“There are too many filters and I’m sick of it.
Sure. Filters make us look good. (Instagram, anyone?) Filters make you sound good. (Nice Facebook post you re-wrote 14 times.) Filters make us seem good. (You didn’t dare mention what you really thought when you were kissing ass at that conference, did you?)
But filters are ruining us.
Because they’re filtering out REALITY.
And when you filter out reality, you know what you get?
One big fat lie of a life.
And you know what you get when you have one big fat lie of a life?
So today is no filter day, because guess what? We’re human beings, and the only way we’re going to stay human, is by getting human.”
~ Ashley Ambirge (9 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Success, Reality & Being Human)
I suck at being encouraged.
Is that even possible? You wonder.
Well, when you’re me, it is.
For the slightly over two decades I’ve been on the planet, I’ve come to realize that 99% of encouraging conversations have the same template script:
Me: [Stating problem in a few words…or many…depending on who I’m talking to and my state of mind at the time]
Person X: Sorry to hear that…. [insert some version of don’t worry, everything will be ok].
Everything will be ok.
Now, I am not against encouragement. And admittedly these very words have been of help a good number of times. But I often find myself thinking: I could have told myself that. Indeed, many times I’ve opted to save myself the trouble of a lengthy predictable conversation and take the monologue option instead.
Everything will be ok in the end.
But what about now?
What do I do with the pain and frustration assailing me now? Okay is all the way over there. I get it. It’s there. But I’m stuck here. How do I get from here to okay? Anyone can find you in darkness and point to the light as they go on their merry way. But how many will actually stop and struggle through the darkness with you until you’re able to get to the light?
I’m not casting blame on anyone. God knows I’ve been person X enough times. But lately I’ve come to realize that we don’t know what to do with pain. It’s the pink elephant in the room that has us torn between awkward acknowledgment and maybe-if-I-pretend-it’s-not-there-it’ll-go-away. We know we have to do something, we’re just not sure what. Oh, you have a pink elephant? Don’t worry. We can always make it grey. Pink elephant? What pink elephant? Would you look at the view from this window?
The greater the pain, the more we fumble.
And we don’t just fumble with each other’s pain.
We fumble with our own pain.
We fumble with God too.
In the name of not “wallowing in our sadness” and “fighting for good faith” we go to God all dressed up in our Sunday best. After all, what right do we have to complain when we’ve been given so much?
I’ll be okay. I know I will.
Maybe today I’ll be too numb to feel the pain…if I’m lucky.
Of course I’ll trust You in the storm.
I’m so terrified I can barely breathe.
I know You’re working this for good.
How could you let this happen to me? I thought You loved me.
Our mouths say what we think we should be saying.
Our hearts betray us with the truth.
Where could we go that we could hide from the piercing gaze of His love? Where could we honestly go?
A few months back the sinks in my house started spewing filthy water that reeked. Armed with a plunger, I put on my single woman-can-fix-anything face, rolled up my sleeves and set to work. Only the dirty water would go away for a few minutes…then come back with a vengeance.
As it turned out [read: in defence of my single woman skills which are quite decent if I do say so myself], the external drainage pipe that leads to my house had backed up. Our caretaker had to open it up and let everything spew out [which I thankfully didn’t bear witness to]. Only then were my sinks back to their usual functional floral selves.
Let everything spew out.
The fear. The despair. The anger. The weariness that seeps past your bones into your soul. The not-knowing. The I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this-thing-called-life-anymore.
Let every ugly, broken truth spew out.
In a world that screams at us to keep it together, our Father gently whispers come undone.
Because He knows what happens when we keep it all together. When every tear gets tucked away with a quick blink. When every are-you-okay is answered with a bright smile that never quite reaches your eyes.
He knows how badly it clogs up our hearts and painfully chokes us. Not in one day. Maybe not even in a year or two. But our hearts are only so big. Eventually we run out of space to hide things. And they begin to seep through the cracks. They begin to reek.
He knows the number of hairs on my head. How could He not hear the aching beat of my heart?
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
~ Psalm 139: 1-4 (NIV)
We need to remember that He knows.
Every desperate thing we’re afraid to whisper.
Every horrible admission we think makes us unfit for His love.
He already knows.
When the furnace of life rages through our souls, He doesn’t beckon us from the distant land of okay. He’s standing right in the middle of the blaze with us. Holding out His hand. Gently calling out to us to be honest with Him.
Broken. Open. Vulnerable. Raw.
Give me your ashes so I can give you beauty.
Give Him your ashes so He can give you beauty.