I recently heard through the proverbial “grapevine” some shocking truths about a long-ago acquaintance and the trials she’s been experiencing. For days, my mind had a difficult time reconciling these facts with the shiny, perfect exterior that’s been displayed over the years.
Truth is, we rarely know what people’s lives are really like. It reminds me of that quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Indeed—no matter what someone’s Instagram account may look like.
My shock turned to sadness and then to great empathy—how I know all-too-well the realities of living a mismatched life, where the outside and inside don’t necessarily agree. Aaron and I ran into marriage troubles quite early in our journey, and for a long time I carried the burden in secret—doing my best to ensure we looked like the perfect “Southern Christian” couple on the outside while my heart was breaking on the inside.
The whole thing sent my mind to pondering how amazingly gifted we humans are in the art of rug sweeping. In effortless fashion, we are adept at hiding, disguising, and covering over all the broken, crooked, and ugly places in our stories. With the skill of a Hollywood makeup artist, we conceal all our flaws; only we know the truth that lies beneath the layers of foundation and powder—the bumps, bruises, and all.
But I can’t help but think that perhaps we have it all wrong: we gloss over anything unpleasant and imperfect, yet this is where the good stuff lies. This is where God’s incredible love, power, and redemption can take center stage, bringing Him glory and us abundant life … but here we are, sweeping it all away.
God’s power isn’t displayed in the achieving of false perfection in our outward veneer—His power is displayed through the supernatural redemption He brings in the very middle of our mess!
In the broken relationships with family and friends. The bad marriage. The wayward child. The sick family member. The disastrous career or finances.
Such trials set the stage for the power of Jesus to blow our minds.
The gospel of John tells the beautiful story of a blind man whom Jesus healed. This man, blind from birth, not only carried the burden of living with a severe disability; he also carried with him the intense stigma of sin, as the culture of that day believed that his blindness was directly caused by either his sin or that of his parent’s.
Even Jesus’ disciples held this belief and asked Jesus outright, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2 NIV). The response Jesus gave holds just as much relevance and meaning for us today as it did that day:
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ (John 9:3 NIV).
And was it ever! This man morphed from blind and stigmatized to fully seeing, fully rejoicing, and fully committed to Christ, becoming a loyal spokesman for Him. The Pharisees could debate the deity of Jesus all day long, but they couldn’t argue with the proof of His divine and miraculous healing power.
And so it is with us: the tough places in our lives, the places we’d rather cover up, can become the materials for miracles! Our greatest agony can become our greatest avenue for displaying God’s work.
Satan wants us to cover up and sweep away. He’s desperate to keep our mouths shut, lost forever in the trap of thinking I’m the only one with this problem. We look around and think everyone but us has it all together. But I truly believe, whatever your trials—wherever they fall on the spectrum from first world to third—you wouldn’t have to look very far to find another person similarly situated.
I want to whisper a scary but incredibly freeing truth into your ear: you don’t have to live a lie. I know it’s terrifying to lower that mask, even a little, but the freedom found in embracing your story far outweighs the momentary fear.
The blind man in John 9 couldn’t hide his blindness … perhaps we shouldn’t hide ours anymore, either?
When we willingly and humbly bring it all before God, we are bringing Him pure gold with which He can work. There is power in story, so much power in seeing how God can take a marriage in ruins and breathe new life into it. How He can bring back the wayward child. How He is able to heal relationships that once seemed beyond repair. How He is able to sustain, strengthen, and give joy in the midst of illness, even if the healing doesn’t come.
Rather than lie about the less-than-shiny parts of your story, God wants you to leverage those tough parts for a place in His ultimate story.
I’m not suggesting everyone go out, start a blog, and begin spilling your guts … God calls different people to different things, certainly. But perhaps you might begin, ever so slightly, to let go of that need and pressure to pretend everything is perfect.
Perhaps over this next week or two, you could begin thinking of a trusted someone with whom you can pull back the rug and simply be yourself—warts and all. Someone with whom you can simply exhale, setting down the burden of chasing perfection, even for just a moment.
I know it’s scary … but don’t allow the enemy to entangle you with fear …
There’s freedom waiting for you.
There’s encouragement for others.
There’s peace in having your inner and outer lives reconciled.
What are you waiting for? Take a chance and give your loving Heavenly Father the opportunity to display His power in your story.
You just might find yourself living with new eyes and greater vision for all God has for you in the midst of that story—bumps, bruises, and all.
This post is a part of this summer’s series Finding Meaning in the Mess. All summer, we’ll be diving into the faith lessons we can learn in the midst of our everyday lives. God can teach us through all kinds of trials, big or small–let’s commit to drawing nearer to Him and hearing His voice!
Come back next Friday as we’ll continue the discussion on story and how God is purposefully and lovingly writing out the story of your life!