Monday, August 29, 2011

Do I dare to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Not usually.

Sure, I share a few tidbits here on the blog. If we exchange emails, I will reveal a few more details of my life. If we speak by phone, I'm likely to tell you still more. And if we meet face to face, then you'd better have a few hours to kill because I'll be spilling my guts big time. I've got tales of woe, degradation, debauchery, and wantonness that would surely surprise you.

But even then, even then, I'm gonna hold back on the deepest, darkest, dankest stuff. I'm gonna smooth the edges a little, soften the focus, and fudge the truth enough for you to not lose respect for me. Or so I hope.
In truth, I'm afraid of what you would think of me if you knew the real me, the weepy me, the wandering me, the selfish me, the lonely me, the me that questions almost everything and accepts almost nothing. I'm afraid that no one would ask me to teach or lead retreats or take care of their kids if I let them read my journals or listen in on the inner monologue that runs through my addled brain.

I read other people's blogs. I read about dreams that became reality and turned in $100,000 online businesses. I read about households of smiling children and adoring husbands. I read about straight-A students who are also gifted athletes. I read about church retreats and missions trips. I read about vegans and vegetarians, triathletes and marathon runners. I read about graphic arts, art journaling, and journalism itself. I compare myself and contrast myself with them, whoever "they" are.

And then I write comparable stuff. I write about my silent retreats, my trips to Spain, my deep spiritual insights, my children's accomplishments, and post photos that prove how blessed my life is and how awesome I am. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is that my life doesn't always look like my photos or sound like my blog posts.

Most of the time, I want to retire from this noble profession of homemaking, such as it is.
I want to run away from home and never come back.
I want to hit my stove, microwave, vacuum cleaner, washer, dryer, and shower stall with a sledgehammer - twenty times each.
I want to drop out of church life altogether and never darken the doors of another sanctuary.
I want to get a job, save money, and buy a little bungalow close to the center of the city.
Better yet, I want to change my name, renounce my American citizenship, move overseas, and leave the Tea Partying Environment Destroyers to massacre the Tofu Eating Tree Huggers.

But the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is that I haven't done any of those things. At least, not yet. I still wrestle myself out of bed each morning to face the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the homeschooling, parenting, marriage, faith, friendships, and my own image in the mirror. I stare at the mirror, the news feeds, the weather channel, updates on facebook, and the emails that come from World Vision and the orphanage in Nicaragua and the friends that run, walk, and bike for cancer or diabetes or children with disabilities - but only briefly for fear that I will be overwhelmed with sadness at the suffering of so many, including myself. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Famine. War. Rape. Fire. Flooding. Divorce. Abuse. Neglect. Abandonment. Loneliness. It's all happening everywhere - including in my own mind, far more often than I care to admit. I'd be lying if I said anything different - and the goal tonight is truth.

See? The truth hurts sometimes. Splits me in half. Tears me to pieces. And leaves me in tears. When that happens, when it gets really bad, when the pain reaches my bones, when the tears reach my chin, those are the days, the times when I don't blog. When I don't post photos. When I don't call or email or text. I sit in it. Marinate in it. Hoping again and again that I will be able to wade through those turbulent waters of sadness to the other side.

Blessedly, those are the days when I am most likely to stumble upon the honest and hopeful words of courageous, truth-telling sister-friends, like Andrea ScherJen Lemen, Kristin Noelle, or Jen Gray. Sometimes it's a personal email, a message on facebook, a song by James Taylor or a painting by Caravaggio that calls me back to the path I need to be on. Sometimes it's a poem by Alice Walker or Ruth Forman. It's a long phone call late at night. It's a postcard sent from far, far away.

I remember then, I am reminded again that the truth is that I am loved -
 not in spite of my messiness, but because of it.
I am welcomed home after all my wanderings again and again -
 not in spite of my weaknesses, but because of them.
I am not alone in any of my angst or worries.
I am not alone in my yearnings for more - more love, more passion, more stories, more  conversation, more connection, and more truth.

But in order to find any of that out, I have to take my chances with telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Perhaps I'd be better served by doing it the way Emily Dickinson said to do it: Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.

The Next Morning: When I was on the aforementioned silent retreat, I found a book in the bookstore there called The Cup of Our Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth, written by Joyce Rupp. The book is a six-week course on how our lives are like a cup - open, waiting to be filled, often in need of cleaning, that sort of thing. This week's theme is The Broken Cup. Here are a few highlights from this morning's reading... the morning after last night's truth-telling blog post.

* The broken cup reminds me of those times when hurts, wounds, pains, and adversities of all sorts invade our lives and change us forever. During these times, all we can do is try to survive, slowly recover, and start anew... The pain knocks us over, like a cup on its side. We may feel like all our hope has been drained out of our lives.

* Our brokenness can be an instrument for change. Pain received rightly has the power to transform our lives.

* What would happen if we met our frustrations, pain, and heartaches as we would meet a visitor having something to teach us? What if we lingered a bit with our brokenness and asked it to help us to grow? What might we learn from those pieces of our lives that are still wanting and incomplete?

* Each day of this week, you are invited to ponder some aspect of your brokenness - that part of your life that empties you or fragments you - to discover how it has been - or can be - a teacher for your growth. It is also a week to find comfort as you pray about the strength and shelter of God and to deepen your hope as you reflect on aspects of healing. 

* As you ponder your life experiences of brokenness this week, I encourage you to carry this message of Anne Lamott in your heart: "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work, and you don't give up."

This week, this day, this morning, this hour, I will wait and watch and work,
I will pray and journal and wait some more - and I will not give up.
That's the truth.

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