‘Masquerade..paper faces on parade..hide your face and the world will never find you.” (approximate lyrics from the musical Phantom of the Opera)
I can remember sitting in a Broadway theatre, listening to the powerful yet painful interpretation of those words as the character of the phantom sang them. As a young woman in my 20’s, I was deeply, deeply troubled as I listened, knowing that he was hiding his damaged face ..his imperfections..to likely try and protect his lifelong, broken heart from further rejection and sorrow. In the story, he ultimately releases the young woman whom he desperately loves (Christine), finally aware that she could never love him in he visual brokenness.
Here we are now with COVID-19, similarly hiding our faces but purposely and proactively..a positive choice: to attempt to shield others as well as ourselves. Being homebound (except for shopping and working a handful of hours at the hospital ) has recently caused me to to step into my younger son’s shoes and examine disability (his) in a slightly different light(that I will talk about shortly).
People only view a small portion of my face after I intentionally don my mask before going in to public places, so to compensate I must use exaggerated gestures and deliberately pleasant tones in order to communicate my mood and attitude (eg as a shopper goes up the down aisle, engaging in subtraction of the 6 feet rule, and unaware of my creeping expressed facial anxiety, I pleasantly greet her ..this is known and “reaction formation” in the biz..as I wholeheartedly hasten aback several steps in the opposite direction ). But what about the one who wears a different sort of “mask” without opportunity (this side of Heaven) to remove it as I have (after flinging my eggs onto my car seat)? Even by the grace of our Lord, when the Coronavirus has eventually left us, my son will carry on , but STILL be distanced, ofter unseen/unheard ..and not by choice. He is “masked” by his God-given limitations..made in His image ,as we Christians profess, but too ofter passed by as in the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)..too much of a bother…inconvenient ..and worst of all, possessing a limited desire or no desire at all to approach and befriend. After all, what would the earthly reward be? Let someone else do it. Many may think,”thank God that’s not my child,” or “I don’t know how that mom copes,” or worse yet they may quietly and yet knowingly pity. Don’t pity me!
I wear my mask, I hide my expressions as a consequence of the covering. I have no choice in our current pandemic…signs are posted. I must do it, and as mentioned, use other ways to communicate.
Because of his disabilities, my son doesn’t have access to spontaneous gesture and changes in voice tone in whatever circumstances he might find himself. He might, like the phantom, sometimes feel that others choose to look away ..away from his very different, yet God-chosen, face and disability.
The wearing of my N95 at the hospital has made me ponder what it must be like for him when he is in someone’s view with preconceived ideas and limited understanding ( by default, unfortunately). Because of the “mask” of disability, where he unintentionally and unknowingly hides, he will never drive a car, have a girlfriend or marry like his peers..and he won’t understand why…
Hide your face so the world will never find you.
Meanwhile, WE wait in our face coverings, hoping to get the all-clear message..it’s safe- to -come- out- now message and to go back to “normal” .
My son waits (unbeknownst to him) for Christ’s return…for restoration..for Him to lovingly lift away his “mask” and welcome him with both gifts of salvation (yes, he has accepted Jesus!) and sameness with others..in Glory.
I cannot wait for that joyful, joyful day!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)