All The Masks We Wear

Dear Inner Circle,

There is a gift hidden amidst the rush and noise of a typical day at Wayside, and it isn’t so much given, as it has to be received. It’s easy to miss because of all the goodness that can swirl around. Last week as I sat in the cafe, I counted at least three taps on the shoulder seeking my attention while I was attempting to be a part of two conversations and a third lecture, thinking how grateful I am to have never paid for a consultant because all the advice provided here is unsolicited and free of charge. When it is particularly chaotic, I employ a skill I learnt from my father, that I honed while working in a youth detention centre and perfected as a parent of toddlers, to allow the chaos to flow around me by retreating to a corner of my mind.  As the drifting began, I was snapped back by a savvy regular in our Community Cafe, “No you don’t get to go there, Rev, come back and deal with this sh*t!” His quick catch was as keen as it was unwelcome, and we shared a cheeky laugh.

If you sit long enough at Wayside, you’ll realise that you are in the company of people who have, by and large, been freed from the need to project or protect any self-image that they feel the world demands of them. This is not to say that there isn’t dignity, quite the opposite in fact, there is a power present in their personhood that can be disarming and confronting.  Many of us waste so much effort on the pursuit of projecting or protecting our self-image. As a young boy I expended so much of it on trying to fit in, to be “one of the good ones”, to hear what I thought was the ultimate compliment: “Nah Jonny, I don’t even think of as Indian.”  What a waste of effort that was. I cringe when I think about it and would love to sit alongside that kid and give him a big hug to reassure him that he will find a tribe that loves him just the way he is.

There is a C.S. Lewis book called “Till we Have Faces.” I’ll admit that I haven’t it read it but the title sums up the life journey we are invited to embark upon. Life in many ways can be a process of slowly removing, one by one, the masks that we put on in our youth to protect our vulnerabilities, or to project some sort of image. The process is disarming and not for the faint-hearted. I shared a long meal in our cafe with two good friends from high school who are making their way in the corporate world with some success. As we spoke, slowly the truth of what surrounded them almost hit at the same time. Suddenly released from the need to speak of any accomplishments they were then freed to be real, and open. The light banter took a sharp turn and soon we were sitting in a tight supportive circle, as they disclosed the struggles they are facing that they expend huge amounts of effort to conceal. They had received the gift of release, and as the cap came off the pressure valve it gushed for quite a while. There were unchecked tears of sorrow and relief as no one really looked twice, so common is this scene by the Wayside. The writer Joseph Campbell once observed, “the place where you trip and fall, is where you’ll find pure gold.” That’s a truth that is lived out every day here, just like one much-loved regular told me, when sharing about a recent accident that led to hospitalisation and a release in just the hospital gown, “I felt like a freak on the train, until I got to Kings Cross again, then no one looked twice, and when I walked into Wayside, they all laughed and clapped and welcomed me home”.

Thanks for being a fellow traveller,


Rev. Jon Owen
CEO & Pastor
Wayside Chapel

P.S. Speaking of tripping and falling, if you want to join me this August for City2Surf, sign up here before midnight tonight and you’ll get discounted registration.


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