I think there is a bit of the wizard of Oz in all of us. We’re not purposefully deceiving people into believing in a contrived image of ourselves like he did. It’s more like we act in ways based on what we have experienced, but unless people are close enough to us to look behind the curtain, they see only our actions and not the reasons behind them. Judgements are made. We hold those who tend to be prickly at arm’s length when what they need to be pulled in close. We cling to those who are easy to love without seeing their brokenness. Sometimes, we don’t see because we don’t look. Other times, people hide behind the curtain because letting others see their hurt is hard.
I’ll be honest with you. I’m a private person. People often see the effects of events in my life without knowing the story I keep behind the curtain. It’s difficult to admit, but several years ago I went through the most devastating experience of my life. It led to a struggle with depression that took a long time for me to overcome. It’s hard to admit it for a couple reasons. One, it’s not a good memory. It’s a time I don’t want to revisit. Another is that many in the area where I live don’t understand depression, especially in the church. I fully believe my God can heal and that prayer and time in the Word are essential to maintaining spiritual and emotional health. But I also know how damaging it is to have well-meaning believers tell you all you need to do is pray more, study more, and have more faith to make the “sadness” go away. They don’t understand it when I say that I was closer to God than I had ever been before, and yet, I still had to fight the depression on a daily basis. Even admitting to it now, in this public way, leaves me feeling vulnerable.
So, I didn’t talk about it. But it didn’t leave me unchanged. I was stronger in my faith. Sometimes, it takes being knocked to the ground so hard you can’t get up to really understand needing God’s strength. But the change I believe people saw most was me going through the motions of daily life. Some days that’s all I could do. I became a little more jaded and a little less patient. I was more than likely moody. When you’re not eating or sleeping properly, that happens.
I found out years later that my oldest child noticed. She remembered how life was in our house before, during, and after the hard times. If a child recognized it, I know others in my life did too. Sometimes I wonder if they ever considered the reasons hidden behind the curtain of my life.
Pain changes you. Loss changes you. It’s the truth, even when it’s the subject of fiction. I was reminded of this while reading Don’t Ask Me to Leave, by Micki Clark. Four different characters faced similar heartache and loss, and each reacted in a different way. As I considered my own experiences, I could relate to the anger I saw. I could understand the desire for seclusion. I even related to the drive to push oneself into all sorts of activity to run from the pain. I could empathize with the main character’s hesitancy to let go and move on. But I could also understand the need of her friends to confront her at times with her behavior even though they understood it was pain driven.
Rachel’s story of love and loss and living was written with honesty. I ached for her to get to the other side of her pain. But it wasn’t just her story. It was also the story of Beau and Nadine, who each experienced great loss as well. Their own losses and the results of those losses were just as touching as Rachel’s. Clark wove together three versions of the same heartache into a beautifully written story of love, loss, and redemption. Reading it reminded me how important it is to take the time to consider what lies behind the curtain in the lives of those I come in contact with.
We are called as Christians to rejoice when our brothers rejoice and mourn with the brother who mourns (Romans 12:15). We are called to deal with each other in patience and with love (Ephesians 4:2-3). We don’t have to know every detail of each other’s lives. Some hurts are too deep to share with others, and we need to understand that. What we can do, though, is begin to realize that there may be more to the person in the pew next to us than the anger, apathy, fear, or impatience we see in their actions. Even the one who seems to have it all together, that leaves us feeling like we’re not measuring up, may have more going on behind the scenes than we know. Instead of judging based on the actions we see, let’s remember we all have our wizard behind the curtain and choose to act in patience and love.
By the Book: Read the verses above. Take time to pray for the people in your life that may not always be easy to love. Ask God to help you learn how to love them, even if you don’t understand the reasons why they act the way they do.