Well I have been thinking about encouragement a lot lately and came across this article on living proof ministries blogspot. I am such a blogspot junkie.
When the Mask Comes Off
When I was a teenager, I would look at the other kids at church and think I had absolutely nothing in common with them. They must all love being there every Sunday and Wednesday and never fight their parents about going. They must never wish they could do all the things their friends at school were doing. They must never sit on the row and be insecure because they weren't sure if their church friends were going to talk to them that day. They must have it all together. There was even one day in Sunday school in 10th grade when we divided into stations to talk about issues teenagers faced. I went to the station on peer pressure and to my absolute shock, I was the only one! That further reinforced my belief that I alone was being pulled in by the undertow.
Over time, with no one I felt I could relate to on the shore, I gave in to the strong current. What grieves me now is that other kids were going through some of the same stuff I was, at least to an extent, but no one was talking about it. I didn't know. Many of us felt isolated in our secret struggles, whatever they might have been. Late in my senior year (which was the low point for me), I was at a party with some friends and a girl from my church was there. I didn't know her very well at the time. She told my boyfriend to spill some dirt on me because it was killing her to think I could be so perfect. Are you kidding me? Partly because of who my mom was, and partly because it's in our nature to think everyone else has it altogether but us, she had this very, very false perception that I didn't struggle. Her words haunted me for the next year. I felt so bad that she had the wrong idea and that I had allowed the masquerade to persist.
Eventually, the guilt got to me and I invited this friend to meet me for lunch. During our time together I was finally able to take off the mask. At that point I was a freshman in college and the Lord was delivering me out of the pit I had been in. Thankfully, I was also able to share the work He was currently doing in my life. That friend was one of the first people I ever shared those struggles with. It was not easy for me, but it felt so good to be real with her.
It marked a turning point in my life toward authenticity. I've found that it does me no good to surround myself with pretenders and it does others no good for me to be a pretender.
Two weeks ago Curtis and I were at a very low place in our parenting experience. Jackson's behavior had brought us to our knees and we felt hopeless. Annabeth was at my parents' house and we were driving in the car with him to Wednesday night church. Both of us were in tears because we were so frustrated. I asked Curt if this is how it was going to be for the next 15 years - us hating ourselves because we feel like failures and not even recognizing who we'd become. Neither one of us wakes up in the morning hoping we can spend the whole day disciplining our three-year-old, you know? We were seriously at our wits end.
Curt, trying to console me a bit, told me that his best friend had recently asked him how things were going with our two. Curt had told him that things were fine. His friend's reply was, "Thank God. If you'd told me things were good, I don't know what I would have done." Our friends are also in the trenches with their newborn and their two-year-old son. What if Curt had told him everything was great even though it wasn't? All four of us would have felt alone and like failures.
That night after Bible study, our Sunday school teacher and his wife summoned all the couples from our class over to a table. In tears, he shared a struggle they were having with their three-year-old daughter. They were at their wits end. They felt hopeless. Like failures. He literally said they wondered if this is how it was going to be for the next 15 years. So we're not the only ones? We're not the only ones! Curt raised his hand and said, "Us too!" We were able to spend some time praying for one another.
I can't tell you how encouraged Curtis and I felt. We had walked into church that night in despair and we left with hope. You know what's crazy? That very night we saw a change in our son. And since then, his heart has been a little softer and a little quicker to respond to discipline. We saw the hand of God move in our situation - from our friends' vulnerability that let us know we weren't alone to our kid's softened heart.
People need us to be real. Of course, I don't mean "real" to the point that we're trying to shock others with our sin nature. We don't need to let it all hang out. I have struck out many times on this. We must be Spirit-filled to walk the fine line.
When we're authentic, two things happen. One, we encourage others who are struggling in the same way. And two, we allow ourselves to be encouraged by others who have been there.
Well I for one don't want to live in a glass house for everyone to see all my families imperfection but I do want to be real. I don't want to pretend that our family is perfect. I don't have the perfect children, a perfect marriage or a perfect attitude. I actually have a stinky attitude a lot of the time. I guess we are all are work in progress but when I try to keep the farce of perfection up I might miss out on the opportunity to encourage others that might be in the same situation.
Lord please help me to be real so that I might have the opportunity to encourage someone else.