Lately I've been thinking about the whole idea of hiding. Not so much in the physical sense . . . but in terms of hiding true selves from others.
Growing up I often felt like I had to hide who I really was when I was around "church people". I grew up in a family where how we appeared to other people at church was very important. I remember many a Sunday morning where we would argue and disagree all morning, but about a block from the church we stopped and it was smiles on everyone's faces and everything was "good" if someone asked. It was normal for me. And, as I've learned for a lot of my friends at the time too. It also meant that when you were struggling with something you couldn't really talk about it with people, except in fairly general terms.
As I got older, this "hiding" of how I was really feeling and how I was really doing became so normal for me that I didn't even have to try anymore. I just did it. To this day, there are still some weekends when I'm heading to church or Alive that I fall into the same pattern of everything begin fine even when I've had a awful day or week. It's been ingrained in me since I was a little kid. It takes some serious time and work to change something like that.
I first realized how hard a facade like this could be to keep up when I went to Briercrest and lived in dorms. Not only did I live on a hall with 22 other girls . . . I also shared my room with one of them. For the first month or so I really did keep up my facade 24/7. It was how I was around other Christians . . . up to that point there were very few people who had gotten to know who I was underneath everything I put up at church.
But, after about a month of living behind this front, I came to the realization that I couldn't live for another seven months like this and then come back the next fall and do it again. It's tiring to always pretend that everything's good. I also had some girls on my residence hall who really weren't happy with my "I'm fine" answer everytime they asked how I was doing and they lovingly pushed to get past that . . . and as a result became some of the best friends I have from my time at Briercrest. My two years at Briercrest taught me a lot about allowing others to see the real me and know what was really going on in my life.
And I hoped that would change things when I got home. And it did for a while. But, back in familiar territory and with my family around again and still operating this way much of the time, I pretty quickly fell back into old habit. The only real difference being that now I craved those friendships where the other person knew what was really going on. And so I sought out a few friendships like that and continued to learn and grow in it all. But, I could always escape back to my parents' house (where I was living) and no one would really have to know what was going on if I didn't want them to.
Almost six months ago though, I found myself in a living situation more like what I had at Briercrest. I moved into an apartment with three friends. Three friends who knew more of what was really going on under the facade that I could put up, but they still didn't know it all. Not only that . . . my current roommates are three people who know how to read me even when I'm pretending that everything's fine. Needless to say, it's really hard to live behind a facade in this situation. And, while it drives me crazy at times, I know it's good for me.
So, all this has got me thinking about how good we, as the church, have gotten at hiding. Think about it for a moment . . . how many people sitting around you in a church service are really doing "fine" even though that's what they tell people . . . probably fewer than would admit it to someone else. We live in a culture that prides itself on being self-sufficient individuals and we don't want help from others with anything.
But, this journey that we are on as followers/disciples of Christ was not meant to be made alone. We were created to live in real community with one another. The kind of community that comes when we give people permission to really enter the mess that our lives are - when we allow them to be a part of our struggles, of our battles with sin, of our sorrows, of our joys. This doesn't happen when we hide behind a facade at church. This happens when we honestly answer the "How are you?" question. When we say that we are not doing very well, if that's the truth. When we say that we are doing well, if that's the truth.
Obviously, we don't have to pour out our entire life story to every person in the church. But, we need to stop being afraid of being real - of being honest about where we're at. All this hiding really does us no good. It causes us more harm because we're left to deal with everything on our own and sometimes it's just too big for us to carry it all on our own.