I knew it would lead here – The Two-Faced Lies.
When testimony takes us centre stage, a two-face lie follows close behind.
One side says, “My testimony isn’t what God-stories are made of, I haven’t lived ‘enough’ to be interesting.” Arms raised fall slowly to our sides and we have decided God’s preserving grace isn’t worth Grandma’s prayers.
We believe the lie and we stay silent.
The other side says, “My testimony is too much. Sharing this will put me in the ‘damaged goods’ box and the hearer will only see the raggedy edges.” Quietly, we sit back down. God’s redemptive grace isn’t worth more than the wasted years.
The logic seems irrefutable, the lie intact, and we stay silent.
A Graveyard of Hope where a Garden of Life was intended.
Whispers of truth layered between the lines leads us, blinded, to hold onto the lies buying our silence instead of exposing a revelation of Grace capable of binding us to each other.
Everyone loves a good redemption story, but sometimes, the fairy-tale ending doesn’t come soon enough and we get tired of waiting. We aren’t strong enough to listen to someone tell us how Adam’s legacy of pain and death infiltrated hearts and the weight of man’s fall hangs heavy on our souls.
The Choir of the Good Guys look all side-eye at the people on the other side of the aisle who seem to smell vaguely of brimstone. They fell. They didn’t work hard enough to protect, to preserve, to offer their best. If we get to close we might fall and we’ve worked far too hard to stay clean. It’s for the children. And they return to their pews feeling justified, forgiven little, sanctified…set apart.
Those forgiven much wrestle with being jaded and cynical. We mock the sweetness of purity and integrity interwoven with a legacy of goddliness because we don’t look for inspiration we look for justification for our own failure. We couldn’t protect the ones we love. We couldn’t protect the souls God gave us. The lily-white gowns must protect a dark underbelly of deceit. We’ve seen hypocrisy. We’ve slept with it. We assume it hides underneath.
Divided into camps of saints and sinners we keep our stories close and live separately bound in chains of the two-faced lies.
How many are willing to challenge? Who believes the lies aren’t worth the silence.
Those who have traveled far from the heart of God need to know of His power to preserve the promises when they begin to walk in a Grace that He’s given. Those of us granted the blessing of redemption need to share so those who may stumble on the way and feel unredeemable can know we have a Rescuing Father.
J.C. Philpott says, “There is more in the balm [of Gilead] to heal than there is guilt to wound; for there is more in grace to save than there is sin to destroy.”
You have the Balm of Gilead. I have the Balm of Gilead.
Can we care more for each other than our status quo?
The pills spread across the counter as, handful by handful, I downed them with lukewarm water before heading out the door and up the road to sit on the large gray rock. Laughter bounced off the cabins and the smell of hamburgers and french fries mingled with pine chips and mountain dust.
I think I knew what I had taken wasn’t lethal. It didn’t matter. I made a line in the sand and waited for God to show up.
I wanted to think I had forced His hand.
Surely now He would sweep across the skies to deliver me. God would be the knight in shining armor. Or something. Or nothing.
Something might tempt me to think I mattered. Nothing proved what I already believed.
In the summer sun, under blue Rocky Mountain skies, I waited to feel. To hear. For the tiny little note I’d left to be discovered and then someone to rescue me from the emptiness, the isolation.
I waited for Love but I didn’t call out His name. I couldn’t make an offering. I only knew sacrifice.
Watching the busy-ness of life around me, I looked for Love and was overwhelmed with panicked camp counselors, embarrassed parents, and the rejection of teenagers quick to judge, quick to call the clumsy tears a calculated effort to gain attention and notoriety.
Each assumption lending their weight to the valuable lessons I already knew about the safety of God’s people. Each accusation, demanded answer, sharp-edged bible verse an evisceration of a tiny, fragile hope.
Nails in the coffin.
Ridicule, disapproval, humiliation worked hand in hand with shame teaching me tenents of the unyielding law of Acceptable Christian Behavior. Within the social and religious contract I had been tried and found wanting. I was condemned.
Obviously, I needed to repent. To weep at the altar. To submit to the Judge of my soul. To only make the waves that the community decided were acceptable.
I was expected to give my heart to an unsafe Deity far above, silent, unknowable. A God who offered acceptance to the people who embraced each other, the ones who belonged.
His people, who sang of His love and remained cold and distant to me. They spoke of kinship and loyalty, somehow united in love for each other.
I sat on the wooden bench and watched. A litany of ways I needed to change to exist in this world became more bricks in the wall. The blond girl up front sang her heart out as arms raised and voices thundered about the blood of Jesus.
I didn’t fit. Again. I didn’t have what they wanted.
In a world that offered a rigid line of what God wanted and beauty He desired I was significantly not beautiful. Their faith relied on quick obedience while rebellion and rage simmered through every pore.
I didn’t have the marketable commodity for this paradigm. I was not wanted.
Too much work. Too much baggage. Too much…everything.
But not enough. Never enough.
So, I waited to die.
For thirty years I’ve despised the girl on the rock in her long jean skirt and tennis shoes.
