Thankful. Joyful. I hung these words up on my wall, written on cute little bunting banners, a year ago. I wanted them to be the defining aspects of my character. I want thanks and joy to cover me, to be a seal over my life.
But no one, not one person, would have described me like that earlier this year.
Now, they might not have gone as far to say that I was angry, selfish, and distrustful. But that’s because I didn’t let those ugly bits of me show very often. Except to my husband. Oh the things he had to put up with!
I don’t think anyone else knew how much I had been struggling. I was so tired. I had been in four countries in as many months. I was lonely and disillusioned. I hadn’t felt God’s nearness in a long time.
In the midst of this, a group of energetic, optimistic college students showed up. It was summer. Our internship program. I couldn’t just watch from a distance, finding the time and space to rest. Months before, I had volunteered to be the “house mom” for the women. For several weeks I hosted visitors in a house I had never lived in while my husband stayed in our home with the guys.
I muddled my way through no water (imagine 8 women experiencing new and different foods with toilets that don’t flush), too much water (a 20 foot waterfall cascading down from our elevated water tank), major electricity cuts, and a generator that just wouldn’t stay on. To top it all off, we had a rat. My least favorite thing. I’ll take spiders and cockroaches over a mouse or rat any day.
Yet, the students had a great time. Everything they experienced was incredible, delicious, adorable. But their joy and excitement, it made me angry. “They don’t know the first thing about how hard life is here,” I thought. Our first night, one woman asked me, “Don’t you love it here?!” No! I hate it. There’s not one thing I like. I want to get on the next plane and go home.
But of course I couldn’t say that. While, I did not say, “yes” I also didn’t let them into my mess. I kept up appearances.
Inside, my thoughts and emotions were the antithesis of thankful and joyful. I was just like the Israelites, grumbling and complaining after the Lord brought me where I had longed to be.
As I sat down on my bed, hearing the happy chatter from the women in the next room, I knew that I wanted what they had. “Father, would you make this time one of reinvigoration and renewal rather than despair and weariness? Open my eyes to the good and joyful, praiseworthy and excellent things around me.” I wanted renewed joy for this place. I wanted a sense of peace and purpose. I didn’t want to have to fake contentment.
As the days and weeks went on, anger and weariness became my defining emotions less often. I blew bubbles with children and learned to teach duck-duck-goose with only smiles and gestures. I laughed and played and talked with the women. God answered my prayer through connectedness with them.
While I never truly dropped my facade, I also didn’t need it as much. Their perspective and awe, their energy and excitement, made little changes in me. They reminded me why I moved across the seas in the first place. And though the Holy Spirit still has some serious work to do in me, maybe I can be honest about the ugly emotions that fight for control of me even as I pursue a life that is overflowing with thanks and joy.
What has helps you drop (or lower) your facade? What gets in the way? What situations have shown you your facades?