I've never been in a major earthquake. Well, except for this pandemic. Seems like it's shaken just about everyone and everything.
One thing earthquakes do - they reveal the buildings that weren't built strong enough to stand the shock. Just like floods reveal the weaknesses in a levee or a dam. Or a flood wall that wasn't built high enough.
This pandemic's gone on long enough that cracks are starting to show. In marriages. In families. In churches. In our mental or physical health.
Researcher George Barna just released a disturbing report on the damage COVID has done to our human connections.
Over half of U.S. adults say they're struggling with at least one relational or emotional/mental health issue that impacts their most important relationships. Anxiety...depression...loneliness - always hard, but much harder in recent months.
Many times the quake or storm doesn't necessarily cause the damage - it exposes it. That weak spot, that conflict, that hidden pain has probably been there for a while. Unacknowledged. Unaddressed. Until everything starts shaking. Suddenly, that crack becomes a gaping - even dangerous - hole. Things that have been lurking in the dark suddenly can't be hidden any longer.
Ticking time bombs like ungrieved grief. Unresolved conflict. Unforgiven hurts. Unconfronted sin.
Things we've stuffed rather than deal with. Hidden, thinking no one will know. Denied, hoping it might go away. One thing they all have in common - a fear of facing inconvenient truth and a reluctance to change. Strangely, like fictional vampires, brokenness grows and thrives in the dark.
But I find a hopeful prescription in an oft-quoted statement by Jesus: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Not "the truth will hurt you more" or "ruin your life." Facing the truth will set you free from the chronic pain and shame of avoiding the truth.
All the pandemic shaking has made our broken places harder to hide. Like the damage our anger and searing words do. The dark passions we've entertained. The wounds we've inflicted. The scars we hide. The bitterness we've harbored. The walls we've built.
I may not like the truth an x-ray or CAT scan or blood test reveals. But it's the first step to healing.
I've been struck - and confronted - by some liberating words from the Bible. It begins with "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all." So? "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (horizontal healing), and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin (vertical healing)" (1 John 1:5, 7).
I got to thinking. The things that cause brokenness in our relationships are often the things we harbor in the dark. The wounds that cause us to hurt others or ourselves - that ultimately overwhelm us - are hurts we've kept stuffed in the closet. And the reason we feel far from God, just when we need Him most, may be sin-secrets we conceal in the dark.
But restoring a relationship - with each other or with our Creator - begins when we drag our junk out of the closet and "in the light." Where there is "no darkness at all."
The "vampire" of my buried darkness starts to shrivel in the light. With the long-avoided issues out in the open, I am free to say one of those five healing sentences:
- "I was wrong." (Facing my part of the brokenness instead of obsessing on what they've done wrong.)
- Oh, the marriages, the children, the families, the friendships that could have been saved if only someone had been big enough to be wrong!
- "I'm sorry for..."
- "I forgive you." You're chained to them until you do.
- "I miss you." We've left this broken too long.
- "I need help." God's help. A counselor. That person close to you.
If the pandemic has revealed a crack, a hole, a wound, a need, then this curse may turn out to bring blessing. Letting the light into the darkness that has crippled us for so long.
And there, just outside the dark closet, stands Jesus. Waiting to walk through all that brokenness with you. He knows about broken. He was. On that cross.
"He took up our pain...He was crushed for our sins; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him."
And I love this part - "And by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5).