The Trouble with Honesty

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One Sunday while I waited for my husband to park the car, I sat on the bench next to the coffee bar in the church lobby. For fifteen minutes, I watched people coming in and out of the sanctuary. Most of them were smiling and hugging. Almost all of them asked each other the same question—“How are you?”

 

Here’s a breakdown of the answers:

“Awesome.” <given with an over-exuberant grin>

“Great.” <given with a regular grin>

“Fine.” <given with a barely there grin>

Most of the answers and grins seemed genuine. But sometimes when the hug ended and the person who asked the question disappeared down the hall, the person who answered would pause. And the grin would fall into a different expression. An expression that said—I’m barely hanging on.

Those looks of pain hit hard, because that day I was barely hanging on.

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When it was my turn to be smiled at and hugged and asked the question, I decided to skip the grin and be honest. “Being here is good,” I said. “But I’m falling apart.”

I don’t own a church face and I’m a lousy liar, so honesty and I are pretty tight. My only option other than telling the truth on days when I’m barely hanging on is to stay home and cry alone. Sadly, this past year, I’ve chosen that option more than a few Sunday mornings.

After I answered, a few people got a little awkward and didn’t know what to say. Most people hugged me tighter or patted my back or said they’d pray for me. Then they all walked away.

Except for one woman from my Sunday School class.

She sat with me on the bench, took my hand, and with soft words and understanding eyes shared her similar struggle—the struggle she was still walking—and prayed with me until we were both in tears. Her honest vulnerability touched me in a way I badly needed that day.

So what does any of this have to do with honesty causing trouble?

After being MIA on my blog for quite a while, I wrote a post explaining why I’d been silent. The short version behind why I quit is that life over the last year has been rough and I couldn’t write fiction, let alone post reality.

I won’t rehash the entire blog, but if you’re interested, you can read it here. Honesty Central: Getting Real

I think a few people may have gotten the wrong message or missed my motivation for being honest about my  faith struggles. And maybe that’s my fault.

Sometimes when I open up, I’m so stuck in the right here, right now that I don’t filter my fears and struggles in the light of an eternal picture. I share my frustration or anger or hopelessness in that moment and make it seem as if I don’t want to move forward toward a stronger faith. As if I’ve given up on my God.

But that’s not true.

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In the middle of the storm, life often doesn’t make sense. It’s only after the violent wind calms and dark skies lighten that I see the rainbow.

I haven’t gotten to my rainbow yet, but I know it’s there waiting. I  know one day I’ll look back on these last few years and see the good only God can bring out of the ugly. And I’ll be able to empathize with people in a brand new way.

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So the question becomes—is it okay to share that I’m still struggling? If I share, will people think I’ve turned from faith? Or will they see my transparency for what it is? My humanness getting in the way of who God’s grooming me to be?

As Christians, we have to ask ourselves—In the midst of personal struggles, when should we be honest and when should we keep quiet?

Here’s my thought about transparency.

If in my heart, my goal is to reach people where they are, and not to start a local chapter of the Misery Loves Company Club, I’ll be honest.

If my honesty is meant to comfort those in pain, and not to rile them to rebel against the unfairness of God, I’ll be honest.

If the truth eventually shows a big-picture journey that leads toward God, and is not a map leading them away, I’ll be honest.

How do people know how to pray for us if we’re not honest? How can we have the street cred to reach out to others and say, “I get it,” if we’re not honest?

I’ve never invited anyone to join me in my pit of despair. My goal is to climb out, not split up the space and sublet. There’s a difference between empathy and instigation. And if we’re honest, at least with ourselves, we all have some struggles with our faith.

It’s easy to praise God in the sun. It’s harder to praise Him in the storm. My favorite song the first time my son was diagnosed with leukemia was Blessed Be Your Name. You can listen to it here.

Blessed Be Your Name

This spiritual journey, all my spiritual journeys, are always going to end with faith. They have to. Faith isn’t part of who I am—it is who I am. Sometimes it just takes me longer to weather the storm so I can find the rainbow.

And there will always be someone sitting on that bench at church. Someone who’s desperate to say, “I’m not okay.”

Maybe if I’m honest, I can be to that person what the woman from my Sunday School class was to me. Hope. A lifeline. Someone who understands and is brave enough to admit it.  And then it will be my turn to share my struggles and pray.

