Once we learn that maybe we were wearing masks for acceptance, love, self-protection, or religious approval...an entirely new conversation begins. "What does it look like to not wear a mask?" This is no attempt to answer that question. But I'm learning being free from mask wearing is not synonomous with telling everyone everything I know all the time. Going through a difficult season or two I've been forced to embrace some perplexing realities: 1) Most people don't think about me all day long. Now, I'm troubled by this, but I'm noticing it to be true. 2) Most people can't remember the details of my health issues the next time they see me, no matter how many times I've copiously expressed my maladies to them with great passion. 3) Most people want to care about me, but in small doses. 4) Most people would, on occasion, like me to ask questions about them and their lives, their maladies and joys. Again, its hard for me to wrap head around this, but it appears to be so. 5) Sometimes, it is heroically authentic and deeply loving to actually just enter the arena and kick the ball to the next person without first expressing my latest health twist and turn. 6) Love is a process of meeting needs. And if time after time, I give a need to folks who are fully and medically unable to meet that need, they can't help but become anesthetized to my issue or immediately must begin schooling to become medically trained in the area of my yammering. 7) I must cultivate a few friends, who I can periodically demand to hear everything about my stuff, with slide shows and documentation. My wife comes to mind. She made a vow to listen to this stuff or at least convince me, through nodding, smiles and brief rejoinders, that she is listening. She actually almost always wants to know, because we became one flesh 31 years ago. But I'm noticing even she needs breaks, where I care fully about her world, her needs, her delights, her sadnesses, and her cool looking summer dresses she bought yesterday. :) ...Oh, how wonderful to have a few friends who understand my seasons of self-absorbed pain, where they lovingly abdicate their right to be immediately heard by me. Unless they are in personal crisis, they just sort of let me run the table before we get to their interests. And next time I will do the same for them. Its beautiful. All this is the art of love, of maturity. Of mature friends in a community who see the rhythm of true friendship. And once I'm no longer wearing the mask which pretends I'm someone other than who I am-that mask formed of shame which told me I would not be loved if the real me was seen-Once I have trusted my identity in Christ enough to begin to let that lie die...Then I'm free to occasionally put on a posture which some might call a mask, but is probably more aptly called "The courageous discretion of listening when you'd rather vent." Jesus, the most authentic person who ever walked the earth, did not continually share, except to His Father, the impending reality of the Cross. Love for those who needed Him, compelled Him to not say everything to everyone all the time. For ultimately, on my worst day, there is One who seems to never grow weary of my story, who can't get enough of my nonstop stream of consciousness. And that, along with this new heart, ultimately, has made all the difference. ...Great love tribe of grace!