I was on the road a lot this past week. I took the kids (on my own) to Michigan to visit my sister and her husband. We had a wonderful time together celebrating the upcoming birth of their first child.
So I’m on the road. I’m in the car. Radio is on. And for some reason when I hit Ohio, there were so many Christian radio stations. Felt like every other station was preaching their hearts out. And while I would much rather listen to NPR, I had to change the station several times to shelter my kids from some horrible news item that I just didn’t want them to be worried about. And when I forgot they were there, Abbey would remind me…
“Mom, I don’t think this is appropriate for us.”
Ahem. “Oh right Abs, I knew that. I was kinda hoping you were too engrossed in your book to be listening.”
Back to the Christian stations.
So, the preaching. It killed me. Yes, the Christian radio stations were making me crazy. Wanted to scream. Then cry. Then pour my heart out to anyone who would listen.
Because when I heard the preaching, all I felt was shame. I felt my shame. I felt the shame of so many people I loved that were attempting to come to grips with how God could ever truly love them. I felt the shame of that person somewhere else who was hearing this good news for the first time. Wondering, “How could God ever love me?”
On and on the preaching went…
The problem with people these days is that they don’t understand how unworthy they are!
The problem with Christians these days is that they don’t realize how sinful they are!
Bad sinner. Bad sinner. Bad, bad, bad.
I’m pretty sure the sinner knows they aren’t perfect. I’m pretty sure folks are aware that they have shortcomings. I’m pretty sure they don’t need someone reminding them of how they haven’t lived up to all they could be.
The shame factor seemed to be the way to people’s hearts and if they didn’t already know what a hot mess they were, well, they knew now!
I’m going to tell you something.
I’m going to tell you this even though I’d rather never think of this moment in my life again. EVER. Here it goes….
About 20 years ago I was home visiting my parents, on a weekend or break from college. I can’t remember what was happening in my life then. I do know I was dealing with that same annoying demon of depression. So one night, after everyone went to bed, I hit the fridge. I drank a lot of beer. And then, in an effort to hide it from my parents, I hid the many cans at the bottom of the trash. (Worst hiding place ever!- oh Lisa) The next morning when I came down stairs and walked into the kitchen, I saw those beer cans all neatly washed and lined up on the counter. Now, ready to be recycled. UGH.
I was SO busted. I was so embarrassed. I was so ashamed to see them there. To know I had been found out. I was terrified of facing my parents.
I remember sitting on the couch, as my mom came into the living room to talk to me. And what she said next was a life changer. It was not a lecture. It was not words of anger. It was not words of shame. She just said to me, “Lisa, I only want to know why you are hurting so bad.” And that was it.
You see, it isn’t shame that changes hearts, it’s deep understanding and love. For at that moment I felt more loved than I ever remembered. A person who knew me, knew a lot about me and still loved me. This set the stage for me to look at myself and do the work. This is the love that gives me the strength I need to face myself and my life. This is the way to the heart. To growth.
I hate to think about those moments in my life when I covered up the pain with things that would numb me. And this isn’t a post to debate alcohol. I grew up in a family that drank in moderation and I have never had a problem with that. This is a post calling us to look deeply into each other and give love. This is a post that says those preachers who use shame to bring Jesus good news, well it’s not working. And for many folks that I know- it’s only putting nails in the coffin that contains what was once their faith.
Brene Brown says it so well,
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Our light. God’s light. That light we often cannot even see or even hope is there. But I believe this. Even in the darkness, love is there. And that love – not shame- is what leads us towards Christ when we can’t see. It leads us when we are hurting. It gives us hope that healing and redemption isn’t just for someone else. It is meant for everyone of us.
And that, that’s the good news I have to share today. God is calling you and loves you (YES, YOU!). Deeply.
From Psalms for Praying by Nan Merrill-
Psalm 60 (last few verses)
Let your mind be guided by truth, your heart informed by Mercy; then you will know peace and joy.
Who will come to the heart of Love? Who will open their hearts and know the Beloved? Who dares to face their fears, to break down the prison walls, to walk with Love?
O grant us help to answer the call, strengthen us with pure resolve! With the Beloved we shall triumph; with Love we shall be set free.