“How are things going with you guys?”
“Is everything okay?”
I’ve been asked similar questions several times this week, a few close friends picking up on my unusual distance and coming nearer to close the gap. These friends are among the kindest souls I know, quick with an encouraging word. Even still, it always feels like a loaded question. Will I tell the truth? Do I dare?
Maybe it’s because the climate is abnormally haphazard. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe it’s because it’s February. (I don’t know why, but February always ends up absorbing some of my sun-deprived angst.) Whatever the reason, having grown weary of my typical deflections, this week I decided to start telling the truth.
“We’re all still here, I guess. We’re all healthy for the most part. But beyond that, no. Not much seems okay lately.” And that was just the beginning.
I told about the meeting I had with the school counselor this week, the work frustrations I was dealing with, the schedule that had become too tightly packed, the contact burns still pricking my skin from walking through an enormously painful situation with a neighbor.
Not shockingly, unloading on a few willing recipients began to lighten my load. It was a tremendous relief. I found myself wondering why this doesn’t come more naturally.
What on earth am I afraid of?
Well, I don’t quite believe my pain is worthy of attention. I’m afraid to draw attention or make the conversation about me. I prefer being the asker, the one who leans in to hear the pain of another. I want to be there for my people. I want to hear them, see them, heave a portion of their trouble onto my scrawny shoulder then hang around until we both begin to forget it’s there.
I realized that in my pride or my faux-strength or whatever it was getting in the way, I was depriving my friends of doing the same for me.
True, in the scope of everything else going on in the world, my problems are hardly worth mentioning.
Luckily for me, God never promised to weigh my needs against all of humankind. He doesn’t operate quite as we do, with our careful calculations as to what matters and what matters more. He said we can come to Him like a child. He said we can come to Him like a lily, or a finch; maybe even a king, but probably more like a frustrated fisherman. Here in the Kingdom of Heaven, strength is measured in seeds and hope is as ready as an ordinary loaf of bread.
During one of these “tell the truth” conversations earlier today, a friend trudging through her own dimly lit forest mentioned the story in 1 Kings, where Elijah was fed by a flock of ravens and then by a widow struck with crippling poverty. Though giving her last bit of food to a stranger defied all common sense, the Lord rewarded her obedience with enough flour and oil to sustain her and her family through the drought.
I have to believe there’s something there for us.
The community God intended for us is one which can only thrive with both sun and rain. In order to really know and be known, we’ve got to share the good and the bad. We’re tasked with telling the truth, even on the days when our truth feels more desperate than it probably should. We offer ourselves in this way, even when there’s reason to believe we only have enough emotional sustenance to last us another ten to twelve hours, tops. Then we marvel that we never do find the bottom of the jar. We trust each other with our need, and walk away strengthened.
Here in the doldrums of late winter, all is not right with the world or in our own weary hearts. We’re tired. Cranky. Worried beyond reason. We’re living at the edge of ourselves, offering all we have, operating, at times, from a deficit. We feel silly. We don’t like to complain. But the only reward for surviving alone is loneliness, and we’ve got work to do.
Let’s train our eyes to find each other, our ears to listen, our mouths to speak truth.
We take turns being hungry and pouring the last drops from our jar.
In the end, it is always communion.Leave a Comment
This was encouraging for me to hear today. I’ve been realizing that I often don’t share with people what’s really going on because I’ve believed the lie that I am ‘too much’. I don’t want to expose myself as the emotional mess that I sometimes feel that I am. Just yesterday I was dealing with a very difficult relational situation and I finally reached out to one of my friends via text after going into the bathroom at work several times to cry. She was such a blessing! After listening to what I thought was crazy ‘Mumbo jumbo’ and talking me through it, I thanked her for listening and not leaving or judging. I’m learning how life-giving and life-changing true communion really is. What a true privilege to allow others to hold our ‘stuff’ in their hands and hold theirs in ours. This is where true relationship happens and models Christ. It just seems we have to wade through lies that we are alone in order to get there and find that we are not.
