I stood in the line up at the grocery store, captivated by the display of magazines, trying to resist the urge to buy one promising all sorts of sure fire ways to "eliminate belly fat forever" --I already have an unread stack of magazines at home and I know I don't need one more--I must surely have the secret of blasting away the belly somewhere, if only I look.
On the one hand were the magazines promising perfection of various sorts: How to be the perfect mother, cook, hostess, gardener, home-maker etc. and right beside them the tabloid magazines that glory in other people's misery--the break up of marriages, or the battles with anorexia.
It struck me that the magazine stand is a metaphor for the way we tend to be when we aren't honest about our own lives. I used to look at others and think they had it much more together than I did. Oddly, they were looking at me and thinking the same thing.
When we live our lives with such a sense of inadequacy, it can give us a secret thrill when we learn that someone else's life has spectacularly fallen apart, as we read of happening in the tabloids, "Look at them; they may be beautiful, rich and famous, but they are miserable."
A few years ago our cell group studied John Ortberg's book, Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them. I loved that title and the book was pretty good, too.
Today I bumped into friends who we've known for many years, but see only once a year or so, and we caught up, briefly on our lives. It went something like this. "Oh, I can't believe you've gone through that. Really?"
"Yes, really. I'm so sorry that happened to you too."
We weren't getting any delicous thrill out of the struggles that we and our families have had. We felt for one another and when one of us said, "Life is messy. It doesn't come neatly packaged, or always work out the way we hope," we knew what they meant. That's what happens when we stop pretending. The truth is that my life and those of my friends have more twists and turns than any situation drama on T.V. We may not reveal all of it to every one, but with our closest friends we don't hide our struggles, weakness and vulnerability.
Sometimes my stiff British upper lip gives the impression that things are better than they are--that I am sailing through the storm unscathed. I need the fine balance between being brave and being real.
Being honest and admitting that we can't see for the tears in our eyes sometimes, can be a relief. Who really wants to be a one dimensional paper doll?
I am thankful that Jesus came into this world as one of us. Nothing surprises or shocks him. He loves us as we are and meets us where we are at. He wept with his friends and he weeps with us.
Romans 12:3 (New Living Translation)
3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us