Have you ever been stuck in the ‘still’?
Are you still broken, still tired, still hurt, still angry, still resentful, still confused?…
Do you have the courage to admit that you’re not over it, or have you ‘moved on’ for the sake of other people?
I want to talk to the believers for a second. I’ll be brief (I hope), but this is something that rested on me weeks ago and has stayed with ever since. We have to be safe spaces for people to admit that they’re still in the fire.
Last year Hurricane Matthew hit the Bahamas. It was a complete mess. I was among the thousands of Bahamians who were without power for weeks after the storm had passed. I had limited access to power, running water, and produce. YES, I said PRODUCE. You don’t realize how much you miss fresh fruits and vegetables until you can’t buy them more than one serving at a time because the fridge is useless.
I did have data on my cell phone though, and I watched as my Facebook timeline went from extremely concerned about the storm victims’ well-being, to moderately concerned, to barely mentioning it, to business as usual in the space of maybe four days or so. I get it – life goes on, things change, people create new funny memes to share, the shrapnel of tragedy didn’t really hit you and the compassion that you once felt so strongly has dimmed. I’m not being judgmental, bitter or flippant, just frank. It happens to all of us and it is what it is.
But while everyone was posting about their coffee and lunch dates, mid-week fatigue and Beyoncé, I still had no running water or electricity. I was still in distress. When people were texting me asking how I was doing I felt like a broken record, because their lives were moving forward but I was still in the same position. I thought it was interesting when I made this observation months ago. It stripped me of my initial annoyance with the perceived insensitivity of people. But the truth is we forget. As compassionate as you are, you’re susceptible to fatigue when it’s not your experience. You begin to lose the connection you once felt so deeply. You let normalcy slide its way back into the relationship you have with that person because in your mind, things are starting to change. But we need to make sure that in our desire to be optimistic and hopeful, we’re not pushing people through the pain they have yet to process.
A startling amount of people don’t allow themselves enough time to feel things, move away from them, and truly heal. Because the hard truth is that even though a bomb may have exploded in your life and you’re desperately searching for a sense of stability again, even though your world is standing still because everything has changed and you have no idea how to proceed, time is still ticking. People will forget that you’re still in shambles. People will think that because a lot of time has passed that you’re getting better, and that’s not always the case.
How discouraging is it to have loved and lost someone, express your still-fresh pain to someone, and have them respond with, “You’re still not over him?”
If you’re anything like me, you will shut all the way down after that statement. We like to rush people through their healing processes because seeing someone else hurt and not being able to really do anything about it is incredibly uncomfortable. We want them to be okay, not because we actually want them to be okay, but because we’re tired of being inconvenienced by the discomfort of helplessness. Again, we all do it, and I believe it’s a normal part of our selfish human nature, but as instruments of love and children of Yahweh, we need to make a sincere effort to be more perceptive than our flesh is naturally.
We need to be safe spaces for people to still be dealing with their pasts, processing their pain, and battling their sin. What good are we if people can’t be honest with us about their still-very-present struggles? What good are we if they feel the need to pretend in our presence? Whose message are we really preaching if others can’t show us their good and bad sides and still get all of our love?
I’m not telling you to let people wallow in their pain, but I am saying that when they reveal that there’s actually a gaping wound under the Band-Aid they’ve been wearing for years, that it’s our duty to let them air it out. We should be representations of nothing but authenticity, and that means allowing others to be authentic as well, even if it makes us uncomfortable. We get tired of being accommodating of their pain, tired of being understanding, tired of encouraging them, and tired of things not being the way they were. And I’m telling you that if this is you right now, check yourself and make a change.
An integral part of becoming is being honest enough with yourself to admit that you’re being selfish and inconsiderate. No one wants to admit to these things but the truth is none of us are perfect people. Being born in sin and shaped in iniquity means that we are hard-wired to be our baser selves, but through grace we can overcome and choose to be our best selves.
The only way you’ll be able to let people show their wounds is if you’re willing to admit you’re still wounded as well. Forcing people to be okay when they’re not is just as bad as pretending you’re okay when you’re not. Everyone has a process, and when we don’t go through it the way Yahweh intends us to, we aren’t allowing Him to really work it for our good the way He’s able to.
Authenticity is about more than keeping it real on the internet, it’s about standing in front of the mirror and keeping your eyes wide open to exactly what’s there. It’s about seeing yourself for what you are and choosing to live a life that’s a reflection of that. It’s about seeing your brokenness in the right perspective – within the scope of Yahweh’s healing ability. Authenticity is hard sometimes because you have to shake the lies you’ve built your persona around and replace them with Yahweh-ordained truths. But when you’re authentic, you can admit that you’re still in pain. You can be honest and say that your heart still hurts and you still think about it daily. You can get in your prayer closet and tell Yahweh that you need Him to save you from the wreckage you’re still picking through, even years after the bomb went off. You can tell him that sin still plagues you daily, that your thoughts are trash and you know it, that you miss your old ways, that you miss doing the things that hurt you because the new and unknown is uncomfortable. He’s not judging you or how long it is taking you to be free of a thing. And as his representatives on earth, we are called to emulate His character.
So as we interact with other Saints and the beloved Aint’s, we have to make a special effort to be safe houses, not courtrooms. There is a difference between wallowing and confessing, and there is a difference between encouraging and forcing. I believe that Yahweh is able to grant the discernment necessary to differentiate between the person who is smiling on the outside and dying on the inside, and the person who is refusing to do the work necessary for healing to take place. And I also believe that He is capable of granting us the wisdom to know when we SHOULD and SHOULDN’T get involved in people’s processes, because believe it or not, you’re not supposed to touch everything. These people must be handled in different ways, we can’t expect to address everyone’s issues in the same way.
We need to ask Yahweh to give us a true sense of compassion, and to teach us how to handle people’s experiences responsibly. People will struggle, called or not. People will fail, faith-filled or not. People will experience tragedy and heartache, and when they do, we need to know how to give the love-steeped truth and grace we’ve all received through Yahshua.
Be encouraged my loves.