Saturday, April 28, 2012

Shhhh - it's a secret!

It's well-guarded; it has to be.  We go about our lives; Sunday comes and we go to church and we put on a plastic smile, shake hands and interact with people while we talk about inane, superficial things that mean nothing, while the whole time we are aching, perhaps even feeling dead inside - misery washes over us in waves.  And we talk about how wonderful the Lord is, how blessed we are.

We're lying.  

We're afraid to tell someone (perhaps even ourselves) what our struggles are.  No matter what the struggles are, it seems!  Some fight a daily battle with addiction.  Others' family relationships are in the toilet.  Still another might feel so lonely that he or she is thinking about suicide.  Someone else might be bullied at school or at work.  And more people than you can shake a stick at, suffer from prolonged and deep-seated depression. Yes, in the church. Yet nobody says a word. We're afraid that on top of the struggles we are facing, the last thing we need is to be judged and condemned for having them.

And we know, instinctively, that we will be.  This is the thing.  Evangelical Christians aren't really well known for their accepting attitudes.  More Christians have been hurt in church or by church people than they have by their non-churched friends.  I know that's true in my life.  With rare exceptions, I prefer to be with people who aren't your traditional right-wing, conservative, evangelical born-again Christians.  There's just too much judgment out there.  Sad to say, I've participated in it on occasion ... the 'prayer chains' that are usually nothing more than glorified gossip networks, the snide comments about what someone was wearing today or how long the pastor spoke today, ... the list is endless.  You know when that stops? it stops when YOU're the one who is the target of all those nasty comments.  Then you find out what it feels like.  But I digress slightly.

The truth of the matter is that in today's Christian culture, nobody wants to hear your "in progress" story. That's not considered a testimony.  So it's, "Shhh! be quiet!"

This is the Christian world's dirty little secret.  Fundamentalist Christians don't want to hear the tale unless it's a "success" story that will make them ooh and ahh, that will support their little fantasies that everything turns out all right - and that's the good part, so why talk about the bad parts unless there's a happy ending?  They don't want to listen to the in-between details; they want you to go through your stuff on your own and then tell them about the miracle part. Cut to the chase. What? you're still going through stuff? there's been no resolution? you're having difficulty emotionally?  Well!! - that's not speaking in faith!!  

No, that's grappling with reality.  It's telling the truth, refusing to hide.  It's a desperate attempt to know God IN the struggle, to see if there is someone out there who might just BE there and not try to judge or change the person who's having a hard time coping, but to come alongside, to love no matter what, and to let the weary traveler know that he or she is not alone.  

It doesn't take much, really.  A few kind words spoken, even in passing.  Like someone did for me yesterday in a department store - just showing support and love.  I can't begin to describe the gratitude I felt for that.  No words are even necessary sometimes.  A warm hug speaks volumes.  It lets me know that the person is with me and not against me.  Goodness knows I have felt pierced, crucified by more than enough Christians who let me know by their absence, by them turning their backs to me or ignoring me, that they are against me.  

I know that feeling of judgment, of condemnation, of someone (in essence) shushing me because what I have to say is not worth listening to until I get my act together and can wind up a size six on some Christian talk show in a five-hundred-dollar skirt suit.  

Life doesn't work like that.  And it would sure help if we'd just be honest and accept people for who and where they are.

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