Recently I challenged someone close to me to ditch their image and get real. They didn’t agree and counter-challenged me by asking why I continue to post so many happy family pictures, when behind the scenes our hearts are breaking.
So in the spirit of full disclosure, here goes.
My family has been in mourning.
We have lost someone we love dearly. And yet no one brought us a meal.
We have cried buckets of tears over days that turned into weeks that turned into years, yet we never donned black attire down a church aisle. Some may not know what I am referring to. But many do because I stopped hiding our loss when it became too exhausting to bear.
The person we lost is still alive.
Maybe you know what I am feeling. Maybe you have felt the gut wrenching pain of abandonment or dealt with the overwhelming pain from a loved ones’ addiction. It is rejection on top of loss. This person chooses to leave you. Their sin, their addiction, their pride is more important than you. And that stings.
Years of deception and manipulation cause you to question what was ever real. And once questionable behavior now makes sense.
Some people use the Bible to guilt you into some pseudo form of forgiveness that pretends nothing happened so you can appear more loving, I mean, for Pete’s sake you are a Christian! BE LOVING!
Other people think you are stupid for holding out hope. Someone who has lied for over a decade can never be trusted. How could you believe them if they came back anyway?
Unless…… maybe, they make a huge 180 degree change, you tell yourself. And you’ve seen that happen right? You have read the books, watched the movies, heard the testimonies. The prodigal son returns. He runs back, realizing the error of his ways, willing to be a slave just to be back with his father.
Every day you wake up thinking, surely, today they will choose us. Today will be that blockbuster moment when they burst through the door and declare that they will do whatever it takes to earn back your trust, to prove to you their love, to make everything right. But that day never comes. There is no running back. Every once in a while there is a tiny “improvement” that looks more like manipulation then actual change. But that’s it.
So we take deep breaths, and swing on the pendulum between forgiveness and fear. Fear they will never change. Fear they already have.
There has to be something I can do, you tell yourself. Some words with which you can persuade. You keep hoping your reasoning will be received. Your arguments will be understood. This time. Yet they never are. There are always more excuses. Maybe you, like me, have no more tears.
When someone dies you are allowed to mourn. You are encouraged to mourn. You can post things on Facebook and receive a virtual hug. You can express anger, and people understand. People bring meals and send flowers. They come to a service and cry with you. But when you are mourning a secret loss, when you are supposed to have faith that your lost loved one will be found, when you are worried about gossip and “covering sins,” it is very lonely. When you run into acquaintances , you wonder, do they know? Answering “good” when you just feel beat down gets tiresome.
However I will continue to post happy family pictures for one reason. I have a really happy family. I have so much for which to be thankful . I am gratefully aware of my many blessings and live accordingly. Nevertheless, there is also an underlying ache as we live in this strange place between blessing and burden. Deep down my children are confused and conflicted. It is a difficult line to walk. And sharing your pain makes people uncomfortable. However, expressing our heart aches and being real lets others carry our burdens with us and sometimes for us. I have found camaraderie with other broken sojourners, who were also carrying burdens not shared on social media outlets.
While I still have no desire or need to publish every feeling good or bad on social media, sometimes, you just have to get real. As Christians, there can be a pressure to sugar coat everything never admitting you have any feelings. The problem with that is two fold. One, it promotes this unrealistic expectation of perfection. Secondly, we were never called to walk this life alone. Sharing my situation with others gave them permission to share their hurt with me. And now we pray for each other. There is power there. And healing continues. So many people are hiding their grief in the name of being a good Christian instead of telling the truth and bearing burdens.
Jesus said that the truth will set you free. He is the Truth that sets us free. He modeled radical and uncomfortable honesty for us. And I pray that Christians everywhere will just start telling the truth. When you are hiding your struggles or your pain, the enemy wins. But…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Amen!