Monday, August 27, 2007


You may know me as “Curious Servant.” It is a name I chose for myself when I first started blogging. I was afraid of letting those in the wide world of the World Wide Web know my true identity.

As if there is such a thing.

The name on my birth certificate, driver’s license, and sundry other documents is William David Greenleaf. When I was little I was “Bill." That lasted until my mid 20s when I shed that appellation for Will, thinking it was a better, stronger, more positive name.

To my students I am Mr. Greenleaf, a name that sums up my identity as a teacher, someone who does not exist outside of the school building (a fallacy which frequently brings shocked recognition at the grocery store or the library).

These names conceal more than they reveal. They provide me superficial identities for various situations. None of them are the true me.

A closer version of who I am comes out when I am with close friends, sharing hidden truths. My Moon Howlin buddies gather about once a month to sit around a camp fire and talk about anything that comes to mind, from family to faith, jokes to jobs, music to musings, fears to foolishness. We haven’t gotten together this summer. We need to do that. I need to do that.

There is the identity I have with my wife. It is a truer part of who I am, but still somewhat of a mask, an identity of being sure when I’m not, a touch of bravado, a touch of arrogance, a touch of the petulant child. Still, there is little that I can hide from her that she does not know after living for more than a quarter of a century with me.

There is the identity she provides me. She lets her guard down with me. Lets herself be negative, sardonic. She tends to see the downside of things, or perhaps that is simply the role she plays with me, and isn’t all she truly is.

I think people fall into roles they play for certain people. A common interest, a common joke, and the interactions tend to repeat. There are people I speak to about science, people I speak to about faith. There are those I talk politics with and others environmentalism.

Perhaps that is one reason I like to write these posts. Here I can say what I want, though... even here I tend to group everything around certain themes, certain ideas.

Brenda and I were at the pharmacy, my sleep meds cost more than I would have guessed.

“I guess everything is getting more expensive,” I said.

“Everything costs more than it should,” she replied. “Life is expensive. You can’t afford to live unless you are wealthy or so poor that the government pays for it.”

It was a typical glass half empty sort of comment she often makes to me. Sardonic, pessimistic.

Lately we, well especially me anyway, have been trying to find new ways to communicate, to interact. When she said this small testy comment about inflation I thought, this is typical of the sort of things we say. I would guess she is approaching life differently when she speaks to this other man. I would guess she leaves sarcasm and bitterness out of her conversations with him. I’ve seen her happy, flirty. Just not with me for some time.

It is no wonder she longs to run away. She could be silly, vivacious, and flirty with someone who doesn’t know the mask she has worn for so long.

I know there is more to Brenda than this. I know there are wonderful things about her. I hope... I pray... that we can learn to let each other find joy in the other, let the other grow and find beauty that comes with letting masks fall away.

But I also know that she sees this life we have as a series of eternal obligations and burdens involved in raising children, paying bills, dealing with the mess of life.

I cannot take those responsibilities away. I cannot strip her of the tragedy mask she has worn since our son died, since our other son burned down the church, since the bills and the house repairs and car repairs and the sickness and the drudgery of working and living.

And perhaps I cannot get her to put on the comedy mask that thrills to living and being free and looking with anticipation at the future.

I cannot get her to adopt anything at all.

But I can tend to my own masks. I can be aware when I am putting on a facade. I can wear the superficial mask of the pleasant teacher when it is needed, and I can set it aside when I am with those I trust.

I can pray that my wife recognizes that the masks she longs to wear will not provide her a life of happiness.

I can work to remove the masks I wear when I look at myself, when I tell myself I am who I am not, restoring a bruised ego with self-prescribed empty platitudes. (I have heard it said that there are few things as fragile as the male ego).

