August 13, 2012

Creating Space for Brokenness

Most days, our Facebook pages are filled with good news: the amazing dinner our friend cooked last night or all the exciting things everyone did this weekend. There’s pressure in our lives, exacerbated by social media, to put only our best selves forward, though we all know that this picture is a false one. Especially when we are feeling lonely or depressed, hearing constantly about fantastic our friends’ lives are can make us feel more isolated.

I was at a meeting recently with a friend in which participants talked about issues they were struggling with. There was something moving about hearing others speak honestly and openly about their difficulties, and the way they affirmed and supported each other. I was reminded of the importance of creating space in our communities to talk about the loneliness, pain, or fear we experience in our lives.

Our church communities should be places where our struggles with illness or addiction, anxiety or whatever it may be, should not be constantly hidden. Sunday morning, however, is typically not a time when people are ready to launch into difficult discussions. Creating space to talk about our struggles and sorrows requires intentionality.

Simply putting “I’m so sad” on your Facebook page isn’t the best way to get the support you need. Serious discussions about difficult things can happen online, of course, but they often happen best in forums - with rules and in which people come specifically come to talk about the issues they face.

Churches, likewise, can create forums in the form of bereavement groups, or AA meetings, for example, or simply by creating small groups in which members are encouraged to get to know each other – both the good and the bad. These meetings should be intentional, include guidelines for discussion and boundaries, and be somewhat private. It’s important that everyone in the community knows that it is ok to be broken, and that the church provides healthy ways to express that brokenness.

Entire Psalms are devoted to addressing grievances and expressing anger and sorrow. Are our churches making a space for our illnesses, addictions, and fears? Pretending that we are all doing great only isolates us, and doesn’t allow our community to help us heal.