I’ve been putting off writing this for a while. I haven’t known how to talk about it. I’m not sure that I even know how to now, but I want to regardless. This is just a part of the story.
Several weeks ago, I sat in an eye clinic lobby at the University of Iowa Hospital. We live in Ohio, so we drove part way the night before, and finished the trip that morning. I didn’t sleep much that night – you know the kind of sleep I had, the gonna miss the flight if we oversleep-style freaky near-sleep thing people do. It’s not restful. I wished I had just driven straight through.
We used to live in Iowa City, where the hospital is, so when we got there, we did a quick trip down memory lane and visited the two streets we lived on before going to my husband’s eye appointment.
He’d had heart surgery just a little over a week before our trip.
Iowa City was familiar to us both. We lived there nearly ten years.
So when the doctor’s assistant came out to visit with me and asked, “How are you doing?” with great compassion, because she knew we’d driven over 7 hours, because she knew about his surgery, because she knew he was losing his eyesight. I think I slipped a little bit back into “the old days” and replied, “I’m fine. How are you?”
In other words, I lied to her.
When we lived in Iowa, I was new to Christianity. REALLY new. As in, accepted Christ there, made Him Lord of my life there… and bought the lies of the Christian culture that said, “If you are Christian, you are happy all the time – because You Have the Joy joy joy joy down in your heart-style happy. (that’s a Christian kids’ song, if you didn’t recognize it)
And so, back then, when people would ask me how I was, I would smile widely and say, “I’m GREAT!” with grand enthusiasm. Because I had Jesus and that makes everything perfect, right?
Given that I’m a perky person anyway, it was actually often true that I was happy. But… life happens, and I didn’t change my answer when my heart was aching.
Although, sometimes I would make a down-grade to “I’m fine.”
Which sometimes was still a lie.
Sometime after we moved to Ohio, I decided to stop lying to people. Mind you, I didn’t become that awkward woman who just needs someone to say, “TMI” to her, I don’t think I drone on and on about my bunions (I don’t actually have bunions, not sure what they even are, but you get what I’m saying here…), but I did start telling the truth about how I was.
I’d say, “Hanging in there,” to people who I didn’t need/want/have time to explain myself to.
I’d say, “Lousy,” or “Exhausted,” or even, “Sleep deprived,” and even, “Excited,” when speaking to those I considered friends or had time to explain things to.
But in Iowa, a few weeks ago, I lied to someone who was about to show me empathy.
It was odd, because the night we left, a friend was dropping off a meal for our family. It was around 6pm, and she didn’t know we were leaving for this appointment. She asked me, “Are you okay?” I was already crying, and I said, “No, I’m not. I’m driving to Iowa City now, as in the car is running and he’s in it waiting on me… so he can see a specialist there about his eye tomorrow morning. PLEASE JUST TELL ME I can do this – I’m scared and exhausted already. It’s a 7+ hour drive.”
She hugged me and said, “You can do this.” She told me she’d be praying.
The next morning, I lied to the doctor’s assistant and didn’t receive a gift from God because I didn’t tell the truth.
We ended up leaving Iowa around 7pm that night. I drove all the way back to Ohio without stopping for the night. When I got home, our boys were dozing, waiting for us… even though it was nearly 3am.
When one asked me if I was okay, I started to cry and said, “I am now.” They hugged us, carried suitcases, and encouraged us to go to bed. At the time, what I said was the truth. But it was a short term truth, not a big-picture-style truth.
And then for about two weeks, I didn’t talk about how I really was with anyone.
In my defense, I’m not sure I even knew how I was, myself, until Christmas Eve. We went to church and sat in the back, and all I could do was cry. Tears ran down my face the entire time. Grateful for what God had done in saving my husband’s life, I listened to our church body sing… and I just cried. A few people noticed we were there, even though we tried to sneak in and out so as to not wear him out with conversation and standing, and the hugs were wonderful. I didn’t want to let go.
I cried some more.
When asked, “How are you doing?” I told the truth. I said, “I don’t know. Happy to be here. Thankful. Exhausted.” Then I cried again.
A few weeks later, the leadership team of our ministry started pursuing me.
I finally let them catch me.
When they asked how I was, I said, “I’m sorry. I’m failing everyone. I’ve missed commitments. I’ve let you down. I don’t know what to do.”
