Everyone Has a Story

Pete and I just spent a morning clearing out weeds, trimming trees and bushes, picking up trash, filling dumpsters and pickups. We were part of the “exterior team,” which included maybe a dozen of our fellow church members. Others on our team were removing unusable fence boards, chopping out stumps, whacking weeds.

There were at least a dozen more of us inside the house. They were removing carpet, clearing out debris, disinfecting floors, fixtures, and appliances.

We were at the home of a woman that most of us had never met. In fact, we did not even meet her today. We received word that she needed our help through our church‘s ministry, the Colorado Springs Project. Her friends, neighbors, even family had gone for years without any knowledge of what was going on inside her house.

The details are personal, but my point is this: this woman–this loved, precious child of God–believed that she was beyond help, so she never asked for it. She lived her life as if everything were normal, but she never allowed anyone inside her home, inside her struggles.

It is absolutely heart-breaking to think that she lived in such an isolated state, apparently convinced that others could not–or would not want to–help her. As if nobody else had problems approaching the level of hers. As if everyone else’s facades are actually true, and problems are best dealt with by hiding them, pretending, just going along.

My house is probably messier than yours. I have three animals as an excuse. But let’s forget about house messes for a minute. How many of us have a heart, even a corner of it, that’s just as hidden and broken and debris-filled as this woman’s house? And how many of us refuse to let anyone else see it, not even a glimpse, because we’re sure it would frighten people away?

I updated my “about me” page with this in mind, and here is what I added:

Here’s the thing: I am deeply flawed and broken, and I believe that to hide that from others is to be deceitful. Too many of us are sold on one another’s facades, and it leads us to hide our own struggles, withdraw, and isolate ourselves. Most of my nonfiction writing reveals some kind of goofy, stupid, selfish, sinful thing I have done. If you find me horrible, that’s okay. You’re supposed to, because I am. The only good in me comes from Christ, and if I hide my flaws from others, I’m robbing them of the opportunity to seek help for flaws of their own…to know that He is gracious and merciful and loving. He loves us the way we are — and will not leave us that way.

Please know that your struggles, your sins, your debris–none of it ought to be hidden. Open the blinds, open the door, and let others step into your life. Your real life. God created us for community because we need it. I know it’s scary. But the alternative is…well, it’s terrifying. It’s too much for you to carry alone, so stop trying.

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