Sometimes I think we all try to look too good. We put on our happy faces. We say, "I'm fine" when someone asks how we're doing, and we try to keep our shameful dark wriggly things pushed down deep inside.
We act as if we aren't broken, when, in fact, each and every one of us is.
Not that I think we should go around parading our faults and goof-ups. But still, don't you long for a truly honest conversation once in a while?
Yesterday I caught up on a friend's blog. She and her husband adopted a third child this year, a Chinese son with medical issues including a cleft palate. (Her first two children are their biological children.) Her youngest son comes with a lot of baggage and a lot of unknowns. In a recent blog post, she talked about some of her worries around his development--will he ever talk? Will he ever bond after living mostly untended in a crib for his first 18 months? Will he ever catch up developmentally?
Even though many adopted children are able to overcome astounding deficits once they are part of a loving family, there are no guarantees. Who can blame this mother, who is, by the way, a woman of strong and abiding faith, for wondering and worrying about her son's future?
What really stood out for me in her post was this:
"These are just thoughts I have sometimes, thoughts I wouldn’t dare put on our family adoption blog because they are much too personal. I don’t want to scare potential adoptive families away from this amazing experience."
Wait a minute. She can't share perfectly normal mama-worries because it might scare someone off from also being an adoptive mother? She has to look perfect so that the next mother to adopt a challenged (and challenging) child will be able to rest assured that with enough love, faith, and hard work, we can overcome all?
Because we can't. We can love with every fiber of our being, we can faithfully keep all the rules, and we can work until we are exhausted, and there is absolutely no guarantee that everything will come out right. Let's be honest here: we can't fix everything. We are all broken people living in a flawed world.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not all doom-and-gloom. In fact, I'm an intrinsically optimistic person. But I think we do ourselves and our fellow travelers on the Good Spaceship Earth a profound disservice when we try to pretend that everything is always "just fine" in our world. Or if we do admit to having problems, we act like it's only temporary because of course we're well on our way to getting things fixed.
People, we are not the fixers. Oh, we can try, and we do, and sometimes we get things right. But there are other times when we unintentionally offend, or do harm where we meant to do good. There are relationships that are irreparably broken, people with illness or disability that aren't going to go away in this lifetime, and seriously, we need to honestly admit this and then hold hands and stick together, and help each other along on this E-Ticket ride we call mortality.
God keeps his promises. He didn't promise any of us that we would have a perfect life, but he did promise us that we could have eternal life. He allowed his perfect son, our cool oldest brother Jesus Christ, to come to earth and work out the Atonement so that we can be healed and forgiven. I believe this. I believe that I'm broken and flawed, and I believe that Christ will make up the difference in the things I can't fix. It won't happen tomorrow and it may take more than a million tomorrows, but He promised, and I'm on board.
But in the meantime, can we please grant one another the space to falter? Can we admit it to others when we're the one stumbling? Can we be honest with our fears and our doubts?
I think that my friend may do more good for potential adoptive parents if she is real with them about the doubts and fears she wrestles with right now. Rather than scare someone off, I suspect that as she validates what is real and hard, other people will catch her courage and dig deep to find that kind of pluck within themselves.
I work closely with the young women--the girls ages 12-18--at my church. In my Mormon world, it's part of the culture to be upbeat about the gospel, to make it look like we all live in ongoing joy and felicity because, after all, we have the true gospel. It's easy to assume that if we are living the gospel right, our lives will go right. Right? Mormons are really good at acting like everything is just fine.
Well, my young Mormon gal-pals have recently set some ambitious goals around missionary work. They aim to reactivate a number of their peers who have stopped coming to church, and to convert a few more non-Mormons in addition to that. Those are great goals. Of course we're supposed to be actively sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's what he said to do in the Bible, and it's what he tells us to do through modern prophets.
But when we only present a cheery Molly-Mormon face to others, I think we're missing an important part of what the gospel really has to offer. Because every person out there knows deep inside that she is broken. And what we really need is not so much the promise of instant bliss when we become Mormons--because sorry, I have to be honest and tell you that there isn't any instant bliss no matter how good we all might look on Sunday--but what we really need is the promise that there are others out there who understand what it means to be broken, people who are real and kind, people who can help us when we're struggling to live up to the promises we make to God when we commit to being one of his disciples.
What we really need isn't another perfect pretty face. What we need is Christ's Atonement, with all its messy demands on us here in mortality.
Because we're broken, remember? And that's ok. We shouted for joy about it.