Blog, Caring for our Bodies, Living in the Abundance of Christ, My Health Journey

Covering the Hole in Our Soul

I looked down at my bright red nails and they cheered me up. My nails are long again. I haven’t been biting them, they haven’t been breaking. Although I usually wear nail wraps, this time I painted them. I thought, as I looked at them, how funny it is that something so simple as painted nails, could cheer me up.

I recently came across an article where a woman shared about her journey with life-long illness. Through fashion, she was able to have some amount of joy and dignity in her life. Even while she was ill, putting effort into her appearance helped her; made it more bearable. I can identify with much of what she said.

This current season of my life has been difficult. It has challenged, disappointed, confused, and confounded me. Now, as some things wind down, and new things start-up, I’ve noticed more symptoms returning, at a more frequent pace. These last few weeks I have struggled more than usual with joint pain, achiness and muscle tension, frequent headaches, palpitations, brain fog, inability to focus, digestive issues, and so on. I’ve noticed my energy level going down and my emotions going up. I don’t always feel rested even if I’ve had plenty of rest.

So, I understand using fashion, clothing and make-up, as a means of coping. I do it myself and enjoy it. If I look pulled together, I am more likely to feel pulled together. Even if I’m not having a great day health wise, looking nice helps. It just does. And when I’m spending a lot of time resting, I have ample time to find out what works for me, and what doesn’t, new hairstyles to try, make-up tricks, and products I “must have.”

But, as I came to the end of her article, I felt sad for her. I was hoping there would be something more to it. More than just  coping with illness by using fashion, but it seems that’s all she had.  Her hope was in her attempts to make her outward appearance more attractive. And while I understand the benefit of this, it seems empty and hopeless. Like somehow, putting on a smile with bright red lipstick, makes a real or permanent difference. Like it can soothe your soul.

It’s a shallow cheer. You glance at your nails and smile. You look in the mirror with your bright red lipstick and smile, but often behind that smile is physical pain and discomfort. It’s sometimes worse to look nice on the outside, while feeling wretched on the inside, because people don’t see the hidden illness that you’re dealing with.

Isn’t that each of us though? We all deal with hidden things. Brokenness that no one sees: illness, difficult relationships, wayward children, financial hardships, loss. We put on a smile, a sarcastic comment, a joke, new clothes, an attitude, in hopes that, although we don’t have it all together, we will, at least, appear to. We try to give a perception of wholeness, when it doesn’t exist. We want people to perceive that we’ve got it all together, we’re doing great, and we have this wonderful life because of all our hard work. But perception is usually far from reality, even if that’s the only side we’ll let others see.

No one has a trouble-free life.

…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45

Everyone has struggles, weaknesses, and areas of brokenness. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  And because someone is good at covering them up, even to themselves, doesn’t make them go away.

We can’t fill gaping holes in our soul with things: clothing, cars, homes.

We can’t fill gaping holes in our soul with relationships: spouses, children, friends.

We can’t fill gaping holes in our soul with perception: status, respect, reputation.

All the world has to offer are things that will not last, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up things that will not be destroyed, in heaven. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21). Do not love the world, or any “treasure” it has to offer, even if the offer seems, for a moment, pleasurable, it will not last.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

It’s often, for us humans, about perception, but God knows the truth. He knows all of it. Every hidden thing. Every thought. Every glance. Every thing. And we can’t fool an omniscient God, no matter how good at fooling ourselves, or others, we might be. But this same omniscient God, that knows the pain that the bright red lipstick covers, sent his son to fill up the hole in our soul. He’s the only one who can fill it up. And he does. And he can. And he will for all those that belong to him.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25-30

Bright red nails and lipstick, or any other temporary thing, might bring a moment of cheer, but they are not able to fill what only Christ can, and we are fools to believe that it will.

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