This is part two of a series about Luanna, our hospice patient, and her husband, Henry. In part one, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” we saw how the false belief that we need to be strong can foster unrealistic expectations, guilt and shame; how pretention only alienates us from one another. That’s why, “The honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah…sometimes,” (“Better than a Hallelujah”, Amy Grant).
This week I’m writing about Luanna’s husband, Henry. Henry is a slender, soft-spoken unassuming elderly gentleman with silver grey hair combed straight back. Henry typically dresses casually, usually in a T-shirt and blue jeans. During one of my visits their adult daughter, Janet, shared,” Last year we bought dad a new black suit, a string tie, new cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. He really looks sharp when he dresses up.” I suggested to Henry, “I bet you look like a Texas senator when you get all dressed up.” Henry replied, “I don’t want to look like anything I’m not supposed to look like.”
But aren’t the majority of us desperately trying to look like something we’re not supposed to look like? William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…,” (“As You Like It”). Francesca Battistelli, Christian music artist, wrote: “I take my time to set the stage, make sure everything is all in place. Even though I have the lines rehearsed, a picture only paints a thousand words. Things aren’t always what they seem, you’re only seeing part of me…I’m incomplete and I’m undone, but I suppose like everyone, there’s so much more that’s going on behind the scenes,” (YouTube, “Behind the Scenes'')
Paul Tournier, Swiss physician, wrote, “The fear of being misunderstood or being criticized, judged, even despised, keeps us back from certain confessions and confidences. Therefore we all are playing a cautious game,” (“The Meaning of Persons”). In my work as a hospice social worker, I’ve compared each new patient and family to a 500-piece puzzle. When you first encounter someone they only let you see a few safe pieces; and they only turn over more pieces when they feel they can trust you not to judge, criticize, reject or lecture them. But no one ever turns over all the pieces and neither do we.
I believe we play “a cautious game” with good reason. After all, the world isn’t always an understanding, forgiving, merciful, gracious place. Jesus warned his disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves,” (Matthew 7:15); and, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before the swine, least they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces,” (Matthew 7:6); “…therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” (Matthew 10:16). And John wrote of Jesus, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them…for He knew what was in man,” (John 2:24-25).
I believe that the hearts, souls and minds of every person are holy ground; that everyone should count with us but none too much. Regardless of how well meaning and determined we may be, at our best, we are still just “fallible images of God,” (Stanton L. Jones). So, in this world, we have to play “a cautious game” don’t we?
The Good News is that we don’t have to “play a cautious game” with God. We don’t have to try to look like anything we’re not supposed to look like. He invites us to step out from behind our defenses and pretenses, and stand naked before Him. He alone is worthy and able to love us just the way we are for He shed his blood to wash away our sins, not to hold them against us.
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).