A few weeks ago I published a post about how I sometimes feel like a black sheep, or that I embarass people. It drew more response than most things I share – I received comments and private messages which were encouraging and which basically said, “Me, too.”
There was also some negative response, questioning why I would share something so personal and painful in a public forum. There was concern for my heart, given the fact that mean people exist, but the primary concern seemed to be that I was simply wallowing in pain, not pointing anyone to Jesus, making Him look bad, and looking for people to commiserate and help me stay where I am (my paraphrase).
I get that, I really do, and I respect the right of others to have their opinions. Not everyone is wired to share openly and I don’t advocate for that, but this is what I feel I need to do at this point in my life.
Could I be wrong? Sure.
Also, let me say that I don’t intend for every single post from here on out to reveal something painful. This isn’t where I’m trying to go, it’s just where I am.
I have been in a season in which layers of issues and pains are being peeled back and exposed – things I’ve stuffed or ignored or tried to cover for years. I’ve got some warped ways of thinking and relating that God needs to heal, and it’s not pretty.
I may be sharing more than some folks are comfortable with, but there’s also plenty I’m not saying. I haven’t detailed the situations and the people – those are between me and the Lord.
I wouldn’t throw anybody – other than myself – under the bus publicly (well, I may have tossed out a first name of some kid from elementary school before, but 98% of you don’t even know who I’m talking about).
What I really think is at the heart of the negative feedback is discomfort with an unfinished story and with expressed pain, in general.
There’s a lot of good about the church in America, but one of my concerns is that we have no idea what to do with pain and grief. We live in a culture that promotes success, which is mostly judged by externals – money, careers, appearance, and power determine our status. Everything is steering us toward looking good.
I think some of that has crept over into the church. If we know God, if we are in Christ, then we are supposed to have our crap together. We ought to be set totally free from all the bad things – pain, grief, heartache and difficulties. If you have trouble you certainly shouldn’t talk about it.
We don’t want to hear your story until it’s over and done with, tied up with a neat little bow.
Is that why Jesus came? To save us from pain on this earth? To turn us into shiny success stories?
If we read our Bibles – both the Old and the New Testaments – we don’t find that to be the case. What we do find is a God who is with us through everything. We see a plan for a community of Jesus followers who carry one another’s burdens, who encourage each other, who speak truth, who pray for one another without ceasing.
We see a savior who invites us to come to Him with every need, who offers to help us carry the load and teach us the way into rest. It isn’t about the elimination of pain – though that sounds fantastic – it’s about not being alone in it.
The direction of our lives is absolutely important – we ought to desire to move forward and be free, for sure. We should grow in maturity. But getting there can take some time.
If that’s the case, why would we feel the need to cover ourselves? Why put up a front? Why try to look perfect? Why try to appear as a success story?
Is the gospel about making a bunch of success stories? Is that what we’ve reduced it to? Was it written by a motivational speaker?
Jesus did come to give us abundant life. The question is, can we have difficulty and still live an abundant life? I think the answer is yes.
I refuse to live with a mask. I’ll admit I considered putting my game face back on after the negative feedback. I thought maybe I had done something terribly wrong. After asking 5 or 6 trusted mentors and friends, who have their junk together more than I do, I have decided not to do that.
I lived in fear of being seen for too long and I can’t go back.
My hope is that people will come with me on this journey. I’m not saying y’all should start spilling your guts on a blog, or on social media, but I hope you will find a few trusted friends to open up with, at least. Get counseling from a pastor, or professional, if needed. Ask for prayer, ask for help, ask for advice.
And by all means spill it out before God – that’s where I’m trying to grow the most, right now. I’m reading the Psalms and seeing how broken David was, but also, how He loved God and was loved by Him.
While I understand the concerns that were expressed to me, I just want to say that I am not afraid to be seen anymore. I know there are some who read that will judge me, or think I’m pathetic or that I’m not being a “good witness” for Christ. I’m not pumped about that, but I stand before one Judge.
This isn’t a sin issue, it’s a preference issue, as far as I can tell. I think His reputation can survive my struggles.
And, let’s be realistic. I’m not Ann Voskamp, here – my readership is small. The people who read my stuff know me and know what they’re going to find when they click. If they’re not interested, they’re not clicking.
If you are taking the time to read, thank you – even if you disagree. Much love to you – may we learn to appreciate our differences and learn to love and empathize well.