Shannan Martin says
” I don’t want to expose myself as the emotional mess that I sometimes feel that I am.” I feel this, too! I think we all feel it, but think we’re the only one, or the worst one, or the most pathetic one. The more we commit to the truth, the easier it will be for all of us. Thank you for sharing!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I share your faux-strength and yes, I think pride has something to do with it….it always does. I grew up with parents who never shared their need or neediness with others. There was something holy about self-sufficiency. As I’ve grown up I’ve realized that nothing could be further from the truth and I feel sad that they never got to be on the receiving side of others outpourings of grace. Like you said, in order to be truly known, we need to share the good with the bad. No one likes a steady complainer, but people who always seem to have their act together and a Pollyanna smile can be equally as annoying. If I’m being blunt, it’s because I have a bad case of the flu and it makes you truly crotchety lol. Normally I would tell others, “I’m fine,” but this time I let my needs be known and gingerale, soup, and fruity ice bars appeared at my door. We need to give. We need to receive. We need to let the world know that we are only fragile clay vessels and the only way we shine is when God’s light shines within us. Praying for you Shannan through these long February days. It may be the shortest month, but it sure seems long. Thank you for being real…prayers being lifted up for you right now and ((hugs))).
Shannan Martin says
“There was something holy about self-sufficiency. ” Ouch…. I think so many of us were raised like this. It’s why we have so much work to do together! Love this, Bev. Thanks for sharing and sending a virtual mug of Lipton chicken noodle soup your way!
Melodie Hobbie says
In our weakness is when His strength and nature takes over. But it is so hard is it sin, is it human nature? I am woman everyone hears my when I roar but who gets to hear me when I tremble?
Kelli McKnight says
Truth telling always brings the connection my soul craves. It’s worth it, even when telling the truth feels risky. The resulting communion feeds us in ways we can’t on our own. I love the Elijah reference! I vividly remember my mom telling us this story when I was a kid. Blessings and love to you!
Shannan Martin says
Kelli!!!! Hi. Thanks for popping in. I felt the same way about the Elijah story. It was one of my favorites from childhood…where has it been since then??? 🙂
All the amen and so much love to you on this one. And my Voxer if your Voxer always and anytime!!
Shannan Martin says
Thank you!!!! You’ve definitely heard plenty of my ugly. 😉
Michele Morin says
I am also a reluctant sharer, but your words today make me realize that I deprive my friends of a blessing — and of the opportunity to grow in their own faith and prayer life on my behalf! — when I hold my hurts close and don’t share them with my sisters in Christ.
Shannan Martin says
“I deprive my friends of a blessing” – YES. This was such an eye-opener for me, too!
Thanking God for those who draw closer when we step further back. Thanking God that you “shared communion”.
Pearl Allard says
“We’re tasked with telling the truth, even on the days when our truth feels more desperate than it probably should” and “the only reward for surviving alone is loneliness, and we’ve got work to do.” These two quotes really hit me. I’ve been guilty before of thinking it’s unfair watching someone pour out her needs and receive loads of support while I barely make it and have nothing to give others…and then I realized I just need to share my needs too! I love that you included the context for why we should do this too; it’s not at all selfish when I realize that by sharing my sometimes desperate truth, I’m really keeping this soldier fit to fight in the war we fight together to keep the faith and win lost souls. Thank you, Shannan!
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
Just yesterday our women’s Bible study started the new study by Kelly Minter, All Things New on 2 Corinthians.
We discussed this subject of weakness and in the small group I led, it was amazing to me that every lady admitted they do not want to admit their weaknesses. So, yes, it is definitely an area in our lives we need to work on. Because the day always comes when you need people. God made us a people to be there for one another.
Shannan Martin says
This is a powerful illustration of what we all sort of suspect. Let’s just go first, and maybe those around us will follow suit! Thanks for sharing.
Gina Grabenstatter says
Wow it seems it’s always perfect timing when your words come to me. I never think of it as the month or the weather but that could contribute to some of the heaviness we keep bundled up inside us. However I feel I do this often, holding everything close and not exposing the not so good in my life. I too agree and I’m starting to feel that releasing in sharing is what God wants us to do. I thank you all for your words and sharing your story. I pray for all of you as I pray for myself today to stay strong and have an open heart. I sometimes wish we could be together in a room cozy by the fireplace to share our thoughts but I am so thankful for having this outlet to share in our experience of life. Bundle up and stay warm but open up and share with someone today and maybe that someone will be relieved that they are not the only one!!!
Just before Jesus’ crucifixion, he spoke to his disciples. He knew their world was about to come crashing down, that it would appear as if everything they had dedicated their lives to was going to end in utter defeat. The advice he gave them applies to us in every negative situation we face, big or small: “Let not your heart be troubled.” How could they not? He told them how: “Believe in God; believe also in me.” Paul tells us: “In everything give thanks…”
I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to share your troubles with another. But what brings true peace to your heart is to remember that God’s got this. You can tell your friend, “The counselor said xyz about my kid, but I know he’ll be okay.” Or “These gray days and long nights are getting old, but I can already see signs of spring.” Or “Someone really came against me, and it was hard to be on the receiving end of that; I’m so glad to know that God loves me no matter what.”
