My week had been rough. Actually, kind of beyond rough. My world felt about as upside down and inside out as possible, and basically no one knew. It was a pretty low point and I was really struggling.
But it was Sunday morning. And it wasn't going to help anyone to wear my life on my face, so I pulled myself together as I knew I needed to, and headed to church. I spent the hour prior to church as normal, helping my pastor's wife get her babies all ready and to church, and I finally slid into a seat in my class's room just as announcements were starting.
Our Bible fellowship class always start out with prayer requests and announcements. Someone asked if there were any prayer requests. All was silent...no one said anything. I was such a mess with my own internal struggle that I was halfways tuned out and not paying a whole lot of attention to what was going on around me anyways.
Our leader got up to give the lesson. He looked at us and smiled as he said, "Well, its great to know that everyone's life is so peachy that there are no prayer requests!"
There were a few looks exchanged, and half-hearted laughs, and I could literally feel the vibe around that table, and I knew I wasn't the only one, that was thinking "My life? Peachy? Not a chance! If only you KNEW."
His statement stunned me. At that moment reality hit me between the eyes. Hard. I was out of my fog and in the zone immediately. I could think of a whole lot of descriptions for my current circumstances in life but peachy was not even close. I realized, "People have NO CLUE."
And then I got to thinking. If I had all this stuff in my life, and nobody knew, and I was faking everyone so well in concealing pain that I had...then for all I knew everyone else in my class was at the same place.
That hit me hard too. Really? It rocked my world to think about this. Who knew the pain of the girl sitting next to me? Who knew the monumental decision facing the guy across the table? Who knew the stories of their struggle of current living and just doing life? Surviving?
Probably no one...just like no one knew about me.
I thought about this a lot that morning during our class, and I continued to think about it in the coming weeks. It struck me so greatly that I started a blog post about it (this) and I'm finishing + posting it now, five months later.
This experience made me think about several things.
First of all, it made me realize yet again that just because someone looks perfect and like they have it all together, doesn't mean they are and do.
Secondly, it showed me how important it is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If I sense Jesus wanting me to talk to someone, or send a note or text of encouragement, or just take a minute to stop and pray for someone, I need to do that RIGHT AWAY, even if I have no idea what they are going through. Because chances are very good Jesus put them on my heart for a reason, and they are going through something of which I may have no idea.
It was funny; I had already been thinking for a while about this concept of being more sensitive to the Spirit's leading. I had seen several situations in my life where just a simple text to let someone know I was praying for them, had been just at the time when they needed encouragement, even though I didn't know that beforehand.
But this experience in my class in December got me thinking about it even more. "How many people are going through life, putting a smile on their face + stuffing the pain, and nobody takes time to ask them how they are REALLY doing, because they assume that because they look perfect and like they have it all together, that everything in their life is peachy?"
I was so convicted at this! It is so easy for me to go through life and forget that there are also other people out there who may be going through things of which I have no idea. Some personalities are more open + honest about their struggles, but there are many people (like me) who often just stuff everything inside and wear a smile, trying to make it through without other people knowing what is really going on. There are pros and cons to each side, obviously---there is a time when honesty + openness are very good, and other times when one has to just learn to deal with things and move on. The whole world doesn't always need to know of our struggles. At the same time, it isn't a good idea to always keep everything bottled up and put forth this facade of perfection.
I honestly didn't used to write posts like this. For much of my life I have felt like I could be more effective by "having it all together" and being as "godly" as possible. I struggled with bondage from feeling like I had to be a good example; like I had to look good, regardless of what I was actually experiencing or feeling.
Don't get me wrong, I am still striving for godliness. But more than having a beautiful, picture-perfect life, more than having it all together, more than any of that...I just want to be used in my brokenness. This life is not about perfection. It's not about giving an impression of a perfect life. It's about being REAL. Real with Jesus, and real with people.
I feel like as Jesus is showing me freedom in some of these areas, that there is a need for me to be more open + honest. I struggle with life at times just like anybody else. I have so many flaws it's really quite humbling! I feel sometimes as though I am a kindergardener in the school of life, instead of being a twenty-something year old who you would think should have a lot more of life figured out by now. But even in this very humbling and broken state, my heart is to be honest and share as I'm learning. Not when I have arrived, or reached a state of "perfection" in the areas I write about. But I need to write when I am "in the midst", because that is when the true testing happens, and where the heart is the most vulnerable. That is when we can push each other on to new heights in the Lord...when the fire is hot and our hearts are being tested.
I hope something said here can challenge someone else in the area of being open to the Holy Spirit and reaching out to people in your life, even if it looks like those people's lives are perfect and "peachy". For all you know, there are layers of hurt and pain hidden beneath the smile, and that person you spend time with today may be in desperate need of someone to say a kind word or a prayer and just give them a little extra Jesus.
Just because they are putting on a smile and "looking the part" doesn't mean their life is peachy perfect.
Listen to the Spirit. Reach out. You just might make a difference bigger than you know.