As you can tell by the date on my last post, it has been a while since I have written. The ironic thing is, in that post, I talked about fear and how to deal with it. The reason that I have been remiss about writing this blog is because I have fallen prey to the effects of my own fear once again.
What I have found is that when I am afraid of something, I hide. I hide from people, dealing with problems and even from myself. There have been some issues that I have needed to deal with the past few weeks, but instead of dealing with them, I have gone into hiding. Of course, not literally, which would be awesome but hard to pull of, but I have hidden emotionally.
This is nothing new to the human race as you well know. As soon as Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit in the garden they knew that they had done something wrong. What did they do after they sinned? They hid. They hid first of all from God, which is of course ridiculous because who can really hide from God. However, their instinct was to disconnect from their most important relationship. Then, they hid from themselves, in that they didn't want to see the truth of their situation but wanted to blame someone else for it.
This pattern is not new to me either. It first started when I was 8 years old and was told the unfortunate news that my father had committed suicide. This caused all kinds of emotions; anger, confusion, betrayal, and most of all fear. Out of this fear, I decided at that young age that in order to deal with the fear that had come from being abandoned by someone I thought I could trust to always be there to take care of me, that the only one I could really trust in this life is myself. As you can imagine, that has not always worked out so well!
The other adults in my support system modeled a way to deal with fear and hurt, which was to ignore it and pretend it didn't exist. So, that is what my family did. We simply went on, not dealing with any of the issues that were so real and so pervasive. We hid; from the problems, from each other, from ourselves.
The next event I can remember in my life where this same pattern took effect, was when I was in High School. Now that my mom, sister and I were on our own, it became very important for my sister and I to become responsible at our young ages for a lot of things that we probably didn't really need to take on if it wasn't for the dynamic that we were thrust into. I always felt a great deal of pressure to always make the right decisions and to be someone that could be counted on. If I messed this up somehow, which I did on occasion, I felt a lot of shame and remorse because I had failed.
While babysitting one day, I was cooking with hot oil and the pan caught on fire. I panicked and did my best to put it out, but in the process, the pan was ruined. I felt terrible and most of all irresponsible that I could let it happen. So, what did I do? I kept this little bit of information to myself since the girls were unaware of what had happened and I hid. Not myself, but the pan. Under my bed of all places. Why I didn't throw it away, I don't really know. Hiding came so natural. It sounds so ridiculous now, but it was all I could think of to do. I simply couldn't deal with the problem so I pretended it didn't happen.
This example seems a bit silly, but unfortunately, I have let this pattern slip into my adult life and it has wreaked havoc on my relationships. My marriage especially has suffered because out of habit, I chose to ignore some devastating problems that have been very difficult to work through. It was only after the hidden problems were no longer hidden, to anyone, that they had to be dealt with.
It was certainly the hard way, but God will deal with things that are dishonoring to Him at some point. Luke 8:17 says "For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all." Even my pan was discovered by my mom after I went to college! I still didn't reveal the truth even then. I was too afraid to admit that I had messed up.
So where am I at with this today? Obviously, I still struggle and I still hide, but I think it's getting better. As I learn to face my fears and face the reality of some things in my life that I really don't like, I can still hide like I have for a time even from my writing, but I don't stay there.
I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this because I talk to women all the time who are in similar situations and have developed similar patterns. I know women who are hiding the fact that their husbands are emotionally and even sometimes physically abusive, who don't want people to know that their husband drinks way too much and she is starting to see the problem for what it is, that they themselves are out of control in an area of their own life but are afraid to reach out for help for various reasons, and whose kids are having problems but it's hard to face the truth about the truly harmful choices that they are making.
Here are 4 things that have helped me to start to come out of my own hiding:
1. Accept the truth of your situation. This is a tough one because it requires some honesty about yourself and the others involved. I have struggled with this area because it seemed a lot safer to keep lying to myself that the problems either didn't really exists or would go away on their own. I know for women too, its easy to take the blame for the entirety of the problem. We need to realize our contribution but no more than that.
