Just before he died, Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nail's powerful song, Hurt. [youtube=]

Every time I watch this, I'm struck again by all the ways we hurt ourselves.

And sometimes I think Christians have it the worst, because in many circles, there's a fair amount of pressure to look better than we really are.

Maybe we feel like we have to protect God from the ugly.  Or other Christians can't take the truth about how bad we really feel.  Or maybe it's the need to "be a good witness."

Whatever the reason, we plaster on the spiritual band-aids and suck it up.

Have faith.  Be strong.  Trust God.  Lead a Bible study.  Pray more.  Better.  Longer.  Deeper.  Higher.  Wider.

There's nothing really wrong with any of those things.  Except they can be so terribly dishonest.

A stiff upper lip may keep us looking good on the outside.

But inside?

We are left with the pain, the loss, the grief, the injustice.

Unspoken, unheard, ignored, dishonored.

Eventually there is a Grand Canyon between what we look like on the outside and how we feel, deep down inside.

And this is where, I think, "I hurt myself today" starts to happen.

Whether it's cutting or substance abuse or food addiction or sexual stupidity.  Or performance or perfectionism or perkiness or helping others until we're half dead.

We throw one thing after another into that dark chasm, and it's never enough.

We hurt ourselves today, on the outside.  To avoid what is inside.

And tomorrow we'll have to hurt ourselves more.

Unless and until we're finally willing to go into the pain, into the loss, into the grief.

And that is likely to be a scary, disruptive, and lengthy process, mostly beyond our control.  Like they always say about therapy:  "real expensive, no guarantees."

But here is where Christians have it the best.  And I have to quote Brennan Manning in Abba's Child:

"The apparent frustrations of circumstances, seen or unforeseen, of illness, of misunderstandings, even of our own sins, do not thwart the final fulfillment of our lives hidden with Christ in God."

I think God always leaves us with the choice.  Are we going to keep hurting ourselves today, for the momentary relief?  Or will we take a deep breath and a leap of faith into the truth that sets us free?

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