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?