Broken and hurting, she sat week after week. At greeting time, she turned and shook hands, smiling weakly. What else could she do? Stand there pouring out her pain, confessing her struggles, laying her soul bare? “I’m Karen,” she managed. “Welcome to our church.”
After the casual greeting, came the tears. They welled up hot and stinging in her eyes. She blinked them away quickly. No one knew. “No one would know”, she thought. Her eyes dried and anger replaced the sadness.
This place was touted to be a solace. Here, people were supposed to find unconditional love- no matter what they were going through. But the shallowness of most, drove her mad. Karen clung to her faith like a thread but frayed and thinning. It was the only thing that kept her from the self-destructive thoughts that forcibly pervaded her mind lately. Who could she turn to? All she did was pretend to be happy outwardly, while inwardly she felt afraid and broken.
Karen really exists. She is the lovely wife to a hard-working husband, a sweet mother to her children and a woman who wants more than anything to follow after God. Yet at the moment, her world is crashing down. Her marriage has morphed into a scene of disillusionment and violated expectations. Even though she loves her children passionately, they are not turning out the way she’d hoped and her energy is sapped by the demands of a toddler who never, ever quits. Add to that the stress of financial woes and economic bleakness and it seems without hope.
There are so many “Karens”, sadly, sitting next to us or a couple rows over at church. I know. I was her once; terrified to be transparent for fear that I might find wagging fingers in my face or “How to be a better wife, mother, Christian” books unhelpfully shoved at me. I felt hollow inside; guilty for not having it all together, shameful for not being able to pull out of my slump, deceptive for not allowing anyone to see the real me.
This should not be happening in our churches. The very love and grace poured out to us through Jesus, is being withheld from those who most desperately need it. There should not be hurting people hiding behind a façade, afraid of the malicious words from someone who refuses to love in every season- good or bad or downright ugly.
We must choose to be the hands and feet of Christ, reaching out with the balm of healing in our hands, the soothing words of grace and peace on our tongues and the loving actions that do good to those who need it- always.