O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)
Many years ago, when I was on a retreat, I spent a bit of time wandering the expansive grounds of the center. Around every turn, I discovered another quote meant for us to sit in contemplation. This particular one struck me so deeply that I pulled out my journal and penned it in: “Welcome to this place of solitude. Please feel free to take off your masks.”
That phrase has a very different meaning these days. I kept thinking about that this week as I have been very focused (as are many of you) on wearing my mask and establishing appropriate social distancing at all times — especially this past week when I traveled to be with my mother and to help with her care. I maneuvered through an airport for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic – and I certainly didn’t take off my mask. In fact, I managed to wear both a mask and a face shield to protect myself and others all around me. But it got me to thinking about this little quote.
What does it mean to come into solitude and to take off my mask? And what does it mean in these days? In a physical sense, we wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the spread of this virus. And we do it out of love and compassion. Yet, when we talk about masks in a relationship, we know that they can create barriers to intimacy — whether we are talking about the people close to us or even with God. So often, I enter into a time of prayer pretending that I’m someone who is self-sufficient, and independent and in need of nothing from God. That kind of mask distances me from a God who wants to be a part of my life, bringing hope, or possibility, or strength, or comfort. This Scripture reminds us that there is nothing hidden from God. When I remove my mask, I choose to enter into solitude with God who provides me a safe space to simply be myself, to commune with God, to feel safe and secure and loved. Mask-free.
Rev. Dr. Deb Kaiser-Cross
Minister for Congregational Care
For those who are struggling with anxiety, grief, and sadness in these days:
Gracious God, you know us better than we know ourselves. You have looked deeply into our souls and have seen our secrets and our successes, our doubtings, and our yearnings. You call us to come to you as we are. As we unmask ourselves, you invite a transformation from the inside out. You invite us to release the parts of ourselves that keep us safe and stuck, the parts that we even hide from ourselves. You offer us the pathway of spiritual growth even we shrink from that process. Grant us the vision and courage to trust that your will and ways will lead us to a deeper connection with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Photo credit: Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing. Naples, June 2018