In a region full of Amish and Mennonite homes, clothes hanging on the line is a common sight, even in winter. What isn't so common is openness, and I don't mean that people here aren't friendly. The opposite is true, in fact. We've made many wonderful friends here. But I'm told, and we've been able to observe it as well, that Pennsylvania Dutch culture is quite closed. People aren't terribly willing to tell you their struggles, their secrets or even to share much about their relationship with God. Come to think of it, I can be that way, too, especially with people I don't know well or haven't known long.
What I find funny is that we can't hide our laundry from the neighbors when we're hanging it on the line. I try to surround our underwear with rows of T-shirts and pants, but really, it's right there for everyone to see. I sometimes chuckle to myself when I see a clothesline that is highly visible to the street and has underwear hanging on it. It's kind of silly, right? I mean, we all know that most people wear underwear, so therefore, at least one load of laundry each week will contain some "delicate" articles. I think it's just slightly embarrassing to think about them being on display because for most people, underwear is not usually seen.
I think the same is true for our struggles, feelings and even, sometimes, our triumphs. We all know we have them, but because we don't often see them, maybe we're sometimes shocked when they're suddenly disclosed or we come upon someone who isn't afraid to share them with people. Maybe we'd be more comfortable with people's personal lives if we saw them more often.
My husband and I aren't terribly private people. I think he's drawn me out of that a little bit, although as a writer, it sort of comes with the calling. We're not afraid to tell you that we struggle or answer the "how are you?" question truthfully if we think you really want to know. In the last year I've taken some risks in letting people see some of our struggles and the emotions I wrestle with. It's scary to be that vulnerable, but I've found in it a great reward, too: friendships -- new and deepening. And some of the same struggles I'm going through.
While I don't intend to blab my problems to every person I meet, I am hoping to be more honest and transparent with those in my circles of influence. I believe God puts us through situations and circumstances, difficult ones, especially, not just to strengthen our own faith but to help others with whom we're in contact. The words of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 come to mind: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (NASB version)
May you be encouraged to open up about your struggles with people, and may you never look at underwear hanging on a clothesline the same way again!