Today, Mr. Fantastic and I saw our friend on the corner with a cardboard sign in her hand. It’s been a long time since we saw her out on the streets. It was hard to process.
And I feel I have to ask you now, what are you most ashamed of?
I am beginning to think this is one of the most important questions we can ask one another.
I grew up with a sneaking suspicion that there was a great flaw in the fabric of my true self. A lot of people tried to tell me I was fine. I knew they had good intentions. I never believed them, though.
I knew that I had a black mark against me. I just couldn’t really tell you what it was exactly that I had to hide.
It took many years for me to learn that it was actually worse than I thought. There wasn’t just “something” wrong. The problem was that not a single thing about me was right. I was a wretched soul without God.
I was Eve, hiding behind poorly fitted coverings, hoping God Himself wouldn’t notice me there in the dark. My soul was naked and I was ashamed of who I was.
For me all of this looked like starving myself, working out in secret, and generally hating who I was.
Shame looks different on other people, though. It can look like cutting, perfectionism, hiding in books, a long list of achievements, drug addiction, or sleeping with anyone who will take the time to compliment your new dress. Shame can even look like a big smile and the answer, “I’m fine, how are you?”
We are all playing the same game of hide and seek here. Everybody is either hiding or valiantly stepping out and saying, “Here I am, world. I’m a mess. Let’s work it out.”
It’s terrifying to come out of the safe place of rejection or pride, to climb the walls that keep all the scary crap of life a good distance away- our failure, our hope that died, our broken heart, and our long lost naivete are out there in the light along with joy and peace and hope.
Joy and pain seem to be a package deal in this fallen world.
Here’s the amazing thing: every time one of us gets the nerve to step out and admit that we’re garbage inside unless God saves us; when we embrace the pain of our need for Him and the joy of knowing His love; it makes more space for the rest of us out there in the light.
We stand there naked and brave and say “Me too,” to all the hidden people around us. Suddenly everything changes. That’s when real life begins.
Today, when Mr. Fantastic and I saw our friend standing there like that, we called her over to the car to say hello. My heart broke as I thought of all she’s been through the last few years. There have been many victories, and a few hard losses, too.
“How are you doing?” Mr. Fantastic asked.
“Oh, just trying to keep warm,” she said with a sad smile on her face.
The traffic started moving before I had the chance to tell her, “Me too, girl.”
Because even here in my car with the thermostat set to “Max Heat” I still feel a kind of naked and a little afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make it.
My friend and I have lives that look different, full of struggles that seem to be from opposite ends of the galaxy. But she and I have the most important thing in common: we’re a total mess without God’s grace. The real shame would be to live like that’s not the most important thing of all.
No matter where we stand today, or what we hold in our hands, we’re all made for glory. Tonight I pray 2 Thessalonians 1 for all my fellow hide-and-seekers out there. I’m looking straight at your shame and holding mine out here in the wide open place.
Me too, you guys. Me too.
“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12