I’m not sure where Paul Laurence Dunbar — widely known as one of the first premier, african-american poets of the 19th century — was with the Lord . But his famed poem, “We Wear the Mask” seems like one that would resonate all the more deeply with American citizens given all that’s gone on in the media, cities, and minority/police relations. The reason the piece struck me is because it basically sounded like a modern Psalm — uninspired, of course. The plea to Christ in the last stanza rings of a Davidic lament — a cry from a “tortured soul.” This past Sunday, my preacher heralded the glories of Luke 12 for his sermon. In verse 50 of this passage, the Lord says, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” This baptism refers to his death, but what struck me was his distress; surely, the torture his soul went through was not only on the cross. So for any tortured souls out there, for any wearing a mask of a smile but who scream on the inside, turn to Christ this day. He is able to sympathize like none other. Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!