Pastor Jeff finished getting ready for bed before giving his kids kisses goodnight. He kissed his wife as she sat in bed reading her mystery novel. “Goodnight dear,” “goodnight, sweet dreams. I love you.” “I love you too,” he said while turning over and closing his eyes. It had been a long day for Pastor Jeff. Jeff had to deal with this young couple continuing to live in sin, and he was experiencing writer’s block with his sermon for Sunday. Didn’t take Jeff very long to get into dreamland, and when he got there, he was greeted by God. Jeff wasn’t sure if he was just dreaming or actually dead, “am I dead, God?” “Take the mask off!” God announced in a loud and powerful voice. “What do you mean, take my mask off, God?” “Your mask, the one you like to hide behind.”
Still lost and confused about what was going on, realizing this has to be some weird dream, he decides to go with it and takes the mask off. As he lowered the mask and looked up, looking into a mirror that had appeared. He didn’t recognize the man looking back at him, he did, but it was a younger version of himself. First, it was his 10-year-old self, and he would see a memory, then his face shifted into when he was a teen, again showing memories, then continued. As the dream went on, he was reminded of all the sins he had done and then realized that he had been judging the young couple who was no better than him with all his sins. After realizing what he needed to do, Jeff woke up.
Jeff just had woken up from a bizarre dream that had felt to have gone on all night. But he woke up, his wife was still sleeping next to him, and the house was quiet. Jeff looked at the clock sitting on his bedside table; it read 1:00 AM. He got up, making sure not to disturb his wife, and made his way down to his study. Knowing that he would be staying up, he turned on the light to the study. He walked to the kitchen to get some coffee started - making only half a pot for himself - then made his way back up to the study and scribbled a list of the steps he needed to take to do. To take off the metaphorical mask, he has been wearing for way too long now. Once he had a plan set in place, he brought the coffee to the study. Then, he began to read the Bible while keeping an open conversation with God on what he needed to put in his confession on Sunday.
Jeff knew he would have to start with the beginning and then work up to his actual confession. He began with the first face he recognized, his 10-year-old self in the mirror. In the mirror, it reminded him of when he stole his Mom’s necklace to give to the girl he liked, and when she noticed it was missing, he lied about it. Now his Mom did find out, but it wasn’t until his Mom saw the necklace on the girl while picking him up from class for a doctor’s appointment. She noticed it because the girl was directing her to the classroom on her way back from the bathroom. Supposedly she had asked, and the girl immediately told on him. The girl told Jeff’s Mom how her boyfriend Jeffrey gave it to her on her birthday, a month before the necklace was noticed missing. His Mom luckily was pleasant to the girl and let her keep it, but Jeffrey, on the other hand, was in a lot of trouble for stealing and then lying about it. His Mom grounded him for a week.
Then he sorted through the next confession, back from when he was in high school. Like most boys during that time in their life, he enjoyed hanging out with friends and being out too late. Jeff was staying out late partying, drinking, and on occasion some experimenting with some pills that someone stole from their parent’s medicine cabinet. Then there were, of course, there were girls. He never could be with one girl for long, he would be with one girl, and then the next party would come, and he’d be with someone new. By the time he was a sophomore in high school, he had been caught at several parties, had plenty of parents wanting him gone. Still, his parents somehow helped none of it come up to the surface just in case he wanted to do something with his life. But he now realized that in the process of being a typical teen boy, he also hurt a lot of people.
As he got to his last confession, the sun started shining through the window. Looking at the clock and realizing his wife would be awake soon took the coffee pot back to the kitchen and made another pot of coffee. He decided that what he had was good enough, and if they didn’t throw him out of the Church, he would make his most recent confession. The one where he admits to being a hypocrite.
The week went by slowly. Jeff was anxious and ready to get it all over with. He knew he needed to but was worried about how this might affect his job. What would the congregation think of him? Would they make him pack up and leave town? He had been praying and meditating on God’s Word, but the human in him still had him feeling a pinch of fear. By Sunday, he was still anxious. His wife had noticed but let it go when he assured her it was nothing and that it was in God’s hands now. He knew this to be accurate, and with his studies, he also knew that whatever happened after this morning, he was right with God, and that’s all that mattered.
Sunday went like usual; he greeted people as they walked into the Church, made small talk with the other members while making his way to the stage. Then, he invited everyone to find a seat to get ready for worship. Once worship was over, he knew that this was it; he took a sip of water and got his notes ready while clearing his throat.
“Good morning. I’m glad to see you all here this morning. I know we have been studying Romans, but God pushed me to do this instead as I worked on today’s sermon. Please bear with me while I make my confessions to you.” He looked at his wife, looking for a loving face, which he received. She had a look of concern but gave him a smile letting him know that whatever crazy thing he was about to do, she would be there for him. With this, he continued; he first told them about the sins of his younger years. Once he had them caught up on his past sins, he explained how being a leader in the Church has allowed the power to take over his identity. And he forgot what it really meant to teach like Jesus. “I know that it may come as a surprise, but even though I am a pastor, I am also human, and I sin. My biggest sin yet is letting myself become the judge of whose sin is more severe or not. From this day on, I will no longer hide behind a mask, and I think with this, I will be stepping down from my position to take time to rebuild my relationship with God.” Jeff finished his speech and was met with silence. No one moved what seemed to be forever. His wife was the first to move, getting up and meeting him at the stage to hug him. Soon others were lined up behind her wanting to give him the same support.
Months had gone by since Jeff let go of his position as pastor at the Church but continued to be an essential member of the Church. He continued to help both new and old members overcome their own past sins and teach them how to live their lives like Jesus.