It was all true.
They prayed for me, allowed me to be more transparent with them than I’ve ever been with just about anyone, and healing took place. I’d never experienced such grace and mercy, forgiveness and love in my life. It was beautiful. As a result, we’re tighter now than we were before.
When I apologized for the great delay and my absence online to the 50 women in the launch team for Daughters of Sarah (we were supposed to be up and running by then) I was met again with grace. They said something to me that left me stunned – You’re doing what you’ve encouraged us to do, to focus on our family first.
I didn’t even know.
Funny how the Spirit can do a thing – and you don’t even know it. Actually, I think that’s when we’re at our best, when it is Him people see in us.
And just as notable is how the enemy had me convinced that I was letting everyone down. Made me feel worthless. Made me wonder how I even held a job, much less ran an organization.
Because of the sleep deprivation, my behavior was beginning to line up with the thoughts he was planting… I missed my own exit coming off the freeway. I drove completely by my best friend’s house – thinking she had company, when all the while, I was just confused. I couldn’t remember hardly anything. I floundered mentally, searching for simple words.
I was convincing myself that I really was inept – now that there was even evidence to prove it so. What I didn’t know was that the part of my brain called the hippocampus was affected by the lack of sleep and constant state of alertness (you bring home a heart surgery patient and see if you aren’t constantly looking for signs of a problem – especially when they give you tons of info on the bazillion things that can go wrong…). What happened to me was physically normal.
And the enemy kept up his relentless banter of why I should just stop doing ministry all together, all the while pointing out how I was also a terrible wife.
It was relentless.
I had forgotten who I was, and Whose I am.
But he and I were wrong.
He was separating me from others, isolating me, keeping me from receiving love, grace, and encouragement. He also kept me from sharing with my husband, so as to “not be a burden” to him while he was recovering.
But God finally revealed the truth to me through these sweet women.
That made me really happy. Joy-style happy.
So I’ve learned a few things over the last month with regards to the truth of how we really are. I’d like to share them with you.
Four Reasons to Stop Saying You’re “Fine.”
- “I’m fine,” is often a lie, and lying is a sin.
- You miss blessings from others, which means you miss a gift from God.
- This simple truth-telling will more deeply connect you with others.
- You give the enemy opportunity to seriously start stealing your joy.
So STOP saying “I’m Fine.”
Take the risk of being real.
It will change everything.
I read a book over the break by Beth Moore, titled, “When Godly People do Ungodly Things.” It wasn’t anything I thought it would be.
It’s a book everyone in ministry should read. She didn’t want to write it – but God kept putting people in her path that had serious battles going on that either did or nearly put an end to something valuable: marriage, life, ministry, etc. She found that there are 16 common happenings amongst people who find themselves in a fight with the enemy. Like them, I didn’t even realize that’s what was going on at the time.
He’s really good at what he does. He’s had a lot of practice with human behavior.
I hate him.
I think that’s probably okay.
And so now, I’m back. Not full time, mind you – we’re still doing doctor’s appointments, cardiac rehab, and still VERY concerned but prayerful about my husband’s vision loss, and still easing into what life looks like now, post-surgery. The launch of Daughters of Sarah will happen, just a little later than I thought originally and while I’m having to apologize to the ton of people waiting on it, His timing is always perfect… and obviously I’m blogging a bit again. So “normal” is beginning to begin again, whatever THAT means… LOL 🙂
It’s all good.
So today, I am seriously asking you – have you done battle? I mean the kind that nearly makes you quit-style battle? The kind where you forget who you were and Whose you are? How did YOU get out of it?
Honestly, I’m feeling a little vulnerable in even asking the question. So there’s that. But I refuse to be anything less than transparent.
Because it’s not my life.
I gave it to Him.
How about you?
Glad we’re on the journey together. Seriously stinkin’ glad. We need each other.
Also, we still need prayer for my husband’s vision. Sometimes it changes from bad to worse, and that concerns us, too. Sometimes it seems like it gets better. I feel a little helpless, so I do the only thing I know how to do, and that is pray. We’re asking God for complete healing.
And even if He says, “No,” to this, we will still worship Him, but we’re asking now anyway. Please join us in prayer if you think of us.
Love to you,