Growing up as a pastor’s kid in a single-income home meant we never had much cash floating around.
I learned a lot of key life lessons because of this, including the fact that Puffed Wheat cereal is a grievous waste of space, Puffed Rice is far worse, and car troubles are actually The Worst Thing Ever. And they never stop. At least, they never seemed to for us.
My parents went through a string of really terrible vehicles, including a few station wagons (think faux wood paneling), one enormous 10-seater van - really an 8-seater with 2 extra seats fused (possibly illegally) into the back - and three Mercury Grand Marquis, aka “Couch on Wheels”, aka “She Float”, aka “Officially the Worst Car to Drive in the Winter, Ever”.
One of them, at some point, wouldn’t start unless you stuck a ballpoint pen somewhere into the engine. To this day, I have no clue how that actually helped.
Most of us can relate to that feeling of dread when you begin to suspect something’s wrong with your car. That weird rattling noise when you accelerate. That squeak in the brakes that wasn’t there yesterday. The steering wheel feeling kind of frighteningly stiff. Or just flames. Flames are never good.
Every time something feels or sounds not quite right we have to ask ourselves: do we want to know what’s wrong?
Do we want to take it to the mechanic, have it taken apart and examined and diagnosed?
Do we really want to know?
Knowing comes with a price tag, because problems are costly. So, when the warning signs come, we hesitate. I'm not suggesting that's right. It's kind of stupid. But it's what we often do. We wait, out of some kind of hope that it'll just sort itself out. And of course, it never does.
I’ve been in many situations through the years where I tried to convince myself I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t hurting and that I was fine and everything was fine, when everything was not fine. The warning signs were there. Everything was a mess.
But it’s scary to face the diagnosis.
It’s scary to come to terms with the not-rightness of something, and to put a name to it and facts to it and reality to it, reality that sometimes other people can see when we can’t. This is where we start to self-protect, by denying the truth.
Embracing a diagnosis is difficult. Truth can feel really hard and harsh. Letting out a truth can sometimes have serious consequences.
But in the long run, truth is healthy. Living in the truth allows us to receive the help we need to recover from our wounds, instead of constantly slapping on band-aid solutions and hoping for the best.
I’m not just writing this theoretically, I’m living it. I live it very imperfectly - I like my band-aids and I don’t like being vulnerable. However, I’ve seen enough and lived through enough to know that living truthfully is the only way to become the person I want to be, and to have the quality of relationships I long for.
The truth is good for me.
The truth sets me free to heal, to grow, and to love.