Shame and Isolation
Isolation pulled her friend aside after the Church service. They sat down near the back of the meeting area. She nervously began with a little small talk. She had been quietly caring her pain for so long but today she was compelled to share her burden. Her friend could tell there was a deeper issue but graciously smiled and listened. At that moment, Shame walked up.
Shame had been a part of the church community for years but still felt uncomfortable in such large groups. Each week she came a little late and would slip out the side door after service. Her greatest joy in church was the routine check for new self-help books in the lending library. Up until this point, this week was no different.
She turned the corner as she thought about the book she had once lost. Her eyes fixed on Isolation and her friend who had just sat down near the bookshelf. She confidently walked up, thinking she would be unnoticed. When Isolation looked up and gave a quick hello, she was courteous and said sorry for interrupting.
Shame picked up a book and flipped it over to read the summary. She couldn’t help but notice the girls behind her seemed bothered by her presence. Those seconds that passed seemed like a lifetime. The atmosphere felt heavy. Despite the chatter in the background, there seemed to be an awkward silence. What had she walked into? Shame’s mind raced thinking about all the things she might have said wrong the week before.
Then Isolation took a deep breath. Her disappointment was mixed with relief as she adjusted to the new direction the conversation was going to take. Maybe the interruption was God’s way of telling her it was not the right time to share. She put on her best happy face and turned her focus, “Shame” she paused and waited for her to look up, “how have you been?”
Pride and Insecurity
Shame instantly felt attacked. Without thinking she started defending herself. Afterall, she couldn’t think of why they would be acting this way. They didn’t have a right to make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable like this. Emotions were spinning.
Isolation’s shock turned to rage and quickly fell back to brokenness. She didn’t mean to sigh so loudly or put so much emphasis on Shame’s name. She was just asking how she was doing. Her pride stepped in and the tone changed, “Shame, please think about what you are saying! Look at who you are talking to. You know I really didn’t mean to offend you.”
This was Shame’s worst nightmare. How did she let herself act so erratically? Her mind raced and insecurities took over. She tried to keep the focus on the other girls and gain control, but ugly words just kept slipping out of her mouth. With the tension escalating, Isolation stood up. It was clearly time to go. Nobody should have to put up with being treated so poorly.
Both Shame and Isolation sat alone the rest of the day tormented by the encounter. Normally, pride and insecurity did a much better job of guarding them. This time was different and in Church of all places! For a moment, the reckless destructiveness of these weapons had been exposed.
The Gracious Path Where He Continually Meets Us
Both longed to take it all back, be forgiven and loved in their current condition. Both wondered where God was in all this mess. Though the chains felt so heavy and hope seemed so distant, their Heavenly Father had their attention. He whispered, “It is for freedom that I set you free.” What the enemy had meant for evil, He would turn to good.
Despite what a religious ego may desire and preach, we bring very little to the table. In our brokenness, we attempt to relate to others and serve God, but He alone is the answer and He is self-sufficient. This truth can either be the door to our freedom or the chains that enslave us.
We have nothing to offer that He has not given us. We have no holy quest to conquer apart from His empowerment. In our most awful and ugly moments, we are met with kindness and unconditional love. Both are freely given by God with no objective because that is who He is. His motivation and character have nothing to do with me. God is not defined or changed by imperfect people.
Nothing needs to change for us to enjoy His redemptive work. It is complete. Our righteousness, including humility and the fruits of the spirit, are merely an overflow as we experience His grace in the journey. Today my prayer is that we can become like sponges and just soak it all in as we release the old self. We don’t have to hold back! God can handle it.