It’s a typical Sunday morning as you walk through the doors of your church. If you’d just be honest with yourself, it’s a real wonder that you managed to drag yourself out of bed. You nervously scan the foyer only to see your friends laughing and talking about how their children had a great time at the daddy/daughter dance last Friday night, and you’ve already begun coaching yourself. “All right, if anybody asks how I’m doing, I’m just going to smile and reply, ‘good, how are you?’ They are all so put together and I am just an absolute mess of a human being. Nobody needs to know how I’m really doing; they’d never see me the same again.”
For a culture that consistently promotes and romanticizes the idea of “being authentic”, we are a largely fake people. Unfortunately, I believe this to be an epidemic even within the culture of the Church. Scenarios similar to this short narrative I have written play out in reality every single day in churches and workplaces all over the world. The falsifying of self has become a repulsively common occurrence, unfortunately even in my own life. Half of the time we’re only interested in “being real” if that entails presenting the self that has been groomed and polished into something we desire to be but aren’t. We feel this unspoken pressure to put on what we perceive to be our “best selves,” pretending that we don’t carry any emotional baggage and that everything is just going super swell. (Do me a solid and read the words “super swell” in that fake happy male voice you hear in 1950s television ads depicting cheery cooking and cleaning housewives). If I’ve learned anything from struggling with this particular issue, I’ve learned that the longer you keep yourself in these chains, the worse the pain gets. Just as poorly fitting shackles rub your wrists raw after time, your heart dies a little more day after day as you work to upkeep the masquerade.
In recent years, I’ve come to realize that it is second nature for me to pretend. It’s effortless to suppress emotional pain or put on a mask that looks eerily similar to my true self but has been subtly spruced up. Unless I am with one of the incredibly rare people who I trust to see my truest and weakest self, it is easy for me to say that I’m just, good. I’m fine. I’m doing wonderful, but I don’t want you to ask me a single question about it. Even with the people who I trust the most, it is hard for me to verbalize the darkest parts of my thought life. I struggle often and deeply. Life has been going pretty well circumstantially speaking, but emotionally and spiritually it’s been difficult. I need inner healing that only the Father God can provide, but I majorly lack faith in the reality that it is available to me. That, is the ugly truth. As people pour wisdom and truth into me, I can easily nod my head and agree while invisibly, my heart is full of doubt. I am still in this place, and most days are emotionally taxing. But without counsel and love from others, I would be in ten times more of a mess than the one I’m in.
Here’s the deal, first, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves before we can even attempt to be honest with others. Sometimes I think we get so deep into the fog that we can’t see, or maybe even refuse to see our problems. We lie to ourselves, saying that we are okay so that we don’t have to confront the pain we’ve concealed so well for so long. We’re afraid that it’ll hurt too much, cost too much, or that others will cut us off from friendship if they find out how we really feel or what we’ve really done. Sometimes this type of pain is inflicted on us by things that others have done to us or even by unfortunate life circumstances. But sometimes, it is caused by our own foolish choices and sinful attitudes. No matter the source, we must find people to have genuine conversations with who care for our hearts and desire to see us grow.
We must carefully decide on a person or a few people to really, deeply trust. I don’t want you to run around pouring your heart out to just anybody on the street, but to someone who also practices living authentically and walking in the Light that is Christ. I don’t want you to pretend to trust, for that will not accomplish any real healing or provide any solid support for you. As emotional beings, it’s essential that we begin discussing the pain and struggles that we’ve never been brave enough to reveal. This kind of trust will be solidified only as we begin bringing the ugly parts of ourselves into the open. Having these healthy relationships is not merely a suggestion, but a command given out of love, from God. We are called as Christ followers to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) which cannot happen if we refuse to be honest and share our burdens. If you won’t be real with yourself or others about your emotions and struggles, you’ve stunted your own growth as a person and a Christian.
Please, friend. Do yourself a favor and prayerfully seek out relationships like this. Be brave and face your pain. Face that past or present sin. Dive deeply into the love of Christ exactly as you are. It is when we do this that God begins healing. It is often slow and grueling, but He is faithful to do it (preaching to myself). He holds us in the palms of His hands and soothes our wounds, often using other Christians that have worked through similar struggles.
I want to leave you with this scripture, to serve as a reminder that though Christ uses other people to guide us into our healing, it is HIM that is truly accomplishing it. Today, I have prayed for you, oh hurting reader, that you would boldly step into a season of healing and that the Father would surround you with people who are trustworthy and compassionate.
In His love,
Psalm 147:1-4 (NLT)
1 Praise the Lord! How good to sing praises to our God! How delightful and how fitting! 2 The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. 4 He counts the stars and calls them all by name. 5 How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!