An innovative treatment for traumatic brain injury and psychological health concerns at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, part of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, involves the injured service members creating masks, allowing them to illustrate hidden feelings. Common themes chosen include “death (often represented by skulls), inabililty to express themselves (mouths stitched, gagged, or locked shut), physical pain (facial wounds), and patriotic feelings (American flags).” Some are resistant to the therapy, but several have found significant help.
“I thought it was a joke,” recalled Sergeant Hopman. “I wanted no part of it because, number one, I’m a man, and I don’t like holding a dainty little paint brush. Number two, I’m not an artist. And number three, I’m not in kindergarten. Well, I was ignorant, and I was wrong, because it’s great. I think it’s great. I think this is what started me kind of opening up and talking about stuff and actually trying to get better.” (“Behind the Mask,” National Geographic, February 2015, p. 44).
The masks created in this program help injured service members reveal their pain within. I think, in conrast to them, that most of us create masks to hide what is within. We would hardly ever reveal the pain within our hearts to others.
But that is not how it should be in the family of God. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; … Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:10, 15-16).
Paul also urges, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:25b-27).
Part of the glory of the New Jerusalem is that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). While we are in this life, however, we have our brothers and sisters in Christ to lift us up and care for us, to rejoice with us and to weep with us.