Take Off Your Brave Face: I’m Not Fine, And I Don’t Think You Are Either.

A woman with red hair and tattoo covers her fave with her hands

I want to tell you a story:

Once, Jesus was traveling through Samaria. He came to a small town, and sat near the well, tired from his journey. He met a Samaritan woman there, who had come to draw water.

She was tired. Her shoulders were heavy from the burden she carried. She felt her life was a mess. She could sense the deep unraveling of herself as she made mistake after mistake. Constantly choosing the wrong man, being used and discarded by others. Everyone in town knew what sort of person she was, and each walk to the well was a walk of shame. But she needed to drink. So she put on her brave face. Girded herself for the onslaught of looks. You know, those looks. The judging ones. And left for the well.

Except, there was a man there, sitting nearby. She tried to duck and dodge, slink quietly to the edge. But the man, smiled at her. She was shocked when as asked her for a drink of water.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Because Jews did not associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She considered this. But he was prodding too close to where she hurt.

But I’m fine she said.

She gave him his water and quickly walked away.

Wait What?!?!

I have another story:

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives,  but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said. But I’m fine. She walked home to her lover. 

Seriously?!?

And just one more:

My day had been awful. We were late for everything. No amount of leaving early seemed to stymie the time bleed. The 4 year old wouldn’t bend long enough to get into her car seat and playing stiff as a board was her favorite way to protest picking up her brother and sister from school. It was still a million degrees outside, because fall is a myth in Central Arizona, and everyone decided to complain. My husband had promised to do the dishes, but exhausted from a long night working trauma, and then offering to stay up with said 4 year old for a bit in the morning so I could rest, they fell by the wayside. But it didn’t matter, because all I saw was undone dishes and more work before I could start dinner. Which I hadn’t planned because I was a total failure at this Mom and Wife thing.

And on my drive It really just wasn’t the dishes I decided he had neglected. I was feeling neglected too. Our nightly game night ritual playing together on the PS4 had slowly grown to include what seemed like millions of others. He was hosting and streaming now, running a clan (group of other like players, for my non-gamer readers) of a hundred people, which meant it was never just us.

It’s never just us anymore. We hadn’t had a date in months. How did that even happen? He should have taken initiative. Why didn’t he ever bring me flowers? Why didn’t he ever plan getaways.

Why didn’t he do the dishes when he said he would?!

I picked up the kids and our kinder boy came out upset and cranky and our 8 year old was already angry she had so much homework. We all drove home cranky and hot.

“Mom! Can we go to the park? Can we play video game?” Screamed everyone all at once.

“NO,” I yelled. “No to everything! Mommy can’t. Just be quiet until we get home.” I’m such an awesome human. I thought. Did I mention this months PMS was real?

When we got home everyone ran inside. Except, oh no, someone tripped and was now screaming and the two that had made it in through the crucible of the run from the 200 degree interior of the car through the 300 degrees exterior of our yard into the house were now in all out fisticuffs over who got the remote first.

Hearing the screams I yelled over the crying preschoolers wails, so that all of the neighbors could hear, “DON’T YOU DARE TURN THAT TV ON BEFORE YOU FINISH YOUR HOMEWORK OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!” Because there is nothing quite like threatening your children in front of other people.

When the chaos was finally contained in the house and we were unpacked, my beloved meekly and dazedly exited the bedroom, where he was sleeping (I’m sure so peacefully) from the previous night’s 13.5 hour shift.

I was angry washing the dishes and slamming the cabinets.

“Um, are you okay?” He asked. I’m sure genuinely too, but I couldn’t bring myself to look him in the eyes, because my tears threatened to overflow.

“I’m fine” I said. 

***

What did my three stories have in common? Well first I changed the endings of my horrifyingly paraphrased versions of John 4 and John 8.

Clearly, these women weren’t fine. Everyone knew it. Just like everyone knew I wasn’t fine either. It was absurd for the women to say they were fine. One was caught in a terrible cycle of toxic relationships and shame, the other was literally dripping with sweat and tears, likely naked, and waiting to be stoned at the steps of the temple. Nothing about them was fine.

And me? Well, it was obvious to anyone, I wasn’t fine. Especially my husband. My “fineness” was bleeding out onto my entire family.

Just like I know you aren’t fine either.

And Jesus knows too. He knew these women’s deepest hurts, and he spoke into it. And they let him. They softened their hearts from the pain and trauma long enough to answer his questions.

But me? I hold a tight, vice like grip around my disappointments. I sew them up with the words I’m fine and become an impenetrable fortress.

Or so I think.

Because something does still come through. I try to stop the pain, the hurt, the feelings, the disappointment, it all still seeps through,

instead I only manage to choke out the life.

I choke out the intimacy, the emotional honesty, the vulnerability. All of it. I sacrifice it so I can bury down my feelings long enough to catch my breath. But in the process a part of my relationship dies, and my heart becomes harder.

Harder towards my husband, my kind friend who asked, harder towards my Savior.

It becomes harder for me to access too. I lie to myself so long, sing the song of I’m fine to myself until I start to believe it, even when everyone else can clearly see, I’m not.

I’m not okay.

And to say otherwise is dishonest.

