Will Someone Be Real PLEASE!

There is something that really aggravates me from time to time. In fact, at times it just about makes me crazy! Like right now. So I’m going to write about it, and I really hope that someone will respond. I truly want to hear other’s opinions and feelings on this subject.

So here goes: What drives me absolutely crazy is people, mainly Christians I know, refusing to be real. I understand completely how most of us learned to be fake. Growing up, my family would be arguing on the way to church, everyone in a bad mood, some of us in tears, but as soon as we pulled in the church parking lot we were told and eventually learned without being told to “straighten up”, meaning put on your happy face. So I learned to be quite good at this. I have talked to others with similar stories. Most of the churches I’ve been a part of are filled with the same sort of people. We all know how to put on a good show on Sunday no matter how messed up our lives really may be. We’re all dressed up, all smiles, and “How are you? I’m good.”

I’m now part of church that is pretty non-traditional in many ways. The worship and dress is very relaxed. It is probably a place where you could go even on a bad day and let it all hang out. But I still on my worst days have a hard time going. I still feel the need to put on a happy face and pretend everything’s alright even if it isn’t. I say this to show that I have not by any means perfected being transparent. There are still settings where it’s hard, and maybe it should be. I guess it would not be that great if everyone went around being real all the time.

But then I’ve been in many small groups over the years. These are supposed to have the purpose of helping people feel more comfortable sharing and being real with each other. But in my experience, they rarely do, even when we’ve done small groups by the book following all the rules for having a successful small group. Don’t get me wrong. Several of these groups have been absolutely fantastic. We have made some great friends. Some of our groups have even met for several years and gotten fairly close. But it seems with all of them people are only willing to go so deep and then no further.

What is so frustrating to me is that though I’ve learned how much better life is when I’m honest with people about my struggles so much of the time I feel like I’m the only one who has any problems? My friends all have sick relatives, occasional financial problems, pregnancies, and various other things they need prayers for. All of these are good things to pray about and I believe should be prayed about. But how come I’m the only person who ever has any personal struggles, any spiritual struggles. It sure feels that way an awful lot of the time. And to be honest sometimes I feel like a complete freak, like something must be really wrong with me since no one else seems to struggle with how to live out this life. Of course, I realize when I’m thinking in the spiritual realm that that is one of Satan’s most powerful tools–making us feel like “I’m the only person who struggles with this”–making us feel alone. Unfortunately, that’s how I feel much of the time–alone.

I’ve heard Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall tell a similar story from his teenage years. He says whenever there were prayer requests everyone would ask for prayers for “Aunt Marge”, but no one had any sins or any problems they were struggling with. He felt like he was the only one who was screwed up. Then he realized one day that he wasn’t the only one who was screwed up. As he says in his moment of enlightenment, “Oh, I get it, you’re all screwed up too.”

That’s true. We are all screwed up whether or not we are willing to admit it. If we could somehow get over our fears of being real with one another, that would defeat one of the enemies most powerful tools of making us feel alone, like we’re the only ones who struggle with that problem. So what does it take to do that?

I’ve been LONGING and praying for several years now for a group of friends to walk with me and my family at this deeper level. Ransomed Heart ministries calls it a “Band of Brothers” and believes it is essential to living true to your heart as a Christ-follower. If you listen to many of their cds, several of which are members of their group interacting, you know that they have this among themselves, so I know that this kind of intimacy is possible.

I need someone to listen to my story with all of its ugliness and still love me. I need someone to hear what I’m struggling with this week and to encourage me not to give up. I need some accountability. I do not like that word because accountability has been abused too much. But I do need accountability in the loving, non-judgemental way of “How are you doing with [this struggle]? Let’s pray about it.” I desperately need praying people in my life. I just cannot do this alone. I don’t believe that we are meant to do this alone.

I don’t just want all of these things selfishly. I also want to be this for someone else. I feel like I’ve come to a new understanding and a new faith in prayer over the past few months because of Ransomed Heart ministries’ lessons on prayer through The Hope of Prayer cds . Some of the most precious times in my life over the past couple of months have been when I’ve had the privilege of interceding for and with a brother or sister in need.

