There is this rack right by the pharmacy counter that I’ve been sneaking glances at for months. Convincing myself that I am too busy to stop – and that mothers of 5-year-olds don’t wear such things – I denied the possibility that I might need reader glasses. Finally, I could not ignore that I was holding phones, menus, and all sorts of paper further and further away from me so that I could read them. So on a solo shopping trip I took a few minutes and confirm that I only needed the lowest magnification.
Playing the role of the optometrist, I spent the next five minutes checking which magnification was clearer; one or two, two or three, etc. I finally settled on a pair that worked the best. 2.0. Not the lowest. Not the highest. But there was no mistaking the 2.0. My eyes were not getting a reboot. I could no longer deny that I need bifocals.
I like denial. I think a little denial never hurts. The extra five pounds when I got on the scale (water weight). The extra ten minutes in the morning to squeeze in just a little more sleep (and skip my prayer time). Catching five minutes of a movie that I can never tell anyone I watched because the subject matter is offensive. No harm, right?
Denial can be used to cope, but it can also cause a great deal of harm. When five pounds becomes fifty pounds and the complication of high blood pressure, denial is harmful. Denying that my actions hurt a relationship, or that I have a problem with alcohol when it is clear to everyone around me; that’s the kind of denial that hurts you and everyone around you.
There is a story of a king who did something he was not supposed to do: he seduced another man’s wife. His attempts to cover it up didn’t work so he escalated his efforts and orchestrated the death of her husband so that he could marry her himself.
Then enters an inspired teacher. Although we are not sure, he may have known about the murder because he didn’t walk up to the king and say, “I know what you did.” Up until this point, the king denied all wrongdoing. The teacher instead told him a story about a man whose neighbor stole everything from him. The king was outraged. The teacher replied,”you are the thief.” Confronted with his string of devastating choices, the king crumpled. The baby that was the product of his seduction died shortly after childbirth.
How do we overcome denial? Confession and grace. When denial is no longer a coping-mechanism but an avoidance-mechanism, it is time for me to confess that I’m hurting myself and probably hurting others. The king also confessed. He asked God to “create in my a clean heart … filled with clean thoughts and right desires” (Psalm 51:10). How wonderful it is when I confess to Jesus and to others those things that I had been denying were happening.
The king also knew that “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore” (Psalm 51:17). There is grace that covers a multitude of denials, over and over again.
Perhaps you believe that by denying your hurt, that everything will turn out okay. Perhaps you have been in denial for so long that the hurt it covers feels comfortable and safe. I’ve been there. Sister, I pray that you will have the courage to talk to Jesus. Be honest. He’s heard it all. Stop denying your pain and let His grace begin to heal your heart.