In the past few days I have posted bits and pieces of an inner struggle more publicly than usual, both on my blog and on Facebook. I did this for several reasons. Mostly I did it because I get emails and direct messages from people who ask if I’m ‘for real’. I come across as too positive, too happy, and too ‘never have a struggle’ for many, so I decided to post some of the ‘real thoughts’ as I work through this inner battle. (Odds are I may get messages about that…
We are all human and I am as ‘touchable’ as anyone else, when it comes to pain and disappointment. We all process these things through our own experience-filters and the life skills we have developed, but regardless how we process them, we are all subject to the impact they have on our lives.
The way I struggle won’t look or sound like anyone else’s struggle—it’s true to my temperament, my character and my heart. I process things uniquely. By nature I am highly optimistic—the kind of person who sees a pile of horse manure and immediately wonder who bought me a horse. When I struggle, I always reach for the light, the opportunity, and the good that will come out of it. And it always shows up. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later….much later.
One of the things I discovered in the process of working through disappointment in people, is that I (still!) transfer some of my perceptions of people onto my perception of God. Discovering this is one of the good things that comes out of a disappointing situation. But that’s a little rabbit trail… not really what I want to write about. (It’s a positive thought I felt the need to toss in here, for my readers who are currently in a difficult situation and needing hope.)
Out of respect I have not shared any details that would reveal the source of my struggle the past few months and that discretion has been intentional. I will keep it that way, limiting how much I can share at this time as far as details are concerned, but the details are not what I’m writing about.
The thing that’s on my mind is how uncomfortable it can be to tell the truth about disappointment—to share any negative thoughts or feelings, even if trying to find a positive light. I am positive by nature, as I said, and to risk having my audience see my struggle feels very vulnerable. But it is real. And moving beyond that discomfort is necessary.
The timing is such that I am learning this from my experience at the same time as I learn it from several Christians who also tend to show only the positive side of their faith. They are sharing very honestly their struggle with me. Every now and then I receive a message apologizing for revealing their negative feelings and I assure them it is okay, that it is part of getting through it and finding positive truth in a negative experience.
It is one thing to reassure the person sharing their struggle with us. It is another thing entirely to apply it to ourselves, but it is necessary. Most of us, who are Christians, have been taught to present and image, to hide our inner struggle.
What if we would give each other permission to fail, permission to struggle, permission to share, without judging each other by that one thing? What’s the worst thing that could happen? And, besides, isn’t the Bible full of stories of men and women of God acting entirely juvenile, depressed or messed up?
When’s the last time you saw your pastor sitting under a juniper tree, like Elijah, asking God to take his life? Would you allow him to speak into your life if he did?
When’s the last time that you sulked in anger under a gourd, ticked that God didn’t destroy ‘Nineveh’? And then, when God comes around, after letting you sulk awhile and asks, “Do you do well to be angry?”—you answer, “Yes! I do well to be angry—even to the point of death!” Doesn’t that sound a bit like a sassy teenager? Way to go, Jonah!
And never fail to recall Moses, throwing a fit, striking a rock, or breaking the ten commandments all at once! Or how about King David, a man after God’s own heart who lusts after a woman to the degree that he is willing to murder to get her. (And she turns out to be the ‘multiple greats’ grandmother of Jesus!) Reading my Bible makes me wonder if we’re doing it all wrong when we hide our struggles and failures.
Maybe, just maybe if we stopped hiding our sins, our weaknesses, our struggles… and maybe, just maybe, if we stopped asking people around us to pretend… maybe, just maybe, we would all have permission to be human and permission to break free.
Could it be, that God is able to accomplish more through open, honest transparency, when shared in a constructive way, than in pretenses and cover ups?
What are your thoughts?