yourself and to the work to which God has called you.

Mardi Gras is just a couple of weeks away and no doubt, there will be many masquerades again this year. As we approach it, I invite you to spend your time reflecting on what masks you might already be wearing. How might God empower us to take the risk of shedding our masks?