No, when the woman at the well offered Jesus a drink, and he offered her eternal, life giving water, she recognized him as a prophet, and then as the Messiah. She didn’t shut down communication, she didn’t cut off her feelings like a tourniquet because a well is an inconvenient place to feel hard things.

She opened her heart to what Jesus was saying.

But how often do we shut down, afraid to speak the truth of our heart’s hurts, because it’s inconvenient. I don’t want to cry at the kitchen sink. I don’t want to have a hard conversation with my husband right now.

So I’ll keep him guessing. I’ll ignore the elephant in the room. I’ll yell at everyone and the kitchen sink. Seriously, what’s up with kitchen sinks.

Because I think I’m being brave. Or submissive. I don’t want to nag, I don’t want to be that wife, or that mother or that person.

When really I’m just rationalizing away my feelings.

The truth is simple, but often hard. Especially when we have been stuffing it away for so long.

When my husband asked, what I needed to say, but didn’t was,

The truth is, I’ve felt neglected and ignored. I’m not upset about the dishes, but they just reminded me that I feel disconnected and far away from you. It hurts to sometimes feel like I come in last among all things. It feels like we are lacking intimacy, It’s hard to talk to you over the noisiness of family life and responsibility. The truth is I miss you, I miss us and I need to feel like we are on a team again. 

And I feel like I’ve lost my confidence as a mom, and I don’t know how to get it back. It seems like I make it all up as I go, and It seems like everyone else has it all together. Why don’t I?

But taking off my brave, fine, face long enough to say those things? It’s hard and scary. Because I don’t know how other people will react. I don’t know if I will be able to stop the tears once they come. I’m afraid of what will happen when I finally remove the tourniquet.

Will I bleed out completely?

Dear friends, how can Jesus ever hope to hold our burdens for us, if we won’t release them? How will he ever remove our hearts of stone, and give us new hearts of flesh if we don’t let go. If we don’t stop the brave act, and admit it.

We are not fine.

Not even a little bit.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to not be fine. And those of us who love you? We can’t help carry one another’s burdens unless we know one another’s burdens. Especially those closest to us.

Especially our spouses. We are often told to not keep secrets from our spouses. Great advice.

But holding onto you hurt. Nursing it, while cutting of life giving intimacy, isn’t that keeping a secret too? Secrets aren’t just big things, they can be small things too. And saying I’m fine when I’m not? That’s lying.

When I refuse to tell my husband my hurt, when I keep it a secret, he still knows something is wrong. He still feels the distance. I feel it too, when he comes home from a bad night at work, or is worried about finances, or friendships and can’t talk about it.

We have a saying in our house now, that fine is an f-word. Revelation can come to you anywhere I suppose. I’m not sure of the merits of, or if I’m even allowed to quote Deadpool in a christian blog (The blog police might come fore me), but here I go anyway, because truly God finds us where we are, even in R rated movie theaters.

Deadpool makes use of an acrostic poem while grieving for his girlfriend. Wade is called out when he says he is fine after his love interest dies. He isn’t. He is in a bar, in his PJs, among other things. The response is perfect.

“Do you know what fine stands for?”

Deadpool with fine quote text overplayed

We are all Wade Wilson (I went there). We put walls up to keep out the pain, when really what it keeps out is the people who love us.

And after awhile, people stop trying to knock down your walls. And before you know it, you are living emotionally separate lives from those you love most.

Husbands and wives feel miles apart,

friendships fall away because of indefinable distance,

and we are left holding our hard hearts and crying cement tears.

But Jesus, he won’t ever stop asking us for a drink of water. He won’t ever stop defending us from the accuser, and his hands are always open wide, ready to help lift your burden.

No place is ever inconvenient for him.

He is the life giving water.

Set your pain down long enough to take up the cup.

Let your husband know why you are hurting

Let your church family know you aren’t fine, so they can pray for you.

Let the other mom with the kind eyes, who always smiles at you at parent pick up, know you need a friend. I bet she needs one too.

And radically ban the word fine from your vocabulary altogether.

It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to not be fine.

The longer you stuff it away, wrapped up in your fines, the harder it will be to let go of.

So let go. Take off the brave mask.

Don’t hide your beautiful heart under the disguise of I’m fine’s.Women with nose ring hiding behind sweater

I’m not buying it anyway.

It might hurt sure, there might even be conflict, if you’ve been hiding it for so long, cleaning out an infected wound can hurt at first.

But then it heals.

Conflict can be healthy, when dealt with mindfully, and you just might leave the conversation feeling closer, and more loved than you have in a long time.

Or maybe you will realize you need help. There is no shame in that either. Maybe you have been saying you’re fine for so long, you and your husband, or your mother, or your best friend, aren’t even in the same universe anymore, and you need help learning how to talk and share again. That’s okay too.

Trees in shadow with a bible verse

But you will be freer when you finally set the burden down at your Saviors feet, and confess to those around you that you aren’t fine.

Man in silhouette praying

Because all we really want is to be known. So take off the brave mask dear friend, it isn’t serving you anymore, and be brave enough to show people your heart instead.

I promise you, you aren’t too messy for Jesus and you aren’t too messy for those who love you either.

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