One day a truth that has been hidden from you for whatever reason, will be exposed. It’ll come to you either because you seek it out, or because its time has come. It could be expected, or not. When it comes with its brutish force, knocking the wind out of the life you’ve known up until that moment, you may believe that you are not prepared to receive it, as ugly as it may be – but you are more prepared than you can even imagine.
One such truth came to me a December night years ago. In a tiny, remote farmhouse tucked away in a tropical rainforest I was invited to a conversation at a small dining table. Trembling, I sat down, knowing before even a single word was said, that what was coming next was a truth I wanted desperately to know, but dreaded hearing.
The truth was worse than I could have ever imagined. My world as I knew it was shattered into irretrievable pieces. The shock was so intense that I had no frame of reference for how to deal with the weight of what was told to me. I had been led into waters I didn’t even know existed.
In the immediate moments and hours after stepping away from my life as I thought it to be, into my real life as others knew it really was, I made a series of choices that came from that blindsided space. A fog entered my brain and it blanketed everything about that night – and has remained in the memories that stayed with me.
Certain images stick out whenever I venture back to that horror. I remember the date, the hand reaching out to me and leading me to the dining table, the ‘stupid’ questions I asked as my brain couldn’t comprehend what was being laid out before it, the embrace after; and then going out as planned to a social event as if none of that had happened. The drive there and back is all a blur – but I do recall someone singing a song, “If these walls could talk“, which made me think about the walls of that farmhouse, and what they had just heard.
For many years I lived with regret that I didn’t do more that night. Why did I submit to an embrace? A social outing? I’ve second-guessed myself all these years for my handling of that pain.
One of the choices I made was to tell no-one. I was ashamed of the truth and believed that prayer would fix it, and fix me. I wanted to protect the truth-teller, and believed that as a Christian, my part in it was to forgive, and to show grace and mercy.
Holding this truth inside became devastating to my health. Heart palpitations, depression, and insomnia became a part of my life. It took me four months to finally work up the courage to share with someone else what I had been told. That was the beginning of my still-ongoing healing process.
Having been there myself, I understand what it’s like to not know what to do with truths that blindside us. I am intimately familiar with that period where brain fog clouds thoughts and actions, and where one feels the need to protect someone or something; but also from personal experience I know that true healing begins when we stop pretending that we don’t now know the real truth.
Sometimes what we really need is to hear that messy, ugly truth. I wouldn’t call it a ‘gift’, because gifts are supposed to bring joy and pleasure; it is more like a course corrector, or a huge signpost pointing us in a direction we never imagined we would ever go in.
These truths change your life and your trajectory, and begin a process of inner change for you. Life may look the same on the outside, but being exposed to these messy truths is a turning point in your life, and you know it. There was the life you lived before you knew the truth, and then there is life after. They are two different lives.
The truth you heard is a kind of death – death to the way life was before, to your innocence and naivete; but it is also a birth – into the person you’ll become because of it, and the new direction life will take you as you face the truth in all of its ugliness.
If you are not the kind of person who would choose to live as if this truth isn’t something you now know, I hope these tips I’ve learned through my own experiences will prove helpful to you.
(1) As much as you’d like to change the truth and the past, you can’t. By the time the truth has reached you, it has played itself out and consequences are probably imminent. Acceptance becomes your goal.
(2) Depending on what the truth is, the answer to your question, “What do I do now?”, may be to do nothing rash. If it’s possible, and safe for you to do so, make no rash decisions. Give honor to the life-changing value of the truth by giving yourself time to go through all the feels – the sadness and the inevitable questions you will have.
(3) Talk to someone you trust with this life-changer sooner rather than later. At this time you’re not looking for advice, but you’re looking to document that this happened, and to give the weight of the matter an outlet. Also, it helps to name it.
(4) Identify your thoughts and feelings and deal with them individually and specifically. Cry as you need to cry. Be angry if you’re angry.
(5) Pray. Sit with Jesus and tell Him what you’re feeling and thinking. Journal. Be quiet. Listen.
(6) Take deep breaths regularly.
(7) Drop commitments and tasks that are too draining. Look to do things that are life-giving to you and bring you joy and peace.
From my own experience I can tell you it is possible that at some point in the future you might gain a level of gratitude for the person this truth will allow you to become, the lessons you will learn from it, and the direction it will drive you into. I am grateful for the way the truth told to me in that farmhouse stretched me, caused me to hold on to Jesus for my very life, and gave me different eyes through which to see people.
May God grant us a heart of forgiveness and justice while we navigate life’s ugly, messy truths as we recognize that sometimes we, too, are the bearers of those messy truths that change other people’s lives.
© Debbie Mendoza, June 2022