Originally published Sunday, 07 October 2018.
I can still remember exactly where I was standing when it hit me. For several years, I had been fielding the same set of questions from well-meaning people, about that one painful place in my life that refused to be ignored. Each story may be different, but I’ve found we all have our own pain point.
Though I knew the people in my life meant no harm, I somehow thought that I needed to protect myself and the wounds others didn’t know their words were picking at. By now, I had figured out all the tricky ways to get out of a conversation. Most either turned the attention to someone else or ducked behind some bit of “Christianeeze” I wasn’t sure I really believed. “Well it’s all in God’s timing,” “Someday,” or “We’ll see.”
Until one day when the conversation continued down the well-traveled path once again, and I was convicted that the lies to the people who love me must cease. It was a different feeling, something liberating as opposed to the condemning whispers I had fought for years. Instead of fear, I felt peaceful and safe and clearly saw what my default had been in the hundreds of conversations that started just like this one.
In an effort to avoid conflict or awkwardness at the pain of the truth, I had been choosing to hide behind a falsehood of “it’s all ok” for too long. How strong this lie is embedded in our culture. The temptation whispered that no one would care if I told them the truth. It was better to stay alone in my struggle and keep the peace than to bring up the hard things.
What I found to be true once I began speaking truth was the absolute opposite.
The words tumbled out of my mouth, and a look of shock came across my friend’s face. “Actually, we don’t know if we’ll be able to have children. We’ve been trying for a long time and it has been really hard. Could you pray for us?”
The shock on her face was full of compassion. She hadn’t meant to step into something painful. She just didn’t know, because I hadn’t told her. I found the more I let people into this hard area of my life, the more love and compassion I received.
When I cowered behind falsehood, I felt alone and hopeless. No one in our lives could care for us, because they didn’t know we were walking wounded. No one could practice Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” because I had put up walls around my life and denied access to those who cared about our story. As Matt Chandler has said, “To be 99% known is to be unknown altogether.”
The land of being unknown is a desperately painful place.
I wish I hadn’t tried to be the strong one for so long. I am now convicted that God made us to need one another on purpose. Jesus told us clearly:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35.
In our weakest places, our love and vulnerability show the world a way of living that doesn’t point to how well we are doing at “being ok,” but at what a Savior we have! Jesus, who has initiated such radical love amongst people that those who would never naturally love extravagantly, compassionately, and sacrificially shine a new way in a dark world. When I began to tell the truth, people were able to love me in a way that was impossible as long as I was hunkered down in pain. I saw Jesus in them every time. Their love is a great testament to the God who comforts the broken-hearted, hears our cries, and united us together when nothing else in the world could.
Instead of letting pain make way for bitterness, lies, and envy slowly brokedown relationships I was gently taught to let pain turn to vulnerability, which led to care, compassion, and strong relationships. Though the culturally acceptable lie would keep false peace, my soul tasted Shalom peace, full of wholeness and rightness. When I took the scary step forward in conviction to tell the messy, painful truth God’s people met me faithfully on the other side.
Holly Hawes is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail, and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.