 

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**If you your or someone you love is dealing with cancer or a serious illness, you can see my journey here: Surviving the Storm

14 Comments

  1. Exactly….”How do people know how to pray for us if we’re not honest? How can we have the street cred to reach out to others and say, “I get it,” if we’re not honest?”

    I do find the… “How are you?” I’m fine” dance a bit surreal if it’s just us chickens doing the dancing! We (Christians) have been given added incentive to be transparent and “weak” because He is shown strong through our difficulty. 2 Cor. 12:9

    Like little juice glasses, we must keep being clear so He is visible:) (I must be thinking about the breakfast I haven’t had yet.)

    Praying God will show you His hand today and trip you with a unique blessing!

    • WOW,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, LORI THIS IS AWESOME BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES, ANYONE THAT CAN GET UP AND WRITE WHAT YOU DID IS AMAZING TO ME, SAID A PRAYER FOR YOU THIS MORN BEFORE I GOT UP FOR YOUR SURGERY AND THEN I GO TO COMPUTER AND READ THIS JUST REMEMBER BE THINKING OF ALL OF YOU TODAY &
      I will be holding your hand along with Pat.

      Just miss and love all of you. xxoo MOM

  2. Hang in there – you are stronger than you know.

  3. Nancy Miller |

    Hi Lori

    Today I find myself facing a challenging surgery to prayerfully rid myself of uterine cancer. I found myself wrestling with this exact things as I journeyed through the days leading up to today. I had a genuine friend who told me to let go of my expectations of how I should respond but rather be honest and authentic. I’m sure glad I woke up early enough to read this post. Praying for you today as you embrace your surgery

  4. Adrienne Giordano |

    I always prefer the honesty. It makes us real. And I think God knows, even when we struggle, our faith is still there. It might just be buried under a lot of stuff!

    Thinking of you today and hoping you’re up and about soon!

  5. “You’ve come a long way baby,” from that girl I met at LifeSavers who was writing about that first bout with her son’s leukemia. Remember? Remember how difficult it became to write that story? So difficult you set it aside. But God had other plans and He’s given you clarity of expression. Words of wisdom and encouragement, words of distress and turmoil, words that you are being obedient to share with all who struggle.

    Now the words of 1 Peter 1:7 are playing in HD in your life: “…you’ve have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    You have the gift of teaching and you are using that gift to honor your Savior and King. I am so grateful for you and the blessing of calling you my friend.

    And sweet friend, your transparency and faith are blessing and helping others you may never know about ’til we all get home.

  6. I think about myself and think I am being selfish. I read about your life and I know I am being selfish. NO one can take your troubles away from you. That is the awful part. I ‘ve heard if you take care of someone else’s problems, yours won’t be so bad. I try to do that, living alone is very lonely and watching TV is not a big filler. You have many people that need you and that should help you be stronger. However some of the people in your life are at stages of despair and loneliness. Your Christianity and your faith are the healing factors in your life. Your writing all of the thoughts down is the best therapy. At Christmas time, the letters about all the trips and successes are described and I wonder how much is real and how much is dreaming. You are going through a major test and I am amazed at every one’s strength thru all of this. I sent Kyle a prayer shawl that has been prayed over about 50 times to help someone through their trial. Please wrap yourself in it when the load is too heavy. My best friend from church which is where most of them are, lost her daughter last week and her son in law the month before and then in all of this the dog died. She got the major flu and was in bed for 2 weeks. The pair were 57 years old and the funeral paper told how the daughter was in charge of the chapter of Hope House which transfers women out of prison back to their lives. Her picture was on the front page and their picture was on the back page. I sang “His eye is on the Sparrow”, her favorite song. She fought her cancer for about 5 months, her husband lost his life from a heart attack. I have called my friend every day to make sure she is still healing and not giving up. I do not see anyone in your home giving up. What a blessing that is. God has a big plan for all of you. This has been a great big test. God Bless you and keep you safe.

  7. I SO struggle with this as well. Most days, faith wins, thankfully. But it’s hard to talk with people as most turn away or like you said give that awkward silence.

    • Lori Freeland |

      I alwaus wonder what would happen if all of us were a little more honest. Wouldn’t it be great if people did really know what to say to each other?

  8. This is beautiful and I sure needed it today. Lori, I don’t think we’ve ever met, but we share a church, and apparently, a bench. Thanks for these works in the midst of your storm. Please know there’s a stranger in the halls at the Heights praying for you!

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