I have found that people are starving for the same things that I am. I have struggled with depression off and on for the past seven years. I have tried to be open with people about that fact because there is such a stigma about depression, and I believe the only way to get rid of this is for people to talk about it. You would not believe the things people I barely know share with me whenever I tell them I struggle with depression. We are all longing for someone to talk to who understands what we’re going through. We want to be heard and know that we’re not alone.

So I plan to write more about this. But I want some input. Are any of you out there experiencing this kind of closeness with a small group of friends or even one friend? If so, how do you get there? Am I just expecting too much? Or maybe rural Mississippi is just as behind as everyone believes we are? Is this common in other places?

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7 Comments

Filed under Honesty

7 responses to “Will Someone Be Real PLEASE!

  1. Amy

    Kim,

    You set a good example of being real in your post. And you ask relevant, heartfelt questions.

    I think you are so right by saying we all (desperately) need people we can be real with. And I would say you describe my experience when you suggest we all need a small group of friends, or one friend with whom we can be real.

    Sometimes for me it is just one friend. Other times it is two or three. On the occasions I have felt it is none, I have prayed for someone and God has provided that person. Other times he hasn’t, but his grace is sufficient. His Word always comforts. Sometimes it is counseling with a mentor, sometimes it is coffee with a peer.

    I also see a separate question in this post, and that is of putting on a false front when with groups of people. I suggest this happens in society in general, and is not limited to church. Maybe we feel it more at church because we’re supposed to be more “spiritual” there. But it happens at work, school, the gym, the playground, and the grocery store too. Maybe the internet as well (blogs).

    This phenomenon probably has to do with the fall in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve realized they were naked and they felt ashamed. There is something in us that doesn’t want to walk around naked, without the security of being covered either by clothing or a false smile.

    About the depression thing. I suggest that most people suffer from some type of depression. Most everyone I know struggles with this to some degree from time to time. I really don’t understand the medical side, I know it is there, but there can also be a spiritual dimension. At least that’s been my experience with dark times.

    This is long, sorry!

    Love ya,
    Amy

  2. I share the same longing and the same frustration. I have tried to test the waters before by confessing a little area I am struggling in. In the past I have been met with sympathetic stares but no one willing to join in and admit they too are human. I too long not only for that type of closeness but someone who would know me well enough to help me through temptations.

    I started a new small group study last night. Maybe this is where I will find it.

    I understand your frustration. I think it just takes people making the first step …sometimes over and over again. Good luck!

  3. Amy

    Okay, you really got me thinking this morning.

    I have a question of my own to throw in:

    Do you think being real with others starts by being real with God?

    Is it difficult to fully be real with Him, confessing our deepest, darkest stuff – standing there stark naked before Him, pleading with Him to heal us and remove our temptations?

    Can we be fully real with others before we do this? Or do others help us do this?

    Just something I’m thinking about.

  4. I used to blame fakery on southerners but actually it’s everywhere. I’m right there with you. I simply cannot stand having to smile and act like everything is hunky dory when it’s not. On the rare occasions when I have really “let it all out” I have either been chastised for not having enough faith or been brushed aside and avoided by those I considered my friends. How frustrating! How contrary to God’s heart! It’s true that healing can only come from God but sometimes he uses PEOPLE to help in that process. Being isolated during times of pain (either by our choice or by others’) only serves to prolong the healing or bring it to a screeching halt.

    I just wanted you to know I’m right there with you, and you can come freak out with me anytime you want!

  5. I’m so grateful you shared this Kim! I mean… it’s not really a brand new conversation, but you shed some brand new light on it. And it means a lot coming from you. I know you well. I know you’ve never asked to be seen as ‘perfect.’ But because of your incredible talents and unrelenting heart, people have heaped expectations on you. So it’s no easy thing to break out of that mold. You are a brave and beautiful one!!!

    A friend of mine just traveled from Indiana to Mississippi for the sole purpose of having someone to be real with. This person had ‘tested the waters’ back home (like Donna mentioned) and had been received with being brushed aside & avoided (like YankeeAmanda mentioned)… So, how important is having a place to be real? Well, how far would you drive to find that safe place?

    Everyone has this NEED to be real. So, it’s not being real that is frightening… The scary beast is how people will respond. All of us are from church backgrounds that have led us to believe we can (and do!) have all the answers… and I think that plays into how we respond to people. We WANT to fix things. Think about shifting our first response… Instead of a bullet list of things to do to make it all better, what if our first response to people was always full acceptance, arms open wide and full of love… hearts willing to fight for each other in prayer and trusting that God will make a way for this person (so I don’t have to!).

