I remember one very scary morning as a senior in high school when I noticed my father taking some pills, and I was informed he’d be missing school that day (he was a teacher at my high school). I asked Mom about it, and apparently he had a medical condition they didn’t think they needed to tell me about because while it had potential to be life-threatening, they weren’t sure yet.
I spent most of that day trying not to cry, which didn’t work very well. After all, everyone knew my father wasn’t at school, and that just didn’t happen. My dad was one of those teachers you prayed daily would be gone so that you had a sub….and the kind that NEVER did. If he got sick, he had some sort of deal with God that it was going to be over a weekend. He wouldn’t want to cheat his students out of a single class with him.
So everyone asked where he was. But, because of how little I knew, and because I grew up in a household of teachers and knew there’s just some stuff you can’t say to fellow students, I didn’t say much. It was pretty easy, because anytime anyone would ask me anything, I’d have to swallow sobs, and tears would escape down my cheeks. The kids wouldn’t ask anything after that.
Once, when one guy asked, I did get a “Oh, nothing” out. But, the funny thing is, the very second I said that, I realized it had been the wrong answer. He OBVIOUSLY knew something was up (I’m not the crying type), and he was just trying to comfort me. And by not telling him, I had built walls between us. I had essentially done what I was so angry at my parents for doing.
Instead of reaching out for the help that was offered; here I was, pushing everyone away.
I felt betrayed, abandoned, alone, and scared out of my senses. I felt lied to, even though my parents hadn’t said anything. Which was maybe the point – something huge was going on in our family, and they didn’t say anything. They were trying to protect me.
Trying to protect me.
I hate those words. While I understand the concept, I have never known those words to bring comfort and understanding. In fact, I have only ever seen those words, or rather, the actions behind those words, do more harm than good.
And yeah, when faced with something hard, I’ve definitely had the first thought to protect those I love from whatever I’m facing. Or I’ve had the thought that they really wouldn’t care. Or that they didn’t need to be burdened with it. Or wouldn’t understand.
But….but that’s not love. That’s not community. That’s not being open and vulnerable.
In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that by NOT telling your close friends and family the heavy stuff, you’re preventing God from getting the glory He deserves when He works in the situation. (Because, as long as the people involved are willing, God WILL work. He WILL make all things good, and He WILL redeem the situation. It might not be how you want or expect, but He will. But ONLY if they let Him.)
But if you don’t tell the people that God has placed in your life what’s going on – what’s actually going on – you’re robbing them of seeing God work. You’re robbing them of future joy. And you’re making your journey harder on yourself. You weren’t made to walk ANY part of this life by yourself. We were made for community. Might even be why Adam longed for Eve before God created her. God never intended Adam to live alone.
But you have to be honest. You have to say the hard stuff. You have to be willing to say exactly where you are, what you’re feeling, if you even know. To fake it, is wrong. You have to trust your friends to accept you AND your burden. You have to trust God to hold your heart and the hearts of everyone connected to you. You have to trust.
Which can seem so scary or impossible in the face of whatever else it is you’re facing. But, in the long run, it’s better. Promise. Your relationship with God will be stronger. Your friendships have potential to be stronger. Your family has potential to be closer.
There are several stories and thoughts – J.K.Rowlings haven written one, and C.S.Lewis having stated that when a person protects their heart (or other people from what their heart is going through) so fully as to not let anyone else have any sort of access to it, that heart gets perverted, morphed, (hairy, if you will). Hearts were made to be shared. Life was made to be shared. Carefully shared, wisely shared, sure. But shared nonetheless.
But you have to be open. You have to be genuine. You have to be willing. You have to trust.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C. S. Lewis
PS – if you aren’t a cool enough nerd to know what I’m talking about when I’m referring to J.K.Rowling’s story – go read “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”. You can definitely find it in The Tales of Beedle The Bard, maybe online.