There was a relatively brief but intense media firestorm recently about the inappropriate, perhaps illegal, ‘unmasking’ of people who had been surreptitiously surveilled by the government. It reminds us that identity protection and the challenge of keeping secrets is a struggle that has played out in all kinds of cultural scenarios and diverse situations throughout history.
A Classic Case ~
The case of that heroic character, Zorro, leaps to mind as a classic example. He was the dashing swordsman from a few generations ago who emerged as the self-appointed defender of all who were oppressed by corrupt government officials. Well, okay… he didn’t really defend ‘all’ those who were oppressed. Since his only transportation was a horse, he could only defend those fortunate enough to live close by. Oppressed peasants in distant regions had to either move closer or just suck it up and deal with it.
According to Hollywood’s trustworthy historians, Zorro mainly worked the night shift and he wore a very distinctive outfit on the job. It was all black, top to bottom, and included a wide, flat-brimmed hat and a large flowing cape, which was indispensable for performing all his signature moves (i.e., dramatic dance-quality cape-swooshing, which was all the rage back then, and carving a perfect ‘Z’ with his sword on any material known to man at that time, including the Governor’s underwear).
Openness Can Present Problems ~
To avoid being hounded by autograph-seeking groupies, or being inconveniently killed by the fascist Governor’s evil hit-men, Zorro had to hide his true identity. He accomplished that feat with remarkable ease by simply donning a black mask that covered his eyes—an idea he may have actually stolen from the Lone Ranger.
Zorro’s need to move about incognito when he wasn’t working was accomplished by maintaining a whole separate identity. The transformation included parking his sleek, black, sexy-looking horse (probably an import) in a secret barn, hiding his black outfit in a secret closet, and, of course, removing his mask and hiding it in a secret drawer. Then he would dress in frilly, geeky-looking clothes and conduct himself in distinctively non-hero ways. He even had one of those drab, brown, pre-owned horses whose appearance fairly screamed, ‘Zorro would puke if he had to ride me’. He always rode that one into town for shopping and stuff like that. During the day he masqueraded as Don ‘I’m-just-a-mild-mannered-dork-who-could-never-swoosh-a-cape-or-carve-anything-with-a-sword’ Diego.
Revealing Too Much Can Hurt ~
Zorro’s love interest was also a reason for the dual identity thing. She was probably the object of a lot of toxic local gossip because she was always sporting perfect hair and teeth, and wore those expensive ‘off the shoulder’ dresses, which made the other women in town look like they shopped at Scullery Maid Association yard sales. Add to that the fact that she seemed to be the only woman in town flaunting clean-shaven underarms, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble! If she ever discovered that behind her heroic, black-clad, heart-throb’s mask was a pansy of a guy who wore lacy shirts and rode that ‘rescued-farm-animal’ looking horse, any future relationship would be toast.
Can Privacy and Intimacy Mix?
Both Zorro’s plight and our recent political upheavals underscore a human characteristic that even we non-hero types have to deal with. Ever since the fall in Eden, we have felt compelled to hide things about ourselves. Covering up whatever we think others might find less than attractive allows us to feel more secure and socially confident. The problem with that is that it runs counter to the nature of the love we all crave.
Love always longs for intimacy, and not the version Hollywood created which reduces it to a matter of physical proximity and swapping body fluids. That isn’t intimacy. People do that every day who don’t even know each other – and maybe don’t really want to. The intimacy love demands requires an unmasking of who we are on the inside, and that can be frightening. Real intimacy feels at the same time like love’s most compelling attraction, and its most intimidating threat. But cheer up—there’s help available.
If genuine love and the intimacy that is its crown jewel are to be achieved, the internal covers must come off, and someone has to take that first step. The very source of love itself already did that for us. John said, “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). God has always sought to reveal to us who He really is, and in Jesus Christ, He made it clearer than ever.
Love’s Answer for Intimacy’s Quest ~
Through His Son, God invites us to experience the intimacy both with Him and with each other that only His kind of love can accomplish. It begins by seeing and believing who He really is, and then openly exposing who we really are, flaws and all (as if He didn’t already know). When we take the step to do that, we discover that the flaws we tried so hard to hide haven’t frightened Him off at all—quite the contrary. He loves us in spite of them. Being unmasked before Him allows us to let go of those manufactured identities we try to hide behind, and we discover that the flaws we fought to obscure are transformed into trophies of His grace. Then love can finally achieve its goal. Then we can freely display forever the identity that He intended … the identity He died to redeem.
© 2017 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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Ron, I love this post! People are literally dying for real—real love, real intimacy, real relationships, real peace. They are looking for the answers everywhere, whether they realize it or not. We, as the church, must reflect what real/true love is: JESUS CHRIST. We must allow people to see our process and growth as we spend time with our savior. This means people will see our flaws. But here’s the hitch, we must believe God loves the “real” us that we hide from the world. When we embrace His grace, love, and our true identities, we cannot help but shine it to the world and in turn, they will want it too!
That’s my two cents 🙂
Wow — Your ‘two cents’ worth is worth a lot more than two cents. But that’s not unusual for you, Beckie. I am grateful as always for your nourishing input and blessed to have you in my ‘friend’ column. Your commitment to His truth is obvious, as is your talent to communicate it. I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming Writers’ Conference if you’re able to make it. Either way, thanks again for the gracious encouragement.
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