shame and freedom


Tuesday morning started with tears. They were big, they were ugly, they were accompanied by snot running down my face. It was not a hallmark moment. Here’s the scene: my friend was telling me (via email) how grateful she was to have her world opened wider, to claim the racism of our country’s past (and present), to recognize her own place in that, to be able to offer her kids a different worldview than the one she had while growing up. She spoke of watching gut-wrenching movies, reading gut-wrenching stories, learning gut-wrenching facts, and facing them head-on. My stomach sank, for my experience has not yielded the same hope for the future. We’ve read some of the same things and my response is one of paralysis, not hope. I am horrified by racism and want it to end. I want to be part of change. But when I read about all the pain that continues, pain that I don’t experience because of my own white privilege, I’m so scared of perpetuating it unintentionally that I don’t move forward. I get so worried that I might do, say, think, not understand someone’s perspective that I am caught in my own hamster wheel, running at frantic speeds, staying in one place. And then, if that weren’t enough, I felt ashamed that I had the privilege of “not doing”, that I could go about life and not be forced to deal with racism and my class privilege. The tears began, flowed, and ended up with me sobbing uncontrollably in front of my computer. Even in that moment, I knew that God didn’t work this way, shaming me and holding me hostage from doing what I believe is right. God doesn’t ask for perfection; He asks me to follow Him and do what He calls me to. Sometimes I’ll fail. Sometimes it won’t feel like enough. It may never solve the underlying issues.

That was three days ago. The lump comes back to my throat, but I can swallow now.  A few things have pushed me out of those doldrums. There was a marvelous blog entry here which reminded me both that 1. God works differently in different people (and that seeing Him move in one person’s life is not a reason to demean myself) 2. We choose to see the “burning bushes” around us. My friend reminded me (yet again) that “Comparison is from the pit of hell”. Such true words. The funny thing was that I didn’t feel like I made comparisons (although I did). I was more in grief about how screwed up this world is and how I feel so infinitesimally small, that what I can offer is too little, too flawed. It is. But I’m also studying Galatians with my bible study now, and if there’s anything that’s coming out loud and clear it’s that it’s about Jesus. My efforts won’t achieve salvation, my efforts won’t undue the scars and open wounds of racism. My strength is not sufficient. But God can turn dark to light, God brings hope out of despair, and God is more than enough. And He works through me.

There’s such freedom to enter those dark places, because He already did, and He conquered.



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