I've been wanting to do some writing about the book I've been reading, Searching for a God to Love, for quite some time now. I've actually put the book aside so that I could let some of my ideas ferment.
Chapter 1 was interesting, but I was waiting to see where the author, Chris Blake, was going. When I got into chapter 2, however, I was hooked and deep in thought over some of the points he was making. One thing in particular has stuck with me for the last month or so. Let me start by quoting him from page 29. He is here referring to a book that followed nationwide surveys asking people to "tell the truth" on various subjects - no white lies.
"Among the disturbing findings in The Day America Told the Truth is that nearly half the population honestly feel nobody knows them. Furthermore, one in four among us answered 'nobody' to the question, 'Who's for real?'"
This really struck a chord with me. I started a sort of self-evaluation. Who really knows me, if anyone? I mean the real me - the me I am on the inside, with all the thoughts I never speak and all the feelings I never voice. Does my best friend, my mother... my husband? I have to answer no to all three. If I'm being honest with myself, I have to say no. And that's painful. There's always something of myself I hold back, and most of it is not on purpose really.
The purposeful parts I hold back I guess I've labeled as self-control, but perhaps it's more of a kind of self-preservation in a reputation-sparing sort of way. If I withhold an inappropriate or untimely comment, I don't seem like a rude or thoughtless person to others, but if I'm still thinking it to myself, am I really any better a person than if I said it aloud for all to hear?
Then there are the desires of my heart that I don't express, and the fears that grip my heart and threaten to squeeze the life out of me, even the casual desires of day to day life that I don't feel are worth words. I keep all these things locked up inside my mind, then complain to myself because I feel alone! I know I should share these things with my husband. Why don't I? I don't know.
What I find interesting is that I'm certainly not alone in this. Nearly half the population does the same thing. We are a nation of self-isolating people, but why? Technology doesn't really help us here, either. We have all kinds of gadgets to help us 'stay connected,' but all it really does is make sure we don't take the time or make the effort to have the closeness we need with other people. It's artificial. There are too many things in the way. Most of America is craving relationships - true-blue friendships and loving marriages - where they can be themselves... only they don't know who they are to begin with. We spend so much time practicing to be what we're expected to be that we forget who we are at the core.
I think one of the first steps to healing this chasm between who we are on the outside and on the inside is to try and make personal connection with those around us, with a conscious effort to be real. Remember that statistic about 25% of us saying we think no one is for real? I'll bet a lot of those people are the same ones who say no one knows them. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's just that easy. A lot of us have either been hurt or didn't grow up with a lived-out example of a relationship built on trust and companionship in the first place. Speaking for myself, I've had several friendships where I was wounded by the other person, either by their breech of confidentiality or some other hurtful act or words. Especially in the last few years, I find it harder and harder to recover when something like that happens. I draw back like a child who touched a hot oven, determined not to burn my finger ever again. Eventually I do try to stop sucking on my finger and tear down the wall I've built bit by bit, but it hardly ever feels natural. The memory of that burn is always in my mind and sometimes I live in nagging anticipation of that oven being on again. However, we can't let that deter us from 'being real.' That doesn't mean we need to share our hopes and dreams with the lady ahead of us at the checkout counter at the store, but that does mean sharing
with your spouse or fiancee the things that are meant to be intimately shared among people who love each other. And, that does mean that we need to put considerable effort into forging meaningful friendships, and hopefully, by being real ourselves and investing time in getting to know a person, we'll help someone else who's wondering if anybody is real anymore, or someone who feels like no one knows them.
It's easy to see why depression runs rampant in our society. From time to time in my work I have an interesting insight into a specific person's mental health. Just last week I had the experience of reading a teenage boy's entire suicide note (he lived). My heart just ached for this kid. I could tell he felt that no one knew him. He had even asked his pastor if God could save him if he killed himself. If that wasn't a red light I don't know what is! All this turmoil was going on inside him and he either felt he couldn't share it with certain people or the one he could, didn't care. So distressed was he that, thinking he would surely go to hell, he still attempted suicide.
I guess I'm just asking that in this world where few people even know their next-door neighbor anymore, you reach out - whether it's for yourself or for someone else. You never know the difference you can make in your life or theirs. I hope you'll take a look inside yourself and then determine to make a change. There's a man I know of, Todd Wilson, who has a ministry called Familyman Ministries and his motto is 'Be real.' I pray that each of us will make that our motto, too, and live it out.
By the way, if you're feeling that no one knows you, find comfort in Psalm 139. People may let you down (we're just human after all and are capable of hurting others even when it's the furthest thing from our minds), but God will always be there. What's scariest of all is that no matter what kind of person you try to portray yourself to be in front of the public, at home, or even to yourself, God knows the REAL you and me. We can't put on a smiling facade for Him. He sees the inward pain, the grudges we hold, the maliciousness we think towards our enemies, the lust we think we hide, and the true condition of our souls. And, HE STILL LOVES US!
Life really is all about relationships.
Copywrite June 2, 2009, by Shannon Stambaugh. If you wish to use any of my writing in part or in total, you must request permission.