I wrote this post a few years ago on another blog. It was probably the most important thing I wrote back then…
I have a message today. It’s real. It’s honest. It’s raw.
Recently, I was chatting with friends from church when someone mentioned a friend’s “happy movie,” meaning the movie that person watches when he wants to feel good inside. I soon piped up with my “happy movie,” which is Juno. To this, one of the guys replied with something to the effect of, “Why? Because your glad it’s not YOUR life?” It was a pretty funny reply, and I can totally understand why he, or maybe anyone, would not understand how a movie about teen pregnancy and divorce could ever evoke feelings of joy. For me, it’s about what is REAL.
To that I will add that one of my favorite songs out right now is by Rihanna and Eminem. Maybe you’ve heard it. It’s called “Love the Way You Lie.” Again, how could a person enjoy a song about abuse? I’ll tell you. It’s about what is REAL.
What is this obsession with reality? Why is it that I love that which is full of sorrow? Let me tell you a little about my life.
I was born to two people with hearts that are larger than life. When one of them died, God replaced her with another heart of gold. I was created to be a person full of emotion, full of love. This is my gift and my curse. I long to love people with all that I am. I love deeply, and I hurt deeply. I am TOO much for so many people.
Growing up, I was called dramatic and told that I cry too much. How can I not cry? There is such great joy from the LORD and such great sorrow from a broken world. I wear my heart on my sleeve because I am sensitive to the LORD and His children. When something is wrong, my heart aches for the injustice. When something is right, my heart nearly bursts within me with praise for my Father in Heaven.
But sadly, at a young age, I learned to stifle my heart. I was too much, so I hid. I hated myself, and I began to hate being around other people. When you’re not alone, you run the risk of someone discovering the real you, and that was too big a danger for my feeble heart to handle. I did anything and everything to make people believe that I was perfect, that I had it all together, that there weren’t massive emotions waging war within my soul, and why wouldn’t I hide? I saw so many around me acting the exact same way.
Never share your heart. Never show people what you’re going through. They won’t understand. You won’t be loved.
Beginning in middle school and continuing into adulthood, I pushed down my emotions, my desires, my inmost passions. I hid them so far within that they were soon lost. I didn’t even know who I was. To say I was in the midst of an identity crisis would be mild. I spent so much time camouflaging myself that I didn’t know where others’ expectations ended and I began. I did NOT understand the LOVE of my Father, and I absolutely did NOT believe in my worth. So I did what I could to earn love.
It breaks my heart to look back on all of that, but I know that the LORD uses our lives. I know that I am a person of great value, because the King of kings chose me. He wants me to share this message.
When I read my journal from college, so many pages scream out to God. And what was I screaming? I was asking God to give me something REAL. To make ME real. I knew that my heart was missing, but I had no idea where to find it. You want to know that saddest part? The place I learned to hide the most was in the Church.
Sad story? Yes. Unique? Absolutely not.
When I reached my lowest point, when I was so sick with stress that I left school to go to the emergency room fearing for my very life, God said “Stop!” I did not hear God’s voice audibly, but I do believe He spoke to my heart. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 was more real to me than I could have ever anticipated. The LORD stopped me in my tracks, and my life has NEVER been the same. That night, I decided to move back home from college. I continued my studies, but began living a more calm existence. I got a job at a hardware store, which allowed me a lot of reading time between customers. I started reading the Bible for myself. I read of King David. Talk about a real life. A life that would be labeled “dysfunctional” today. Not a perfect life, but the life of a man who desperately loved God and knew that God loved him. I learned so much while reading those Old Testament accounts. I learned what REAL life means. God was answering my prayers page by page.
I learned that real life is screwed up. Real life is messy. Ugly. Full of pain. Full of joy. Beautiful. Real life can be made clean by the Savior of the World. By the Man who loved YOU enough to live this messy life here on Earth. To die an ugly death. To take on the pain of the world. To fill us with joy. To make us BEAUTIFUL. That’s real life. WE WILL NEVER BE PERFECT ON OUR OWN. Only Jesus is perfect, and He says, “I love you. I love the REAL you. In fact, I love the real you enough that I’ll die for you. I’ll take on all your mistakes. I’ll take on all your pain. Even when you mess up and turn your back on me, I’ll keep on loving you. Just be honest with Me. Open your heart, and be vulnerable to Me.” That’s my Jesus.
I don’t serve a God of airs and fake confidence. I serve a God who is REAL. Who is living. Who is MIGHTY to SAVE! And you know what? God wants us to share our joys and our sorrows. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” How can we pray for one another if we don’t even KNOW one another?
It breaks my heart that we aren’t more vulnerable to one another. Imagine, if you will, what the Church would look like if we opened our hearts. Scary, isn’t it? Risky? For sure. But so free. John 8:32 says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” You want to know the truth? Jesus is the truth. The truth is that you are messed up. I am messed up. But Jesus frees us from our sins and gives us His life. From whom, then, should we hide?!
Another story. This one really breaks my heart and makes my blood boil at the same time. I was talking to a minister’s wife recently, and the topic of hair styles came up. She and I share the blessing of crazy, curly hair. But looking at her, you’d hardly know it. Her hair is always perfectly straightened and never out of place. We talked about humidity and how it wreaks havoc on curly hair. We talked about having long flowing curls (both of our hair is currently short), and to this I added my hope that one day, when I’m old, I’ll have long, beautiful, GRAY curls. Call me a crazy hippie, but that’s what I want. To that, she responded, “I can’t do that; I’m a minister’s wife.” Really? REALLY?! I have been in that role, and I understand her completely, but I don’t want to fall victim to such an expectation. Too many women do for fear of their husband’s losing their jobs. This expectation that you will not be yourself. You will be perfect in the eyes of all, or you will not have food on the table. Now, understand me. My husband and I feel called to be in ministry, and we know that that calling is one of great responsibility. We are to be an example to those we lead. But this does not mean becoming something we are not. It means being a person who loves like Jesus, who strives for holiness, AND a person who exemplifies honesty. We are two people who have sinned greatly and have been greatly forgiven.
And there you have it. My obsession with what is real. I don’t glory in sin. I don’t praise what is unholy. BUT I do know that people sin. I know that unwed girls and women get pregnant. I know that people abuse and are abused. I know that people get divorced. I know that brokeness breeds brokeness. AND the cycle of brokeness will never end until we open our eyes to what is REAL. Hiding your sin means prolonging it. Hiding your pain means it will continue to eat you alive. And hiding your REAL self means you limit your ability to do everything God created you to do.
So, please, be REAL. Although I’m no pro at this, each day I try to be honest with myself and honest with my Creator. And I want to be honest with you. I want to share my pain and my joy. AND…I want to know the REAL you. I want to know how you’ve messed up, how you hurt, what you dream of, where your passions lie. I love your honesty. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Let us share in each other’s life.
I’ll end with a Psalm from David. As your read it, realize that David’s life was open. It was real, honest, and raw. God KNEW David. And He KNOWS you. No need to hide. God loves you in spite of all your flaws, and He created you with all your quirks and oddities, and He is strong enough to protect you from those who might judge your honesty. David was real with God, and what a glorious life and legacy God gave him. What a glorious life you and I will also have if only we hand our hearts over to the LOVER OF OUR SOULS!
1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave [b] ;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain [c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What gain is there in my destruction, [d]
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.”