Thursday, October 17, 2013

"In the Trenches..." ~Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12

     Uploaded some of my son’s wedding pictures onto Facebook the other day.  I only picked the best ones.  Didn’t want the extra pounds or wrinkles to show.  Eliminated the ones that showed stressful or hurried expressions.  Set aside any that didn’t meet my high standards.  I worked hard to customize the images that I showed the world.  It looks like a perfect day.  A perfect wedding.  A perfect family.  
     I do that often.  Pick and choose what people see about me.  Don’t want the cracks in the armor to show.  Don’t want anyone to doubt that I’ve got it all together.  Even when I don’t.
     Recently I spoke to a struggling young single mother who has been reading some of my online blogs.  She told me she had known me for years and had no idea about some of the hardships I had been through.  She identified with the pain in some of my writing.  She felt encouraged to keep on keeping on after reading about some of my experiences.  To keep fighting.
     It made me remember something that my husband pointed out to me long ago.  We love people for their weaknesses.  Not their strengths.
     I have a beautiful friend in my church.  She lives in a nice home, has a fancy car, a toned body and a beautiful face.  Strong marriage and pretty kids.  I have known her for many years.  We had been casual friends.  I had admired her from afar.  In my mind she was one of those have-it-all-together-women.
     Then our relationship changed drastically.  We went to a third world country together.
     We shared a small room with a bunk bed and a cold shower.  Shared one outlet for electricity when it worked.  We gave up on makeup and hair-styling by the second day.  Mud and sweat mixed with the tears on our faces as we fed hungry children.
     We lay in bed at night and shared our life stories.  We stood in front of strangers far away from our little town in Arkansas and gave our testimonies.  We talked quietly about where we came from, how we got there, and where we wanted to go.
     I received so many blessings from my time in Nicaragua.  But one of them is that I gained a sister in Christ.  When all the chips were down, and the barriers gone, we saw each others souls.
     Coming home was a hard adjustment.  Trying to fit back into “normal” was impossible.  We were changed forever, and our daily lives became a reflection of that.  
     I occasionally see pictures of my friend with her beautiful kids on face book.  Her make-up is back in place and she is beautiful as always.  She looks the same as before we went.  But she looks different to me now.  And I’m sure I look different to her too.
     I know her story.  I know her hurts and celebrations.  I know her dreams and wishes.  I know that her life is not the perfection that the Facebook pictures show.  And she knows the same about me.  We formed a bond in the trenches.  Our lives are tangled together now. 
     It’s so easy these days to only have surface relationships.  To only show our best side.  To pick and choose the best images.  In a day when everyone has total access to each other through all kinds of communication devices, somehow we have managed very well to hide our inner selves.  I think it is a dangerous thing. 
     It’s hard to love someone who looks perfect on the outside.  Houses, cars, marriages, smart and beautiful children.  The Christmas cards paint a pretty image.  All smiles and sunshine.
      We have to learn to share our pain.  Ask for prayer in our struggles.  We have to learn to tell our stories.  Maybe that’s the purpose of us living them.  One story can inspire hope in another.  God designed the Body of Christ as a support system.  He didn’t create one single perfect Christian.  And it’s the flaws that make us loveable.  Not the pretty pictures.
     Our natural response to pain should always be compassion.  That’s how we’re created.  And maybe the reason for our story is to encourage someone else.  So tell yours.  Pass on the faith.  Lift up the fallen.  It’s what the church is for.  It’s the design behind the fellowship.  
     Today, when you see someone whose life seems perfect, dig a little deeper.  Ask a few more questions, look beyond the plastic smile.  There may be a treasure chest of faith there.
     Everyone has a story.  Everyone is lovable.  And you may, like me, make a forever friend.

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