    I only say this because we can hold our breath until we find this kind of acceptance and love until we’re blue in the face… we have absolutely no guarantee from others. Like Amy mentioned, the only place we can count on is with God (and even that can be awkward). The rest of the world leaves us vulnerable. So the best we can do to create this kind of community is to BE the kind of people we long to find.

    The friend who came to me from Indiana was still hesitant to share everything, even with the guarantee of a safe place with me (as we can be with God sometimes). And afterwards there was still an expectation that I was gonna ‘lay down the law’ on some things and make it clear where I stand. Imagine how surprised she was by love! It was frustrating at the same time… because sometimes don’t we really want somebody to just tell us what to do?!

    This person that visited me mentioned a bit of jealously that I had deep connections with several people… But I’m quick to say that they didn’t just come about naturally. I had to take the initiative to reach out to others on a deeper level (sharing the crap in my life without abandon! And that’s not easy to do whether you are shy and reserved or outgoing and outspoken!!!). And I had to go through probably 10 people for every 1 that I found who was a Godsend! There was a lot of pain and disappointment with each of the ones that ‘didn’t take’… but they were all worth it to find the ones that did. And I’ve found these pockets of people in the most unexpected places. Some people that I had been friends with for years (and am still good friends) just didn’t wanna go there. I had to respect where they were and move on.

    I wish I could get all these pockets together… that would be dreamy for me! So that’s my quandary. I don’t have a present church community that serves in this capacity. I have ONE really close person in my life here at home. Sundays used to be my favorite day of the week, but now there’s even some dread there…

    Okay… way too much info… but I have good news… I will be getting high-speed internet later this week!!! It’s about time, eh?!

    I love you Kim, and I’m with you sista.

  6. I sure hope the high-speed internet means Angie will be blogging more!

    Kim, I think this is one reason many of us have latched onto this blog world so tightly. We see people with similar struggles who are not afraid to share their journey. Sure, we still hide, we still dabble in how far we will pull our veil down, but for many of us, me included, it is our first taste of being real. Questioning things that we have never questioned, confessing things we have never confessed..and hoping against hope that we can find a taste of this in “real life”.

    Obviously you need to post more too!

  7. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU all for your thoughtful and encouraging comments! I also received several long e-mails today relating to this post. I am so excited! You have all given me so much to think about.

    AMY, thanks for sharing you experiences with intimacy. Your thoughts about THE FALL are insightful–I’ve never thought of that part of it–the reluctancy to be naked.

    As far as the depression, I’ve researched it tons and there is often a physical aspect, but I agree with you that there’s definitely a spiritual aspect. In fact, my struggles with depression are what have opened my eyes up more and more to the spiritual war going on all around us. I’m so thankful for that because it has completely changed my life for the better. Just one of the many ways God has redeemed this struggle.

    One more thing that I just have to share because it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I have come to see the hard times when I have struggled with depression as a BLESSING. I tend to be very independent and think that I can handle things on my own. The down times remind me once again how completely dependent I am on God. This difficult lesson is finally beginning to sink in to the point that I am realizing even during the good times that I am still completely dependent on Him.

    You also raised some great questions! I actually have a song I’m going to post in a few days that addresses this very thing.

    DONNA, thanks for being real about your frustrations with finding someone to share this level of intimacy with. Every time I join a Bible study or group, I’m always hopeful that this will be THE ONE. I do hope that this will be THE ONE for you!

    Also, I have thought of this topic in relation to blogging. I agree that this search for people to share the journey with is part of what is so appealing about the blogging community.

    AMANDA, thanks so much for the offer to come freak out with you! I will probably take you up on that sometime. Thanks also for the times that you’ve taken the risk of being real with me and also for just being such a great friend over the past year.

    ANGIE, one of my favorite real people! Thank you so much for your sweet and encouraging words. I love what you said about our first response being full acceptance, arms open wide. You, my dear friend, are a great example in the way that you offer this to others. Thanks you so much for allowing Christ’s love to flow through you to those who are searching for that kind of love and acceptance.

    And a big WOOOOHOOOO!!! fo the high-speed internet! It’s really kind of weird how excited I am for you.

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