I’ve been thinking lately about the masks we wear. I have been blogging now for about six months, and have gotten to know many amazing women through their words and pictures. I’ve read stories that made me laugh, stories that made me cry. I’ve seen open honesty in a hundred different snapshots, hearts open wide to reveal both the beautiful and the ugly, the smooth and the rough. Hands open, palm up, offering a glimpse into different lives.
I think all too often, it’s easier to write about the state of our hearts than it is to speak of it aloud, to share with thousands of strangers rather than with one close friend sitting beside you. I am thankful for these spaces, where words flow and hearts connect, for the moments when you feel that rightness, that moment of I understand! I know your heart. I am thankful for those moments when they come in writing, and especially when the come over cups of coffee with dear friends.
I think sometimes we feel, perhaps we Christian women in particular feel…that it’ not OK if we’re not OK. That somehow, we need to be strong always, that if we share our moments of despair, our brokenness, our tired hearts and lagging spirits, we are somehow letting God down. As if by admitting that our Christian hearts are as susceptible to pain as any others, we are lessening our witness.
But really, in many ways…it’s the honesty that life is difficult, heartbreaking sometimes…that we experience the ups and downs of this world and yet have faith that speaks the loudest, that reveals God’s face the most.
Somehow, we seem to feel that it’s less Godly to admit we are hurting, less Christian to allow ourselves a shoulder to cry on, a friend to help us through, an ear to listen to the turmoil within. I think this is a lie, a lie that is designed to keep us from enjoying the depth of understanding for each other that we could have. It leaves us feeling that we’re more broken than others, that we don’t handle our pain as well as everyone else, that others don’t struggle in the same ways we do. We’re each walking around, cradling the secret of our brokenness silently, when we could provide relief by simply sharing. Relief to our own hearts, and to those of our friends as well. When we know we are not alone, we can put our energy into mending the pain rather than in hiding it.
Jesus gives us a picture of this. He did not hide his pain, he did not pretend that he was OK when his heart was breaking. In his moments of deepest suffering, he called his friends together to walk and pray with him. He could have gone off alone, but he sought out their company and shared his suffering with them. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38, NIV).
He did not say he was “OK”. He honestly opened his heart to them.
Jesus did not worry that he was burdening his friends with his suffering. He knew, somehow, that his pain could help them grow. He knew that by better understanding Him, they would better understand themselves. He was not afraid to ask for their attention and support. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. (Matthew 26:40b, NIV)
Jesus didn’t wear a mask. He didn’t try to hide his pain, his humanness from his friends, he asked them to walk with him, pray with him, keep watch with him. He shared his suffering as well as his joy, and gave us an example of how to open our hearts to each other. How to share the valleys of life as well as the summits, how this helps our friends grow as much as it helps us.
I am particularly guilty of always being “OK”. I have many good friends who would be very willing to listen to me and help me through when times are tough, but when I do talk about my pain, it is more often a display of bitter complaining and muttering than an honest admission of brokenness. I find it easier to be the shoulder to cry on than the one shedding the tears, and I’m realizing more and more that I’ve been clinging to the lie that by showing these particular painful weaknesses I am somehow lessening my witness to others, and burdening them with my issues. It’s not a graceful process, but I’m learning…slowly…to follow Jesus’ example and reach out, to let it be OK to not be OK.
Lord, help me to be honest when I am not OK. Help me to overcome my need to appear strong, my vanity, my fears, my self consciousness, help me to reach out to others so that they will know they can reach out, too. Help me remember the example of your Son, and not feel ashamed to to not always be OK. Amen!