Question: Is This an Expectation?

coffee40.jpg"We are doing fine!"

 
Of course, mother died, brother went bankrupt, sister left her husband, and I just got fired from my job.  But, we are fine.

 
Do you know people like that?  They are always doing fine.  At least that is what they say.  In fact, some people seem to always communicate that they are doing wonderful.  Now perhaps some people really are doing wonderful most of the time.  Yet, I wonder if some of us believe that authentic Christians should always be doing wonderful.  Could it be that we believe this is to be expected?  

 
Now I generally enjoy life.  I would even go on to say that I am experiencing a rich joy that is found in Christ.  Yet, my life does have its ups and downs.  There are times when I go through seasons where so much seems to go very well.  There are other times when life is tough and the days are not the most enjoyable (probably an understatement).  There are times of sadness and struggle.

 
Now that doesn’t mean that most of the time my life is in a crisis.  Last Saturday, we saw The Dark Knight.  No, my life is not like Batman’s.  I am not in the middle of a life or death crisis.  Nor does my life feel like the two and a half hours of the intense action in that movie.

 
No, my life is normal with all of life’s ups and downs.  Yet, what is it that might compel me or any other Christ-follower to communicate to others that everything is always wonderful?

 
Now I do realize that we don’t necessarily want to really talk about our lives with every human being we encounter.  I may walk into the cleaners today and the person behind the counter might ask, "How’s it going?"  I don’t know that I need to say, "I’m glad you asked.  I’m really feeling down today.  In fact, let me tell you about some of the things going on in my life."    

 
There are other people in our lives who we just don’t have the relationship with to be able to really talk about life as it is.  In fact, because of past experiences with this person, I may be very hesitant to reveal very much at all. 

 
I do think this is worthy of some thought.    

 
Is there a reason why many Christian people feel compelled to leave the impression that their lives are always wonderful?  Is this an unspoken expectation within some of our Christian communities?   What are the consequences of being a church with such an unspoken expectation?

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21 thoughts on “Question: Is This an Expectation?

  1. I actually did that with my dry cleaners person one time. He complimented the way I looked and it happened to be a time when I was really down. I told him he would never know how much that meant to me and to never underestimate the impact of saying something positive. I think I scared him.
    There are a few people at my church who will actually tell me how they are doing when I ask and I really appreciate that. If we can’t feel safe with our church family, who can we feel safe with?

  2. The consequence of an "All is well attitude" is the gaping hole separating Christians from genuine relationship.  This relationship with others is required for true unity within the body of Christ.  A portion of this lack of mutual trust is further cultivated by our "Sound Bite" society.  We, as a culture, wish for clean, tidy interaction.  We chase false serenity simply because it is cheaper than the Peace of God.  We do not wish to invest our time in others, and this seems to be universally known, so we all simply respond as if everything is great.  If we could slow down and attempt to find solace within the body over time rather than in quick response we would not only begin to love each other more deeply, we would begin to love God more deeply.  Our spiritual habits would shift to a more "Real or Tangible" connection with others and in turn God.

  3. Perhaps the reason we feel compelled to say everything is fine within our Christian "community" is because we don’t have much depth to our relationships there.  Our relationships with people at church may be at about the same level as we have with that person behind the counter at the cleaner’s.  Sad, but in many cases, true.

  4. Jim
    This makes me think of several songs off the Casting Crown CD from several years back called Life Song.  Good lyrics.
    I think we fall into this because so much of Western Christianity is based on appearance. Good people are meant to be nice, think a certain way, vote a certain way, do family a certain way, feel the same about "the issues" etc.  It does not take long to learn the unspoken and spoken rules of church people.  It takes less time to hear the judgemental attitudes from those same people toward those who are different to them. One tends to "wise" up and learn how to cover the stuff that may incur some of that judgement. 
    We dress up for church.  We clean our homes before people come over.  We remind how kids how to act in front of people.  We spend endless effort in setting up our world so that few people see the real us.  And for many, that includes how they feel about God.  As if He doesn’t already know our hearts.
    I may have overstated this a little :-).  However, I think when we give up image management and allow ourselves to be who we are life is so much sweeter.
     

  5. Nancy,I like what you did with the guy at the cleaners.  He may have been scared but I would guess that you made him think.You are right about our church family.  If we can’t feel safe with them, then who can we feel safe with?(Good to hear from you!) 

  6. Daniel,I had not thought of what you said. A portion of this lack of mutual trust is further cultivated by our
    "Sound Bite" society.  We, as a culture, wish for clean, tidy
    interaction.
    I suspect you are right.  We do wish for clean, tidy interaction that will not be messy, too time consuming, and won’t require a great deal of energy.Thanks Daniel  

  7. Connie–So right.  Our relationships with fellow believers often have no more depth than what we have with the guy at the cleaners.  Hmmm. 