I have found that an important aspect of this step is that as soon as you can accept the truth, you need to allow yourself to grieve that realization. Most of the time, accepting the truth will kill the dream of what could have been, will destroy the fantasy that you have been trying to create to take the place of the truth, will cause frustration within yourself about why you let the situation continue for so long without facing it, and will cause you to recognize the depth of the pain caused by others involved. This of course will also require the need for forgiveness which is even harder! Don't get overwhelmed with all of this, but give yourself the time and freedom to grieve. You won't be able to move on without this. Trust me, I have tried to rush this process!
2. Depend on God's strength and not your own. This is crucial in order to break this habit of hiding and putting on masks in order to pretend that everything is ok when it really isn't. That is our default and church services are full of people all playing this same game. We are taught to not reveal our struggles to each other, out of fear of exposing our weaknesses and the threat of judgement. We are actually taught to hide and to cover our problems. It is very sad but it seems so much safer. I have tried to overcome this on my own and it just doesn't work. It doesn't work because I have cared way too much about what people think of me. We all do. So, it's hard to not give into that and to be ourselves. It's hard to admit our faults and our weaknesses when we want to look perfect and strong. That is why we need God's help. We simply don't have the strength to combat this urge on our own.
Isaiah 40:28-31 is one of my favorite verses and is one most people know and turn to. A portion of it says that "those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength". In the book "Ultimate Intention" by Devern Fromke, he said that he discovered that the original word for renew in that verse is actually exchange which adds so much more to the meaning. I would much rather be working through His unlimited power than the power that I think is so vast. but is truly so shaky. I have learned that this exchange of power is crucial.
3. Find your voice. I started going to a counselor after being forced to deal with my problems with someone beyond myself, and he challenged me for the first time to find my own voice. I didn't even know what that meant since I had spent my whole life listening to others voices but never allowing myself to have my own. We need to be able to voice our concerns, our fears, our frustrations, and areas we feel violated in. He taught me that if I use "I language" and express how I am feeling, I am simply expressing my own truth. I had to convince myself that I had permission to even do this so it took a bit of work, but it has been liberating to know that I can have a voice. Martin Luther King once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." To have any chance of living a purposeful life, we need to be able to at least have the power to express the things that matter to us.
4. Connect to others. This is another challenging area because when we want to hide something about ourselves, that last thing we want to do is to connect with other people. For years, I would avoid getting too close people. I avoided spending too much time with someone in order to prevent accidentally getting into a conversation where the truth of what I was dealing with in my marriage would slip out. When we don't want to face a problem or are unsure of what would happen if we were to take a chance and tell someone about it, we hide and it's really hard not to. It's almost an instinct and we accept the lie that this will somehow keep us safe. In "Healing is a Choice" author Stephen Arterburn says "There is a sense of safety and control in isolation and disconnection, but it is a false sense of safety. It is a dangerous way to live, because it allows you to miss real life and real people and all of the benefits and rewards that go with growing relationships".
This has been the best step towards healing for me, one of the hardest, but the best. When I started letting other people into "my world" I found clarity, acceptance, help, and accountability to keep growing. I have also experienced the pain of choosing the wrong person to share, so be careful to use wisdom and discernment.
This step has consisted of 2 steps forward and 1 step back at times because it's hard to overcome the instinct to protect yourself. Sometimes I will share some deep struggles with someone and then feel a sense of dread the following day, as though I had broken a code of conduct with myself and had revealed too much weakness. I am hoping that as I get more used to opening myself up a bit, this will get better.
I hope that these suggestions help some of you who struggle with some of these same things. Thanks for sticking with me through all of this, I know there has been a lot of content. Just remember to give yourself a break if you find yourself hiding from time to time. I still tend to slip into this behavior but I don't stay there as long as I used to.
My physical place to hide and get away from people is in the bathroom. I think moms figure out at some point that this is the only room where people won't bother you! I'm sure that tomorrow, after posting all of these revealing truths about myself, I will find myself there, worrying that I exposed too much weakness. Oh well, I guess I won't stay in there forever and as long as God continues to help me through all of this, I'll be ok. I hope that you will let Him help you too if you are a "hider" like me. There is a happier way of life outside of the hiding spots!