The Dirty Truth

I suspect that most of us don’t like it when people lie to us.  People sometimes lie because they want us to believe that they’re something that they’re simply not.  Other people lie because they are ashamed to tell the truth.  Some people lie to other people because they want to cheat them out of something like money.  Still others lie because they simply live their lives telling lies.

Most people don’t realize that “little lies” change people’s lives.  Sometimes, when people tell us a lie, we believe it – and we come to look-at ourselves and other people in a different way.  At other times, when we find ourselves caught in a lie, we discover that people see us differently and, perhaps, don’t trust us anymore.  Sometimes we lie to ourselves, and our own self-created lies can shape what we believe about life and other people.  This can, also, happen to us when others hurt us.

I have to admit that I’m a person who, generally, tries to find something good in people.  I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to look past their flaws.  I’ve always believed that most people try to do the best they can do in life.  Most of us don’t want to hurt others.  Most of us want to believe that the world is a better place because we live in it.  We really do try our best in life, don’t we?  But we still “step in the muck” once in a while.  And one of the reasons we do that is because, when it all boils down, God still makes people out of dirt – just like He did in the story of creation.

I’ve discovered, many times, that I’m made of dirt.  Even though I try to stay calm and collected, I sometimes lose my temper and say things I shouldn’t say.  I see some things that I would do differently if I had a chance to raise my sons again.  Sometimes, even as a pastor, I don’t live up to the expectations that others place upon my life and that sometimes happens simply because I’m made of dirt.  I’ve hurt people.  I’ve said things that I shouldn’t have said.  I’m sometimes far more anxious to give people my advice than I am to listen to them when they need an ear.  I’m human.  I have flaws and imperfections.  I’m clearly made of dirt – and I see that.

What I’ve, also, come to see is that other people are made of dirt, too.  I’ve been hurt by people who said things that they should have never said.  I can remember things that my parents did to me (when I was a little boy) that I would never do to my sons.  Think about some of the things people have done to you.  Have you ever been hurt by someone who didn’t intend to hurt you?  Are you holding onto some words that were spoken – perhaps in a moment of anger – many years ago?  A long memory can be a blessing.  But a long memory can, also, be a curse.  There are things in life that we need to forget.  There are other things that we need to forgive.

So, let’s take a moment to think about some of the hurts in our lives – while keeping the “dirty truth” in mind.  People sometimes hurt us, unintentionally, because they’re made of dirt.  We’re sometimes hurt by other people because, deep inside, we expect them to be more “perfect” than they can ever be.  The “dirty truth” is an important part of the healing process when others hurt us.  We need to be able to clearly separate long-standing patterns of hurt and abuse from all of the little ways that “imperfect” people show us that they’re made of dirt.

Is some of the hurt in your life caused by the fact that you expect people to be “more” than they can be?  Do you sometimes expect other people to be more “perfect” than you are?  Can realizing that other people are “made of dirt” help you to see some of the things that people have done to you in a different way?  Can the “dirty truth” open doors in your life (and in your heart) that really need to be opened before you can experience the kinds of healing that you desire?

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Hurt and Isolation

I’ve always liked the stories of creation in the Bible.  The first chapter of Genesis contains a simply wonderful story that points us toward the power of the God who is able to “speak” things into existence and who openly testifies that everything He has created is “good.”  The second chapter of Genesis is a bit different.  Here, we see a more “hands-on” type of God who plays in the dirt.  God scoops together a bunch of dirt – forms the dust into a person – breathes His own breath into the person’s nostrils – and fills that person with “life.”  The stories are very different; but, they point toward a unified theme.  God is God.  Everything that exists has been made by the Creator.  God is sovereign.  God is mighty.  God is the “First Principle.”

But the stories of creation in the Bible, when considered together, point us toward a great truth in life that is particularly relevant when we’re hurting.  In the first story, God declares that what He has made is “good” – and, in fact, He says that human beings are “very good.”  Everything seems to be in order.  Everything has been created the way God wants it to be.  And I guess we should just be able to carry that theme into the second chapter of Genesis, right?  Once again, God is the Creator.  Once again, God creates the world – and all of the plants and animals and people.  But, in Genesis 2:18, God surprises us by saying, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  For the first time, something is “wrong” with Creation.  For the first time, God sees that there’s something that needs to be changed to make things “good” again.  And this is significant!

