I'm Fine...No, Really...
Ah Sunday...it can be both wonderful and exhausting at the same time, can't it?! Long gone are the days when Josh and I would wake up and sit on the couch with a cup of coffee, staring out the big picture window in our living room, before leisurely getting ready and heading out the door, feeling refreshed and mentally prepared for a morning of worship and learning with the body of fellow believers. Instead, Sunday mornings these days tend to look more like a bad re-run of the Three Stooges. We often end up bumping into each other in the bedroom while one is trying to find a pair of tights without holes in them and the other digs through the closet for a shirt that isn't wrinkled, and yelling at the kids to eat their breakfast. I've tried all sorts of ways to make Sunday mornings run more smoothly, like laying out clothes the night before and having breakfast all ready to go so that all we have to do is heat it up in the microwave. The execution of that plan is still a work in progress, and I've come to the conclusion that about the time I have the system figured out the kids will be grown and I'll be a grandmother.
It's funny to me that as crazy and rushed as our Sunday mornings feel, we almost always manage to get out of the house and walk into church calm, cool, and on time. We greet the welcome crew with a smile and sail into our seats, looking like we could easily grace the next magazine cover for Focus on the Family, while inwardly breathing a sigh of relief that we actually made it and the kids have matching shoes on! I've seen several funny videos of similar scenarios on social media, and I know we aren't alone.
I wonder how much, though, is too much to mask? Of course we don't need to walk into church and launch into a chronological list of grievances as soon as someone asks how our day is going, but I wonder how many of us are walking into church and giving the oh-so-familiar answer of "I'm fine," when really, we aren't.
So often we are reminded not to complain, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. My kids can even quote you the verse in the Bible that tells us to "do everything without grumbling" (Phil. 2:14), so you know it's something we talk about a lot. I think what often happens, though, is that I confuse complaining with honesty. I get the idea that being open and honest about my struggles is wrong, so I put on the mask of perfection and pretend like everything is fine. What I forget, though, is that this robs the people who care about me the opportunity to be an encouragement and follow a Biblical command given in Scripture. How are we supposed to "carry one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2, CSB) if everyone pretends that they never have any?
A few Sundays ago we had just finished celebrating Communion as a family, and as I began to navigate down the stairs with my kids toward the parking lot, I struck up a conversation with a friend I hadn't caught up with in awhile. It started out innocently enough, as I smiled and asked how her holidays had gone. To be honest, I was expecting the usual "Great! How was yours?" exchange before we went our separate ways for the week, but instead she hesitated, just for a moment, and with a lump in her throat whispered one simple phrase: "Not good." Wait...what? We weren't close, and she could just as easily have said "fine" and moved on with her night. Nothing would have changed, but her willingness to admit that things weren't ok was a rebuke to me, and paused my absent-minded rush to head home. She trusted me with her hurt, gave me the privilege of lifting her up in prayer, and provided the opportunity to share in her pain. When we pull down our walls of perfection and let people in to encourage us and help us bear our burdens, it has the power to not only change us, but our church as well. I love that.
I wonder what our churches would be like, if, instead of walking into church next Sunday and acting like we have it all together, we made a habit of telling someone about our crazy morning; a friend who can relate and laugh with us about it. Better yet, could we find a friend or acquaintance and initiate an honest conversation that begins with us asking how they really are? Could we perhaps take it even one step further, and put feet to our words of encouragement on Sunday by showing them that we care through our actions during the week? Of course we can't fix everyone's problems, nor are we meant to, but how amazing to be given the opportunity to help bring others to the One who can; just like the friends of the paralyzed man in Luke 5. It's something I need to work on, that's for sure, and I'm so thankful for the friend that reminded me through her simple honesty and courage that, sometimes, it's ok to not be ok.
Heavenly Father, help me to love others with my words, my prayers, and my actions. Remove my self-centeredness, and give me eyes to see those around me who are hurting. Teach me to really listen, and to be honest with my own struggles as well. Change us as a church, God, and may we be a people known for their love for others, not just in word, but in deed as well.
Photo Credit: Lina Trochez, Unsplash