She gave up then and has kept giving up through these many seasons of my identity. She mocks my strength by taking us right to the very edge of darkness over and over.
Living is hard work. Breathing is hard work.
She was weak.
I was weak. But He is strong.
I was afraid of Him.
A cheap, dark brown, leatherette couch creaked underneath my weight as the man with a short black beard, large-rimmed glasses, and the hidden yellow legal pad, scribbled a few words and I endured through another half hour session.
Recommendations for care interspersed with obvious attempts to ingratiate himself into my private inner world were uncomfortable. I didn’t know what this man wanted from me.
No stranger wanted something from me unless it cost me…something. I couldn’t say no. I couldn’t defend myself.
My heart constricted in my chest. Hands clenched, palms sweaty, while I was evaluated.
Inspected. Judged. Dismissed.
On the privacy glass of the door, “Child Psychologist” in large, gold letters glinted in late afternoon sunshine. Those words meant he was supposed to help me.
I didn’t know how to talk to him. I couldn’t remember anyone who had ever asked me what I was thinking and actually wanted to hear. Being given the space to make tangible form out of the fantasy world was uncharted water. At first, I tried a few shocking statements to see how he’d respond.
“Mm-hmmm… What do you think about that? Maybe…”
I found quickly he was more interested in his words than mine.
Carefully, we danced in a ballroom of misunderstandings and assumptions until there was nothing left to be said.
So, I lied to protect my status quo. Safety lay in the certain destruction of a sinking ship. A broken down wall. A little cave filled with secrets that could never be shared, I knew I was doomed, but it was a familiar fate.
Mom waited impatiently in the other room.
“Are you better now?” She asked on the long, long drive home. “This is expensive.”
I never went back.
Life changed and I evolved with it.
I didn’t want to be the spectacle all fleshed out in the identity of the broken one, the failure, the disappointment any more.
How could I find friends when no one knew what to do with me?
I wasn’t the pretty one. I couldn’t play the party games. But I was smart and soon mastered a social lesson that still knocks at my door.
I was given permission to participate when I served a function.
So, I worked to become clever, competent, and funny until I found a space, barely big enough to survive, certainly not large enough to grow and I called it living.
This machine had a Heidi-shaped cog, if I played by the rules. Performing for them brought benefits. And, if I did it right, their tolerance felt a little bit like belonging and, for awhile, it was enough.
Being useful became a surrogate for friendship as being used had been a surrogate for being loved.
Step by slow step, learning how to survive, it seemed possible I wouldn’t be a pawn anymore. Determined to no longer be the victim I believed that if I kept people far enough way, they couldn’t hurt me.
I craved the strength to fight the shadows lingering within and this self-imposed solitary confinement often grew to a bone-crushing weight of exclusion. How could I long to be welcomed by the very people I despised?
Inconsistencies, glitches in my internal matrix, hinted at flaws in that logic. I was just arrogant enough to think that didn’t matter.
Always on the edges, back to the wall, waiting for the next assault, planning my escape was a choice I made.
Being self-sufficient is hard work. I kept finding chinks in my fortress. Part of me wanted out. I longed to stand up and be counted worthy. Desperately, I wanted to be necessary.
I’d aged up into the mysteries of romance and class-mates paired up and broke up and paired up again while I watched and waited for my name to come up on the dance card.
Hidden behind big glasses and hand-me-downs, living a thousand other lives through literature and the infinite complex lies I told myself about who I really was and then internalized the struggle while crafting a mask so strong I nearly fooled myself.
Sometimes, a Truth would break through and I’d consider talking to The God Who Listens but I was more familiar with The God Who Judges and it was obvious what He thought of me. He wasn’t safe. He wasn’t kind. He would use me for this thing called Kingdom but I didn’t know how to be useful. I didn’t know that dance. I didn’t know the stairway to Heaven and the Divine nature I had come to understand didn’t have time for me.
In fact, in His world? There was no room for people like me.
God’s people choose the beautiful, the well-made, the acceptable to receive their love and affirmation but I was awkward and clumsy. Complicated.
God’s people rarely choose complicated. Pastors shook their heads at me. Parents clucked and tsked. Peers dismissed me without conversation.
So, I became useful to them. I found a commodity that could make me valuable. A function. A Heidi-Shaped cog in this machine.
I used music as my tool. I could sing.
Like David before Saul the melodies of praise and worship worked to soothe an uncoiling Shadow beginning to stir inside my inner prison.
Defiantly, I sang of gratitude and hope, of redemption and grace, as though mumbling ideas in a foreign language. I knew the sounds but the words were meaningless.
I mimicked faith with robotic focus and intense purpose. I fabricated a copy of what I thought I witnessed because Faith was something that happened to someone else. The “goodness of God” happened on Sunday’s long sermons while the lady up front danced and the guy behind the guitar changed keys.
I didn’t understand ecstatic expression. Joy was something that happened to someone else and, restrained by fear and in my own damaged good, I only understood use and useful.
I give. They take.
I was a second rate hand-me-down and I knew it. But, somehow, this had to be better than being alone.