Luanna and Henry were modest, temperate folk. Henry was probably a little more temperate. Luanna was more emotional, unsure, and perhaps a little “faint-hearted” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Luanna needed encouragement and reassurance; especially spiritually. She had difficulty accepting her humanness. She mistakenly believed she should always be strong, and when she wasn’t, she questioned the authenticity of her faith. So each week I reminded Luanna that our faith is based upon God’s steadfastness, not ours; that we have to trust His promises not our feelings. It seemed to work; because by the end of my visit she always said, “I feel so much better. You always pick me up!”
Luanna’s flattery disconcerted me. I thought, “Now she expects me to cheer her up every time I visit.” I felt pressured for a weekly encore. I fretted, “But what if one of these days I just don’t have it in me and I disappoint her?”
Well, one of those days arrived. I’ll spare you the details; just trust me when I say I’d had a tough week. In the words of my friend and Christian Brother, Charlie, “I was ready for the fork; I was done. I was done for” It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other; and I couldn’t see past what was immediately before me. I’ve frequently said to my coworkers that it’s bad when you question your worth as a social worker, but it’s real bad when you question your worth as a human being. Well, it was real bad.
I was dreading my visit with Luanna and Henry. I even thought about canceling, but what would I tell them? My anxiety increased as I turned onto the curvy two-lane road leading to their home. I pulled into the gravel parking lot of a small country church to gather my thoughts. I could see their house in the distance, about a hundred yards away. I prayed, “God, I just don’t have anything for them. Luanna expects me to cheer her up, but how can I? I need someone to cheer me up! I can’t fake it because Luanna knows me too well. What am I supposed to do?” The thought came to mind, “Just be honest”. What a novel idea! But I contested, “But I can’t do that! They expect me to be strong for them.” It was a moment of truth. Now who was struggling with accepting their humanness?
As I pulled into their driveway I decided, “I’ll just admit straight out that I don’t have anything for them; that I’m barely hanging on myself.” I thought, “They will probably just say, ‘That’s alright. We understand.’” Boy was I wrong! When I came clean with Luanna, she exclaimed, “Oh no! I’m really feeling down today and I was hoping you could cheer me up!” But would you believe it turned out to be one of the best and most therapeutic conversations we ever had? Luanna shared, “I thought you always had it together. I didn’t think you ever got depressed or discouraged. Maybe I’m not so different after all.”
When we pretend to have it all together it can cause others to question what’s wrong with them and foster inferiority and discouragement. Perhaps that’s why, “The honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah…sometimes.” (Better than a Hallelujah, Amy Grant): “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a Hallelujah…The tears of shame for what’s been done, the silence when the words won’t come, are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.”
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.