When we’re hurt by other people – or when we face challenges in life – it is very easy for us to become isolated.  Soldiers, who have returned from combat, often suffer the effects of PTSD – and many of them suffer in silence.  People who are going through a divorce often see their married friends disappear and they can feel very much alone.  People who are diagnosed with a serious illness quickly discover that other people don’t understand what they are experiencing and feeling.  Depression can be extremely isolating – no matter what the cause.

And that brings us back, once again, to the hurts in our own lives.  Have you been through a time in life that left you feeling alone and isolated?  Have you experienced a time (or times) in your life when other people avoided you because they didn’t know what to say?  In the last year, I’ve learned that people sometimes “forget” about people who are grieving – and often leave those who are mourning alone.  The isolation can be almost unbearable in the lives of children (and adults) who are being abused.  Many people, who have been the victim of a crime, don’t even report the offense to the police.  People, who live with the effects of a past trauma or injury, can live their entire lives feeling that nobody understands them.   Loneliness can totally consume people who suffer the effects of a mental illness that is often the “driving-force” behind their continued depression and low self-esteem.

And yet, even in the midst of our hurt, God continues to say that it’s not good for us to be alone.  God continues to remind us, even in the midst of our challenges, that we really do need the love and support of other people – even in the times of life when we’re tempted to close doors and cut ourselves off.  Have you ever found yourself withdrawing from others during a difficult time?  Have you ever wished that people could more easily see the pain that you are experiencing, and respond with love and support?  Have you ever pulled back from others and isolated yourself – and then, grown angry because other people don’t care?

God does not want us to be alone in our struggles – and in fact, God tells us that it isn’t good for us to be alone.  It’s hard to reach-out toward others when we’re hurting.  It’s hard for us to be open and honest with others when we’re feeling vulnerable.  But the alternative is the very kind of “isolation” that God talks about in the second chapter of Genesis.  The alternative is to live with something in our lives that even God says is simply “not good.”

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I suspect that, at some point in our lives, most of us have probably read “Footprints.”  We’ve all had times in our lives when we felt that God was close to us – and we’ve all had times when we felt that God was far away.  I’m sure that we could all point to times of hopelessness and despair in life, and that we could also point to those very special moments in life when we felt that God was walking right beside us every step of the way.  And, of course, as we reflect upon the central-message of “Footprints,” we’d have to admit that it’s comforting to know that Christ picks us up and carries us through life — when our burdens become heavy and when specific situations in our lives overwhelm us.

But, as we begin this journey together, I’d like us to think, instead, about “Fingerprints.”  I think we all realize that we are deeply connected to others, and that other people put “fingerprints” – both good and bad – upon our lives.  Strong family ties and lasting friendships with others leave us empowered and filled with life.  Relationships with people who hurt us – either physically or emotionally – leave “fingerprints” that heal very slowly, if at all.  And, of course, one of the great challenges in life is one that calls us to learn how to grow and move forward in life, in a positive way, whether the “fingerprints” that have been placed upon us by others are good, or bad.

So, let’s be honest with each other….

We’ve all been hurt by others, haven’t we…?  Sometimes, people that we know quite well betray us.  Some of us have “fingerprints” because we’ve been either physically or emotionally abused by someone who was “supposed” to love us.   Some of us may have even been deeply hurt – or victimized – by someone that we don’t even know.  We can be hurt as children – as teenagers – as adults – as parents – as siblings – and even as grandparents.  And the “fingerprints” come in so many shapes and sizes!  But, they all leave their “mark” upon our lives in a significant way.

And so, with all of that in mind, I’d like to invite you to join me on a journey that I’m going to simply call:  “That We May Be Well.”  On this journey, I’m going to invite you to explore some of the deepest hurts in your life – and I’m going to challenge you to join me on a path that leads toward healing.  We’re going to explore “Four Farewells” that are absolutely crucial to the healing process when we’ve been hurt – and we’re going to discover, together, that it’s truly possible to move toward healing and wholeness even when the hurt has been severe.

I’ll freely admit that I don’t have all of the pieces in place, yet – and that honest admission might send some people away.  But even after making such an honest admission, I can also promise you that as we accompany each other on this “journey toward healing” we’ll discover timeless truths – and, perhaps, even a deeper sense of the presence of very One who has promised to walk beside us (and even to carry us when the load becomes too heavy!) in life.

And so, this is your chance to jump on board and begin this journey of healing.  Please feel free to add comments – or to share insights that you’ve found helpful.  If you know someone who has been deeply hurt along the way, please invite that person to join us, too.  This is a “team” project.  We’re all going to share a common journey – even though we start in so many different places – “That We May Be Well.”

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