  8. Arlene,You have written a potent paragraph!I think we fall into this because so much of Western Christianity is
    based on appearance. Good people are meant to be nice, think a certain
    way, vote a certain way, do family a certain way, feel the same about
    "the issues" etc.  It does not take long to learn the unspoken and
    spoken rules of church people.  It takes less time to hear the
    judgemental attitudes from those same people toward those who are
    different to them. One tends to "wise" up and learn how to cover the
    stuff that may incur some of that judgement.  We dress up for church. 
    We clean our homes before people come over.  We remind how kids how to
    act in front of people.  We spend endless effort in setting up our
    world so that few people see the real us.  And for many, that includes
    how they feel about God.
    I need to reread this one.  I really don’t think you have overstated this.  Thanks. 

  9. One of the big things that holds me back is a desire to "protect" the "problems" in my life.Even though I live in a large city, I’ve had a supervisor, friends, and many, many family members attend my church.  Since so many struggles in our lives stem from those we are closest to, this has at times held me back when I’ve wanted to talk with members of my church family (though sometimes people pick up on things anyway…)Interesting you should mention this issue this week.  Just a few weeks ago a woman I’d never met before came up to me on her way into church, gave me a big hug, and told me her mother had died the week before.

  10. I think people say they are doing wonderful because they’ve never been taught how to grieve, be in sadness or disapointment and glorify God with their grief, sadness etc. Or havent been given permission to do so. By the way Jim, I am very much enjoying dipping in and out of your youtube videos, whata great resource!

  11. Hi Jim,
      Okay, so I’m not doing fine…my sister committed suicide in March a few hours after I spoke with her to make plans for the next week, and while I was in Seattle caring for another sister who had just had majour surgery and suspected ovarian cancer.
         While taking care of my (deceased) sister’s house, because she had named me as executor, I literally exploded a disc in my lower back and consequently spent two months in intense pain, then had back surgery and another two months worth of recovery and PT. 
          I really did lose my job and (Praise the Lord!) have found another, which pays less than half what I made before, because of that, the horses that my wife and I have waited our entire lives to own may have to be sold…I think my church family is just tired of hearing me whine!
    Iain
        

  12. The Walk–Thanks for your comment.  I appreciate your honesty.  You communicate well the reality that living in a community of believers has its challenges.  While many of us want to be more authentic in the way we relate to one another, your comment is a reminder that this can be difficult to live out.Thanks again.

  13. Liam,Thanks for your comment.  I especially like the following: I think people say they are doing wonderful because they’ve never been
    taught how to grieve, be in sadness or disapointment and glorify God
    with their grief, sadness etc.
    I don’t know that this has ever occurred to me regarding this issue.  Thanks so much. 

  14. Iain,Whew!  You have experienced some severe losses in the last few months.  I am deeply sorry to hear about your sister.  I can’t imagine… This must have been devestating.As I read through your note (I read your comment twice), I was struck by how loss seemed to be piled on to loss.I am glad that you expressed these losses in this comment.  I am honored that you would see this as a place where you could do that.I am sorry that you are sensing that your church is tired of hearing you talk about this.  I pray that you might experience more grace and patience from them right now.  After all, these are great losses in such a short time period.I’m glad you wrote.  I will pray for you today. 

  15. Using myself as the example, I think it’s because I’ve always been one who feels like I’m burdening others with my life if I simply give the "everything’s going fine" answer.  This is a great topic for discussion, though — I would be intrigued to see how a class on this topic could be developed at my own church!

  16. Jim, I think we carry the language baggage of a more genuine, lesiurely former generation into our hectic paced culture. The words are still there "How are you doing?" but the time and relationship to answer are not. So, we "soundbite" our lives for the sake of politeness and efficiency (Oh, I’m just fine). I agree with you that the church should be the place for honest questions and full answers to happen. Yet, the church often with its "Victory in Jesus" mentality fosters the charade.
    Great post and excellent question!

  17. Matt–This is a good topic for discussion.  Would be interesting to hear a church’s response to this.  Would also be interesting to hear the response of those who had one time attempted to be a part of certain congregations but eventually gave up trying.

  18. John–I really like the way you framed this.  I had not thought of this in quite this way.  We are asking a question which belonged to "… a more genuine, leisurely former generation into our hectic paced culture."  Consequently we reduce our answers and the conversation to manageable sound bites like, "Just fine."And you are right–The church with its "Victory in Jesus" mentality just fosters this. 

  19. Hi, I rarely respond to blogs but had to this time.  I’m a substance abuse counselor and have known at least 10 people (mostly my clients) who have died for drugs, violence or suicide.  One of my clients called to cancel an appointment on the day she committed suicide.  I was happy about it, becuase it meant I got too catch up on paperwork… I think about it a lot.  It still hurts some times.  My prayers are with Iain and all of you who have experienced pain and grief.  I truly believe the scripture that say we can comfort others with the same comfort we receive from God.  Through my pain and hurt, I’ve drawn closer to God and been more intimate than I ever thought possible.  Yet I do need to share it with other believers more.  I pray that you all will find comfort in your grief and continue to have to the willingness to be vulnerable and share it.
    God Bless,Paul
     

  20. Paul,Thanks very much for commenting in response to Iain’s comment.  Through your own experiences and the pain that followed, you can obviously connect with what Iain expressed.  Thanks again Paul and I hope you will comment again.