Thursday, August 14, 2014

Little white lies

I'm hesitant to jump on the whole 'let's blog about depression and suicide' bandwagon that's happening this week in the wake of the loss of a major celebrity. But I think there is a pull for many of us to tell our stories, to put a human face to depression and other mental illnesses when we see the words that hurt instead of healing, when we see people speaking opinions and declaring them Truth. Truth is, depression is complicated, depression is different for everyone, and (as The Bloggess says) depression lies. It lies to us and through us. It muddles our thoughts, our actions and our relationships. I originally wrote this post in 2009, it seemed somehow appropriate to edit and repost it for today.

Photo by David via Flickr
Yesterday I had both boys with me when I stopped in at the endocrinologist's office for a quick blood draw. I should have gone on the previous day when I could have gone alone, but I can't be the only one who spends the day thinking that there was Something you were supposed to do but you can't remember what. And then it's 5:00 and you finally remember, only it's too late. It was one of those days. It should have been simple, a brave face for a few seconds and then we'd be out of there.

I was doing great, smiling calmly at the boys (ok, Kyle was oblivious, Jordan was hovering with curiosity and a little trepidation); and then, the nurse couldn't find the vein. Couldn't...find...the...vein. There I sat, with a manic smile pasted on my face as I silently screamed, "OK, this hurts, this hurts, this hurts!" And Jordan asked the question that all children want to know when confronted with a needle, "Does it hurt?" "Well, a little bit," I responded. (Oh, please, please, PLEASE find that vein quickly and get this over with!) He hovered, I smiled, teeth gritted behind the upward curve of my lips, until the nurse finally found the vein. As we left Jordan said "I don't think I ever want someone to take my blood." He'd seen right through the lie of my smile and knew perfectly well that despite my attempt to mask it this was something that hurt more than just a little bit.

I do that a lot, you know. Most of us do. Little white lies to hide the pain we're in. "How are you doing?" "Fine, how about you?" Only we aren't, but we don't mention the fact that we've thrown out our back, or that the baby has been up all night teething and we just want some SLEEP, is that too much to ask? Or that our world seems to be falling down around us or we've got a child who has brought us to our breaking point in any of a thousand ways. We don't talk about loss or grief or the sadness of dreams that take too long in coming. We don't talk about how the joy we've prayed for hasn't shown up in the anticipated ways. We don't talk about how sometimes joy and tears can exist together or how hard it is to hold on to the joy through the tears. We don't talk about how "try harder" can kill our souls.

It's no big deal, it's not like it's a lie that HURTS anyone. So we paste our smiles on our face and we pretend we aren't in pain and 'fine' becomes that word that we always, always say even when all the needles are jabbing and we just want a moment of comfort and relief.

Let me tell you a secret...telling everyone we are fine when inside we are screaming "It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!" doesn't help us. Sometimes there's a time and a place, and not every person is a good person to tell. But...and THIS is what I want you to hear today...that little lie of "I'm fine" does something. It robs those around us of the chance to express the heart of Christ to us. It robs them of the chance to bring comfort to the hurting, robs them of the chance to bind up wounds, walk beside, speak life and hope and peace and yes, joy, into our lives when we can't find the words ourselves. Left long enough, it will turn a church into a shell of a building filled with the shells of people all walking around with smiles on our faces saying "I'm fine." And a world full of people who are NOT fine will never enter our doors if all that we have to offer them is the message that the 'joy of the Lord' is an everlasting upper, instead of sometimes the only rock we are clinging to with bloodied hands as the waves of pain wash over us.

And to be sure, there is a balance to be had between complaining about our every ache and being honest about when we are hurting. And there is a time for knowing who to share your hurts with and who may not have the maturity to handle it. But in a world that is broken it's time for the church to come alive to its mission, ministering the love of Jesus to the physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally broken people both inside and outside of its walls. No more little white lies.