Keeping your struggles inside and trying to appear perfect is pretty lonely.
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Before my kids were born, my husband and I hosted a couples Bible study. We were new to the church so we posted an ad on the church website to find married couples of all ages who wanted to meet on a weekly basis to do a Bible study. We collected a diverse group of married couples. The ages ranged from 20s to 50s. We represented all seasons of married life including newly married with no children, being in the thick of raising kids and the empty nester stage with grandchildren. In the beginning, we were all working to get to know and trust each other. A few months into the study, one of the women in the group pulled me aside as people were getting ready to leave. She smiled at me with admiration. She was happy to give me this encouragement, “You are a person who has everything together.”
This well-meaning compliment hit me like a ton of bricks. This lady was just giving me sweet words of affirmation, right? I believe God uses people to speak wisdom and direction in our lives. I know that was God’s whisper because of the way it made me feel. After much reflection, I understood God was telling me, “The group has built trust, you are now at a crossroads. You can lead this group to stay very sterile with a culture in which everyone works to appear perfect. Or you can start showing your vulnerability to others to make them feel safe to do the same.” Real growth can only be made when we bring out what is dark inside us into the light. When we bring struggles to our Christian friends, they can work to help us grow.
God knows me so well. My natural inclination is to work hard for people to see me as having it all together. I work to make my appearance look put together. I work to make my house look nice. I work hard at my job to appear “successful.” For this Bible study, I planned every detail to orchestrate a perfect experience with snacks and drinks and scented candles burning in every room.
After several months of attending this study, this woman’s take away was that I had it all together. If this woman only saw my outer mask and was impressed by it, she would work to strive for the same thing. I had planned and worked my way to make everything look great. But is that the point of bringing people together to worship God and study His Word? At that very moment of my marriage, we were struggling with the pain of infertility. I was being sucked into a work culture of doing anything to get ahead, even if it meant running over people. What was going on inside me was not put together. God’s whisper helped me realize it was time to shift my focus on helping everyone in that Bible study including me to grow. I needed to model to the group that if I showed my authentic self, God could work on growing my heart. God’s word says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12.
Keeping your struggles inside and trying to appear perfect is pretty lonely and very dangerous when you are in the midst of everyday battles in life. I’m so glad God used this woman to wake me up to this reality.
From that point forward, instead of putting so much effort into snacks and having the right fabulous home accessories, I turned my focus to creating a safe environment where we could share our struggles. We encourage one another to learn and grow so the Lord could use us for His purpose. A few years later, we moved across the country. I’m still proud to call those people my friends. This group was such an amazing experience for us all. We were there for each other during the pain of miscarriages, job losses and the joy of the birth of babies and celebrations for graduations. I’m so grateful God whispered to me to stop striving for the appearance of control and perfection so I could experience Him through this wonderful group of people.
But don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy walking into a room full of fabulous snacks and smelling the calming aroma of a sugar cookie candle. And I think God is okay with that too.
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Lisa Smith, Journey Member
Lisa Smith loves her family and friends with all her heart. She is proud to be the wife of Dan and the Mom to two daughters, eleven and eight years old. When Lisa is not working as an HR Consultant, she enjoys spending time camping and hosting gatherings for friends and family.