So who am I? I suppose I am Curious Servant, the blogger who puts a good face on his struggles and seeks to turn a clever phrase with parallelism and alliteration. I’m Will, the friend of my friends, the husband of Brenda, the father of Jeremiah and Isaac, and of Willy who lives with my King and Master. I suppose a part of me is still Bill, the boy who pretended to be a pirate and a spaceship captain and rode through magical fantasies springing from a childhood mind. I’m also the man who is self-centered and proud of things that are not of my making, or even of my possession, for all I have is merely lent to me (including my marriage). Perhaps I am even Curious Servant, the blogger who thinks about faith and science and art and love and kindness...

So what do I do with the masks? They are useful things, politically useful in keeping a job, in being civil and civilized. But I should be careful of which ones I wear, and when I wear them.

Most importantly, I can remember to toss all the masks into a heap when I am praying to my King and try to see my life, my physical body, my mind, my eternal soul, the way He sees them and live up up to the great love He offers me, despite what I strap to this human visage.


Anonymous said...

in my prayers i refer to you as CS, but i'm sure God knows who CS is. you're always in my prayer, my friend... you, brenda and your marriage.

Amrita said...

the masks are actually the roles you play in life.

Vicki said...

Praying for you all....thanks for this post. It spoke volumes to me. I wonder if these are truly masks we wear, or just the many facets to our lives? I'm sure in my own life, different folk see different sides of me. The cry of my heart has always been that someone would see ALL of me. Ironically, God does....and has, all along.

He knows the sum of us. We are but dust on the one hand, yet sons and daughters of the Most High God.

He loves you, Will, and sees your heart--and all the many facets to your life. We continue to pray and lift you and Brenda up.

bjk said...

...that we can learn to let each other find joy in the other, let the other grow and find beauty that comes with letting masks fall away.

When the masks fall away we are naked and it is in the nakedness that there is shame......not at all as He intended I can we live in the nakedness and be so free there as to draw others into it when shame keeps us from feeling free? I am praying as you journey through this to find that freedom.

hebrews 11:1 said...

Good post on masks...and this comment is from one who has never revealed their full name, although some know my middle name...

Lil Pilgrim Pal

curious servant said...

We go to the counselor again tomorrow.

Uncertainty reigns.

Scratch that. He reigns.

Still, I have no clue how things will turn out.

It is difficult to remain loving and patient in this. She projects her anger and mistakes onto the world around her, including me.

Meanwhile, work is busy. We are hustling to prepare for students next week.

I feel like the reasons I want her to stay are more about what I think is healthy and good for her, and less about me. I think that unless she understands that her happiness is not dependant on someone else, she will never learn to be happy.

I have another secret as well.

I know his phone number. It would be a simple thing to do a reverse directory to get an address, though I suspect it is a cell phone and the address would lead me to his forsaken wife.

I don't need to be thinking along those lines.

Thursday my moon Howlin' buddies are getting together at 6:00 for our weekly prayer meeting. It is the first meeting since summer is ending and the school year is starting up.

It seems strange that I have revealed so much here and have not confided in them.

So... Counseling Wednesday at 3:00... Prayer meeting Thursday at 6:00 a.m.

And meanwhile prayers from all of you.

Thank you.

Amrita said...

A get together with your buddies is a good thing...enjoy that.
Pray your session with the counsellor is beneficial to you both.

It hard must hard to honor and love Brenda after what she has put you thru.But you can honor and love her her in the ROLE of a wife God gave you. I got this from a person who was sexually abused as a child.

I took it for my life as I was emotionally abused and rejected by some people.

I know how tempted you must be to ring up this guy and give him a peice of your mind. But it takes 2 to tango,Brenda is in it as much as he.It won 't be of any use.

Prayed for you both right now.

Jim said...

Hi CS. I pray for you guys, I will pray for the counseling too.

You have a good post on masks here, I put on a protective mask to hide behind until I get comfortable.
Pretty much what you see is what I am and if you're lucky it's what you get.
I won't tell my full name on my blog, Jim is enough. Some do know the whole name but I won't post it.
It would just be a lot more of the Google pages to pick me up, there are enough already.

Again, best wishes for the session tomorrow. I will pray for you till and after that.
God cares how things go, more even than you guys do.