If you make it a habit to turn from the negative to the positive in your mind, you may not need to explain why you’re not okay, because you won’t feel troubled and burdened. You’ll feel grateful and blessed. It’s awesome being the beloved child of out truly awesome God!
Oh Shannon thank you so much for sharing. I really needed this today. I’ve been feeling down recently, this bitter cold weather and my longing for summer has me feeling down and drained. It really is true about these February blues lol. But thank God, God is always with us, He understands, and He is always good! The sun will shine again and always there is so much to be thankful for. Thank you for pouring out your heart. I pray that our Lord Jesus blesses you with communion and love always. Blessings and love! Xoxo ❤❤
Amanda Jobe says
Shannan – A friend and I were just discussing this very thing yesterday. Winter can lure us into loneliness, which only makes things worse. Honesty and vulnerability can save the day! Thank you for your encouragement this morning.
Marianne Jones says
I haven’t wanted to complain since my complaints seem so petty, but this winter has been chipping away at me. Providing caregiving for others, suffering through a prolonged cold, and prolonged tooth abscess –such small stuff that I don’t like to ask others to pray about. But God keeps teaching me that we are to share our burdens with one another. Thanks for the reminder.
Beth Williams says
I will be praying for you. Caregiving is hard work. Add a cold & other maladies and it makes life rough. Nothing in God’s eyes is small. Please go ahead and share your burdens with friends. It may seem petty to you, but it gives us joy to pray for you! May God provide healing and strength for you to endure these trials.
Marianne Jones says
Thanks so much, Beth. I will ask my small group this week to pray.
Beth Williams says
It is super easy to make out like life is fine, For many people it can be hard to know who t =o trust. Trust we must! God wants us in community. . It took me a long time, but now I have good friends whom I feel free to call or text and let them know hey life isn’t fine. When I see you with a down face I want to really know how you are doing. What going on in your life. How can I pray for or help you out. If we don’t open up to each other we are robbing them of the joy of being there for us. Please tell me about the small stuff as well as the big. I care for you just like Jesus would.
Janysek Roy says
“The community God intended for us is one which can only thrive with both sun and rain. ”
I love that quote. I find it hard to share because my ails seem petty compared to those I know others carry , or shame because I in fact may be the cause of the ails. But secret keeping weakens us and is not of God. Thank you for your soulfully shared words. Peace be with you. Roy
I’m sorry for what you’ve been faced with, praying all will be well.
Have a blessed day,
Kristen Strong says
From one girl who prefers to be the asker to another, thank you for this post. I needed just this today.
I pray on for you and yours.
So much love, Shannan. xoxo
January was a month like that for me. It generally is. Once again, I didn’t share what was really going on with anyone. I was convicted going into February that I needed to change. I’m not sure why it’s so hard, but I do know that pride is some of it for me. That I also like to look at life from a glass half-full perspective, not the other way around. I think my pride makes me not want anyone to know that I’m not feeling very positive about life right now. It also isn’t easy being the one who always encourages and the one who is rarely encouraged by others.
Rosanna, your last statement resonated with me. I think it has wore me down, but the love I find in the Word keeps me strong!
Pray for others to be in sync with you, now that is powerful. The rugged truth is no one wants to truly hear others ailments. They are afraid of future – of what might become of them. I poured out some of day to day troubles with some friends. I hardly hear from them at all, and I was very kind and soft spoken about them. I have scoliosis and long for friendships that understand what goes with this ailment. In the end; I know His grace in sufficient and I think most cannot understand that.
I understand how you feel. Please know you are not alone.
I am guilty of being too literal. If you ask me how I am doing, I will tell you. And if you are a close friend, I will tell you all of it. But this has backfired on me. Recently, 2 of my friends whom are also sisters in Christ, told me at different times “It’s always something with you isn’t it?” and “If it weren’t for bad luck you would have no luck at all”, among other stinging remarks. I was very close to these women. Now, I have pulled back, not spending time with either and if I do communicate it is very superficial and I redirect back to them. So your post leaves me wondering and confused. I guess in a perfect world people would care about other people and truly want an honest answer to their inquiry of “How are you? What’s new?”. Or maybe I just need new friends.
I do understand as well. With my friends I know better than to get to literal. I do believe some do not know how sufficiently blessed they are. I once heard a pastor say … If anything brings you closer to God then it has to be good, no matter what 🙂
You can be literal with me at any time friend!!