Facing trials from the time I was tiny, I have grown up hearing others talk about how strong I was or how, "nothing gets that girl down." This from well-meaning people who have never ceased to pray for or encourage me. Yet, it has created in me this idea that others expect me to be tough. Even after my engagement ended, I handled it like a tough girl would. Only a handful of people have ever seen me cry and for some odd reason, I take pride in that.
That being said, it's been easier to disappear from social media and my blog rather than tell the world:
I am not that tough.
This week, a friend suggested a podcast that he felt might be uplifting. Turns out, the entire sermon series knocked me on my tail so hard that it caused this mask of super strength I wear to fall off. Aptly title, In The Meantime, the series touches on how to handle the seasons of anxiety. The seasons when you've clearly left Point A, but don't see Point B anywhere in sight. Where your past, present and future seem to be nothing more than a tangled ball of sticky yarn.
In light of serious medical issues, the emotions of leaving my friends and loved ones across the country, and a general sense of purposelessness, there are many days where I have lost sight of the hope and promises of God and sink into depression.
I have found such great comfort in the Psalms. So many times, David is able to express the anguish and desperation of his heart using the very words I can't seem to find. But, he wasn't the only one. Paul was there - he wrestled with the thorn in his flesh - he mentions learning to find contentment in the most bleak of circumstances. Moses was there. He spent 40 years "In the Meantime" pleading with God for forgiveness, favor and food. Ruth was there. She lost her husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law and opted to leave the world she knew clinging to the hope that something - maybe something - was better somewhere else. Esther was there; essentially kidnapped from her home waiting for one night with the king.
I think we each have "In the Meantime" seasons, yet we don't like to talk about them. Why?
I venture to give you a few reasons:
1. We ourselves are insecure. We wear a mask trying to pretend the hurt and frustration isn't there. If we ignore it long enough, everything might just smooth itself out and magically get better and no one has to know the struggle. Pride and self-sufficiency drive us to keep our needs to ourself.
2. Social Media. It's a monster! I recently removed myself from all my social media feeds for a month. It was so refreshing! Try it - I dare you. Granted, your Facebook news feed is about as authentic as Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor, but it still gets in our heads. Is anyone actually going to post a bad photo of themselves? NO! That selfie has probably been shot at least three times, has been edited and is now sporting a filter. Their wedding photos are adorable, but you know their marriage isn't perfect. Their baby is so cute and well-behaved, but can't you imagine the bedtime temper-tantrum followed by the 2am "I'm thirsty, Mommy"? Scroll through your feed. It's likely you know some of the stories and heartaches behind the photos. But, it's easy to compare, isn't it? When I made the decision to go off the grid for a month, it was vital. My world was changing yet again. If I saw another engagement announcement, wedding album or gender reveal party, I thought I was going to be sick. Somehow the photos of my friends instilled in me the idea that I was behind. I don't have my life together the way they do. I'm not as pretty, lovable, smart, independent… Unplugging was freeing and greatly diminished the lies I was believing about myself. My attitude and heart had a chance to regroup. Amazingly enough, true friends still found a way to get in touch with me! If you're in a "In the Meantime" season, unplug. I believe you'd be better able to hear God's status updates over your life.
3. We don't trust others. The Bible is full of verses telling us to share one another's burdens. To lift one another up when one is down. To ask for prayer. But, we don't. I have certainly been guilty of wearing the "everything's ok" mask to church. It could be fear of judgement, concern of gossip, lack of trust or just a good stiff-arm that keeps our mask on. I can't imagine what His ministry would have been like if Jesus wasn't honest and transparent. What if Paul didn't need Timothy? What if Moses decided he could do it all by himself and cast Aaron aside? We are God's gift to one another. You and I were never meant to do this life alone. The whole point was that we would see our inability and Christ's ability - He sends us each other to help be that encouragement and support along the way. I know better than just about anyone how gut-wrentchingly painful it can be to lay down your mask and admit that you're not ok. Yet, the love and grace that flows through admission is palpable. Don't be afraid of the help God has sitting the pew right next to you.
4. Backpedaling. So, you've finally confided a tiny bit in that friend and they stare back across the table from you with a blank expression, speechless. No words would make the situation better anyway, but you were hoping for a little something. Now the thoughts swirl in your mind. "Why on earth did I say anything to them anyway?" you ask yourself. Maybe it's for them. Revolutionary thought, I know. We tend to get really self-consumed during those "In the Meantime" seasons. Take a peek outside of your world that seems to be crumbling and consider their expression across the table. Maybe it's for her. Maybe he is watching you wage yet another trial and is astounded by your faith. I am exceedingly thankful that many of the Bible Greats faced such seasons. Their stories are what give us hope. Have you considered that maybe by simply sharing your story, you could be that for someone else? Our testimony is the key to victory.
5. You're out of faith. If you've been "In the Meantime" for more than a few months, you're probably growing tired. When you're weary and struggling to fight one more day, it seems that the devil gets a microphone. His lies become louder and louder in our ear until he has us curled in the fetal position ready to quit. Consider his battle strategy. The devil's tactics are NEVER new. He knows exactly what will make you feel worthless, empty and defeated and he will repeat himself day after day. Do what you can to strap on the Armor of God. I am so thankful that the only task we are given once the armor is on is to simply stand. Nothing else. Stand. Just one more day. And when you're just plum out of faith and are desperately wondering where God's hand is, take heart in the promise that the Lord will fight for you. Again, the command is simply to be still - be calm - chill out - take a deep breath. He never leaves. He is busy fighting for you.
Having lived behind a mask for years, I need to recall each of these points daily. Please feel free to remind me! God has a purpose for the in between times. I am still in the thick of it and don't have a clue what He's up to or where He's headed with me, I just cling to the promises He's given in His word and wait for him to act on my behalf knowing that even in the silence, He is busy. Just because you find yourself in one of life's dark hallways, doesn't mean you need to pitch a tent there. Keep standing until you see the light and the door. I will try to do the same. In the Meantime…