The rasp of velcro being pulled apart announced the reappearance of "the Boot", as it is known at our house. Ten days ago I had to strap an air cast on my leg again, after a painful ankle sprain. This is a fairly regular event for me, due either to weak ankles or my tendency to move too fast.
I am thankful for my boot. Without it, I would have been laid up for several days. And yet, it comes with a down side. My small injury is now visible wherever I go. I am forced to tell the story of my clumsiness multiple times, as people kindly ask what happened to me. Even in this insignificant way, I dislike standing out in a crowd and feeling conspicuous.
Have you ever felt that your weaknesses were on display for all the world to see? It could be the dent on your car that advertises your recent accident. Or your screaming toddler, who you believe is putting your parenting inadequacies in plain view. These times of feeling unmasked put us in a vulnerable place.
We all prefer to hide the places where we at less than our best. Most of us remember at least one occasion during our school years when we avoided eye contact with a teacher, so that we wouldn't be called on to answer a question or read aloud in front of the class. I can still recall heading for the outfield in gym class, hoping my lack of softball skills would avoid notice if the ball never made it out that far.
This tendency to hide applies to our hurts as well as our weaknesses. Our repertoire of stories doesn't usually include that time we felt abandoned or betrayed by a friend. Or when we felt the sting of rebuke from a respected authority figure. And definitely not the relationship that is currently floundering.
We try to conceal these fragile places from a sense of shame. We believe that in these frailties, we are different from everyone else. The lie we believe is that our shortcomings separate us from others, that if people knew they would reject us.
In truth, those very things are the common denominator of our humanity, which allow our hearts to be joined together. As long as our strength feels equal to the weight of the load we carry, we are tempted to carry it on our own. It takes a weakness or failure of some type to cause us to admit our need for others. And that very experience will allow us to then reassure another weary soul that we've been there too, that we understand.
My deepest friendships are with those who know my fears, my failings, and the battles I am currently fighting - and have bravely allowed me to know theirs. I'm pretty sure the same is true for you. When we refuse to cover up the ways we are limping, we gain the privilege of helping carry each other's burdens.
I'm ready to retire the Boot to the closet once more, but sometimes I wonder if I should display it in my family room as a reminder that we are all walking wounded in some way. We can turn that truth to our advantage.
Rather than deny our bumps and bruises for fear of rejection, we can allow them to be places of connection. We can start today by admitting to one trustworthy person that hurt we've been trying to hide.