"Christians are the worst," my friend said.
And I, schlepping my groceries home with the cell phone stuck under my chin, had to agree.
You know why we're the worst?
Because all the grace, all the freedom, all the living, redeeming, exponentially multiplying Love of the entire universe, is completely ours.
Because we were lost and alone and completely without hope--and then when we find others in that same sorry state, we sling shame, all dressed up in a frilly Sunday school dress:
- Choose joy!
- Take every thought captive!
- If you're not happy, it's cuz you're just not grateful enough.
We say it so pretty, dressed up in swirly fonts and pink flowers, but what we really mean is this:
- Shame, shame, shame on you for noticing the world is not perfect.
- Shame on you for being caught with sick brain chemistry or neglectful parents or a baby who's cried all night every night since her birth 9 months back.
- This is all your fault. You'd be happy if you'd just be happy.
- What is WRONG with you, anyway?
We sling shame at others NOT because we are better and have the right answers, but only, only, only, because we have shame in our hearts.
Shame has been the human condition, ever since our first parents ate the fruit and dove for the fig leaves. We run and hide and blame. We cover up and hope nobody will notice.
Control and shame, shame and control.
(It's a bonus if we can get others to be so ashamed that they'll never think to look at what we've got to be ashamed of.)
When we live in shame ourselves, we will inevitably turn that shame toward others.
When someone is depressed or anxious, we tell them to just feel better, try harder, be perfect-er. Pray harder. Believe more.
We know better, but we turn into Job's infamous comforters anyway: "It must be your fault. Figure it out."
Which is a lot like telling somebody suffering from appendicitis to not have a stomach ache any more. Like Dr. Phil says, "And how's that workin for ya?"
Under the shame, the shame we toss onto others, is the beast called Fear.
Fear that we are too broken, too messed up, too crazy for love.
Fear that if we stop dancing, the pain will catch up, and then. And then.
I guess that one of the greatest gifts of my life was falling off the perfect wagon, so that I was too broken to pretend, too messed up to dance.
All I could do was fall, and I fell into the miracle called Love.
When I could not, Love could, and Love did.
And Love belongs, in that same way, to all of us who are afraid and ashamed and alone.
Love is always seeing us and loving us, just as we are, and determined not to leave us there.
The Great Heart says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love. See, your name is written in the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:16)
This is what we have received, thanks be to God.
And instead of the counterfeit comfort of shame and control, this is what we have to give.
This: Love, rich, pure, measureless, strong.
There is no fear in this Love.
Just grace, and grace alone.