Every time someone asked me about my father, I got a stabbing feeling in my gut. Like it was my fault I didn’t know him. So many times I would make up stories.
“He was killed in the war; he was a hero!”
“He was killed in a car crash.”
“My mom and dad are divorced.”
That last one, the divorce one, in the 70s, was about as bad as not knowing him. But, it was so much easier than saying “I don’t have one.” Of course, I have one right? Even 4-year-olds know that! But I just couldn’t face explaining to people I didn’t know him. I learned to hide who I was in as many ways as possible.
The first was lying. Each of those statements above was a lie. But they diverted the real issue, and it worked. So I learned, lying works. It takes the attention off the negative. It ends the conversation. Until it doesn’t. Until the truth comes out and you’re in a deeper hole than when you started. I would lie that I didn’t take any cookies from the cookie drawer. This lie would lead to many years of dysfunctional eating. I would lie that I was spending the night at my girlfriend’s house when instead we would be out partying all night.
Then as I aged and matured, I would lie at church and in my groups that my marriage was great. We did all the things right. We had date nights, devotions, regular sex, deep conversations. The reality? For a while, we had none of that.
Those things weren’t happening because of the lie I would tell myself. The lie I would tell my husband. The lie I would tell my best friends.
Oh, sister, how many of us live in that lie? We say it enough until we believe our situation is fine. When our reality is anything but. We believe the lie.
When I realized it was too hard to keep lying, I secluded myself. If I hung out in my house, just me and the tv, no one could know. How often do we drive home every day, park in our garage and close the door? Close ourselves in. Away from the world.
As an extravert, that only worked for so long. Yet, I found ways to stay secluded, even out in the world. I would busy myself with the kid’s school. I would walk around a shopping center or the mall. Anywhere I could hang out with people yet not be asked questions. I was the loneliest I had ever been amid a sea of people.
But, you introverts, can hole up for days. Even though you too need some human interaction, there are words that keep you hidden.
“I’d rather not talk about that. I’m a very private person.”
Interpreted – “I will not let you into my pain. I will deal with it myself so you will think I’m ok.”
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve hid from God. This is the first account of trying to hide from Him.
8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Why were they hiding? They had done the one thing He asked them not to do! They were ashamed. They thought if He couldn’t see them, couldn’t see their nakedness, He would not know.
We speak so many words over children that can bring on a lifetime of shame.
“Putting on a little weight aren’t you?”
“How can you be so stupid?”
I heard so many of these things. I would wear oversized boy clothes to hide the little pudge I was developing at age 11. Then I would sneak an extra Twinkie at night because it made me feel better. I would make up stories that would make me sound smarter. Steal clothes that we couldn’t afford so I would look more normal. All the while developing ulcers because I was so ashamed, knowing I was wrong.
The worst feeling was making up stories about my mom. Stories that made her look like a strong, caring mother. Stories that would show the world I didn’t need a father. We were better because we didn’t have one. Didn’t need one. The truth? I was so ashamed of not having one, I couldn’t bear anyone knowing it.
All of this led to the biggest way I found to hide…
I read something in a book the other day that rang so true for me. I don’t remember it exactly, so I’ll paraphrase. It said something about wanting to be the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. Man, that was my childhood. I was an only child, but I had a slew of cousins around a lot. I loved most of them like siblings since I didn’t have any. Yet I always felt like an outsider. I learned the best way to get the attention I so desired was to perform.
If I performed well, nobody saw the pain inside me. Everything looked so good and accomplished on the outside. Except for my hair… it never looked good!
One cousin always called me spoiled. He talked about all the games and toys I had. What he didn’t understand was I received those things when I performed well. So it fueled the wrong thinking –
The only way someone will love me is to put on a smile and perform well.
If I didn’t do those things, they chastised me. “Stop crying.” “Stop whining.” “Try harder.” So I hid behind the things I did well. If I couldn’t do something well, I quit. And that is the attitude I carried into my adult life of marriage and children.
Until next time, ponder what this means,
“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:5