If I asked you how you are today…
How would you answer?
Why is it that the moment we hear this question we tend to feel a responsibility for maintaining God’s image of goodness, mercy, and faithfulness? We can be sick, exhausted, about to explode from a panic attack, or have a houseful of sick kids. We may have just had a fight with family, exploded at the kids or learned our job was being phased out. Yet, the moment we hear those first words –
Our heart rate goes up and we seem to feel compelled to embrace a mask of perfection. Our real life pain, chaos, and struggles are pushed aside by our happy heart smile as we answer
“I’m good how about you?”
If you’re like me the guilt for lying settles in as quickly as that fake smile overtakes my face. I found myself lying so much, as I worked through many seasons of healing, that I was avoiding people and those awkward greetings, in an effort to not feel obligated to lie. To cope I created a new safe and honest answer that I can give in every situation.
“I’m ducky how about you”?
Those who know me understand “ducky” means I’m not okay and I don’t want talk about it, at least not in the moment. Those who don’t know me, typically respond as if I had answered I am great and move onto to other topics.
I feel validated because I didn’t lie or discount my struggle; which allows me to move beyond the awkward surface, into a deeper conversation.
And amazingly the kingdom does not implode because I admitted that I am not perfect. Christians sometimes act like God is thrown into a panic attack because our human reactions and weakness make him look bad. Trust me He is bigger than our humanity!
A more accurate portrayal is that God is pleased, because I didn’t feel compelled to lie to protect heart or my image of him. Even more, in our vulnerability, others have the opportunity to encounter God’s love, grace, mercy and compassion in a real and tangible way.
God becomes bigger when we are honest about our pain, failures, and trials; while his love and desire to step into broken lives becomes real, to those around us who are also hurting and watching to see if our God is big enough for their mess.
I have no idea where the belief that it’s not okay to admit you aren’t okay begun, but I do know it’s unbiblical and ridiculous! Something is wrong when we believe we need to lie to feel safe or protect our testimony.
The bible say’s we are to bear with one another; which means to struggle or endure through both the good and bad times together, supporting and growing with each other. Some seem to think bear with one another means to climb over, compete, or condemn, which is simply absurd and in no way a reflection of the life we are called to live.
What apart of bearing or struggling together is lived out when we lie about how we are or when we make someone else feel uncomfortable? How do we overcome with our testimony if we can’t admit we have one? Our testimonies are not limited to what God did when he saved us, they grow and evolve as we grow and learn.
My testimony is much fuller today, than it was the moment He saved me.
God created us to thrive in deep, transparent, loving relationships; which enable us to grow and experience safe. Relationships can only be safe and transparent if we are grounded in our understanding of godly love. Godly love places the best for others first, even when what is best is hard, not what we want or when what is best for another requires us to set our needs and agendas aside.
Understanding Godly love is so life changing I spent a year teaching what it is and is not. In the end we must each chose to embrace and risk stepping into God’s love or remain in the disemboweled and shallow world-view of love and relationship.
Our pretense accomplishes little beyond removing us from what our hearts need to grow and feel safe. At the same time, our pretense removes us from those who will grow and learn by watching us walk through our struggles and failures in a God honoring way.
There is wisdom in investing the effort to develop relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
While I know a lot of people, I am known by only a handful of trusted friends.
I would not answer a stranger or even an acquaintance with “I am feeling triggered and scared”, but I might answer by saying “I am really struggling right now or when that seems unsafe …
“I’m ducky how are you?” works great!
Feel free to borrow ducky or make up your own unique answer and definition.
Those in my inner circle get more information. Depending on the friend I might even go into details around what I am reacting to; so that they can help me ground and feel safe in the moment.
This is how relationship is created to work. We struggle, together while at the same time we carry and learn from each other.
Relationships are about learning to walk and live out life together, in a real and meaningful way, so that we learn and grow from and with each other. We are hardwired and created to exist, need and thrive in relationships.
In addition, when we chose the safety of pretense over the reality of transparency, we rob our loved ones of the opportunity to grow with us. I know this first hand. I have seen my friends grow in their capacity to handle hard times and in their ability to love, specifically because I allowed them to walk through the very real hell of ritual abuse with me.
Jesus is the only one who is perfection. Every person struggles, fails, hurts, sins, and goes through seasons of insecurity, depression, doubt and the unknown.
Buying into the lie that acknowledging our humanity is wrong or weak pulls us out of the relationship we need and into a fake, unpredictable world.
Christians are not called or expected to be perfect, at least not by God!
We are however called to bear and endure with one another; which requires that we live transparently, walking in mercy, grace and an abundance of godly love.
If I had kept the people I trust out of my brutal reality I would have missed the experience of being loved, validated and protected. They would have missed gaining a deeper perspective and trust in God’s faithfulness and protection through big storms. Yes, it is wise to pick your close friends carefully; while allowing your trust to develop naturally, over time. However, neither is possible if everyone remains hidden behind their perfect masks.
And really who can live up to that perfect mask anyway?
I grew, in part, because I stopped pretending and, in a very real way, as I did my testimony pulled my friends into a deeper relationship with God and each other.
Had I stayed behind my “I am ok “mask none of these amazing gifts of healing and growing would be possible. Some healing, understanding and growth only come as we develop and step into deep, safe relationships and risk being known. The coolest part of removing that silly mask is watching others stumble into the undeniable reality of how big God really is!
It’s impossible to know me or hear my testimony without realizing that me being alive is a miracle. How others choose to process that is up to them, and no reflection on me. It is, however, a gift to watch the process and know that from such incomprehensible depths of loss and pain others see a miracle.
As Christians we don’t need to lie to protect ourselves or God’s image. God is not defined by our lives, but our lives should be defined by who we believe our God is!
Be bold, embrace and take back your humanity – it is okay to not be okay! God is magnified in our weakness and vulnerability.
You and I are NOT always okay, but we are loved, worthy and wanted exactly as we are! You don’t need that creepy perfect mask. You can, instead, embrace real and begin enjoying the freedom God created and protects for you.