All of us struggle. How we struggle, varies from person to person, based on many factors, not the least of which are our personality and our upbringing. Life experience has a profound impact on our perception of reality, and our personality or temperament influence how we process experience.
Some of us struggle silently. The reasons for this are just as varied, ranging, again, from temperament to things like protecting an image–whether real or imagined–to concerns over whether people can handle our struggle… and fearing the inevitable loss of relationships if they can’t.
To the latter, my philosophy is that people who walk away because they can’t handle a bit of humanity, struggle and truth, are not people we need closest to us. It is not us, or even our struggle, that they reject; it is their fear of facing their own demons. And those demons can be anything from false image, to inadequacy, to not wanting to face their own pain and struggle. If they leave, let them go with a blessing. Having said that, finding balance in how much to share, with whom, and when, is important. No one wants to be used as anyone else’s garbage can.
Some of us struggle quietly because we are reserved, private individuals. (But, if you haven’t guessed it already, that would not be me.) And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it isn’t out of pretentiousness. My life is an open book. My husband’s is not. He cautiously gives me permission, from time to time, to share about his life, or our shared life. But it is not easy for him, or characteristic of him. By nature he deals quietly with his own heart, his own disappointments, and his own hurt.
Me… I struggle out loud, from time to time, because I want to be real, and transparent. In the weeks leading up to my previous blog post, I was relatively quiet for two reasons. One, I was busy and, two, because the struggle was too deep to share. I am a firm believer of saying something positive, if you’re going to speak at all. (And for this lesson I thank Thumper from the Movie Bambi.)
I fail at this, on occasion, but in recent weeks I was especially careful because I didn’t want my battle, my struggle, to tear you down, or cause you to stumble. It is not that struggling is something to hide or be ashamed of. (I like to think that every prophet, apostle and disciple went through seasons of silence for this reason. Though some did write some pretty dark, negative stuff in the depth of despair and what we would call depression. Clearly there is a time to share that darkness.) However, I prefer to come to the place in a struggle when I can share good in it, and bring life and hope to others in there struggles.
Even then, I admit, it would still be easier to be silent… to save face and present an image of ‘togetherness’ that isn’t realistic–at least not realistic for me. It is in sharing the battle, and showing God’s faithfulness, that I feel my life is most believable, and my faith most real. It’s real life. Real battles. Real victories that give us hope.
When I speak to you, and encourage you, out of that ‘realness’, it has more impact than if I guide you through something that I have never been through, or dared to face.
In September 2010, I had a conversation that I will probably never forget. It was with a fellow blogger, who is also a published author. Out of respect I will leave out his name.
I had asked him for a bit of advice on how transparent to be, and wondered if he ever runs into harsh criticism because of his forthrightness. (I had just encountered my first ‘big bump’ in this, and was not at all prepared for it.) My interaction with him led to doing a bit of a rant, wherein I expressed myself more freely than I typically would, using slang and frustration. I knew he could handle it, but I also knew that he had only read my ‘uplifting stuff’ and had never seen me struggle.
After my rant I sent an ‘I’m sorry’, feeling a bit apologetic for not having been spiritual enough. His response stuck with me, particularly two lines:
“Don’t ever apologize to me for saying it like it is. Your message is probably the most honest thing I’ve ever seen from you. I’m highly attuned to the “Praise Jesus, all is great” stuff. I always view such spastic noise with admittedly too much suspicion.
That said, I sympathize. Be who you are. Who you REALLY are, with your flaws. When you use that “writing material,” do it humbly with discretion
God is who He is. I’m way to skeptical, but I still believe. Ultimately, I believe His grace will encompass all our petty battles, all our flaws, all the crap we emit in the living of our daily lives.”
Wow! The most honest thing he had ever heard from me? I thought about it, and realized that I post all my ‘happy’ and ‘Praise Jesus’ status updates, and I mean them from all that is in me. I sincerely love life, and am eternally indebted to Jesus for giving me back my life. How could this ‘struggle’ be so much more believable, when both were spoken in honesty?
As I contemplated it, I realized there was a lack of balance. I mean, even King David, a man after God’s own heart, couldn’t hold his life together. And then Peter, a man who knew Jesus personally and intimately, stood by a fire cussing, and declaring he never knew the man. And Paul, one of the strongest early church leaders, couldn’t get along with his ministry partner–probably because he was too bull-headed, and the other guy too much like him–and they parted ways, but both continued in ministry.
That message made a huge impact on my writing, and challenged me powerfully, to check the honesty and openness with which I express my struggles, my imperfections.
I try to do this with humility and discretion, as my friend recommended, so that the people I walk with through their struggles can see that it’s not the end of the world when they go through tough stuff. Life doesn’t end when we ‘bomb it’ and don’t have it together. It proves to them that when I say “Jesus is enough”… that He has your back… that He can forgive and set you free no matter what you’ve done… or any other encouragement, they can believe it, because He is enough for me.
When you, my readers, see me rise again, after admitting to being knocked down, I pray that it may give you the courage to do the same. And that you will know that we are all in this thing together, and together we can make it.
Yesterday I got a phenomenal response to what I wrote. Percentage wise, I think more people who read it, wrote a note than any other day in my blogging history, which was both surprising and cool. So many of you wrote notes to acknowledge what you read, with a variety of tones, and motives, but all were good and encouraging.
A recurring theme in most messages was surprise that I, being in ministry and all, still struggle and hit battles. They said things like, ‘I didn’t realize you go through stuff like that’, or ‘I thought you were past that… but thanks for being honest’…
One gentleman wrote on my Facebook wall, “Wondered when you would face this. 🙂 You have been a warrior, poking the devil in the eye on his hidden attacks etc, hidden under the name of Christianity… God bless”.
Some wrote to identify with the struggle, and admit that they had thrown in the towel in ministry, or were tempted to. One said they may need to reconsider.
Whatever your words, as the messages trickled in, you inspired me, challenged me, and blessed me. That’s when I remembered why I sometimes struggle out loud, where you, my friends, get to see me in my ‘battle duds’. I do it to know your hearts, and for you to know mine.
I’m honoured to be part of your lives, your journeys, your battles, and your victories, as you invite me in. Many of you I have never met, and may never have the opportunity to meet, but the intertwining of our lives, here, is a gift.
© Trudy Metzger
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