My family and I were on our way to Sunday church service when I heard the strumming of the guitar to The Good Good Father. I paused. Seeing my reaction, my husband reached for the controls and turned up the volume. Competing sounds of nearby traffic and the chatter of our girls were now consumed and the familiar voice of Chris Tomlin commanded our attention.
As the lyrics continued, I was transported to past images of my own dead of nights, seasons of agony, whispers of kindness and encounters with healing love.
Songs have a way of gifting us with language that would otherwise feel restricted or laborious. Lyrics may be birthed out of a personal story but when it lands on ears, it transcends its original birthplace. People are brought together and reminded that they are not alone. It’s communal. It resonates with the human experience of love, joy, loss, grief, pain, hope and triumph.
Songs also draw us in to our internal world, introduce us to our emotions and invite us to get personal with them.
Since the initial encounter, I found myself revisiting the lyrics frequently and regularly. I would soon discover that familiarity was vital for what was ensuing.
In the days following, mistakes I had made transpired through a series of events. Some would say they are understandable, fixable and not the permanent kind. And they were. Recourse was available to make amends. But that did little to protect my body from triggering the alarm bells for mayhem. Nor did it reassure my heart from feeling defined by something bigger than my actions. Instead of concluding, “I made a mistake” it derailed into “I am a failure.”
A persuasive voice reasoned that it would be better if I stayed quiet and small, better yet, avoid being seen. The solution to save face was to hide my face. This would mean abandoning life-giving pursuits and doing life’s minimum. But at least it would tame the shame.
In the distance, a competing voice refuted. But it was elusive and muffled next to resounding echo of shame.
It was people like my husband and other wise, kind, sincere, steadfast people who stood as a physical reminder of a God who is relentless in his pursuit of good in my life. All I wanted to do was to shrink and recoil but they drew even closer. Their eyes locked mine and they spoke balming words. They told me that I’m not defined by what I’ve done or not done but by the very relationship that has already scorned shame (Hebrews 12:2).
And when the tender and brave faces of the day had retired for the night and the haunting accusations seemed to reach its peak, I would cling feverishly to the words of The Good Good Father. Because it was in the dead of dark, shame’s nightmare seemed most vivid. Even if I closed my eyes, the merciless darkness stared me down. If I opened my eyes, the dreadful state of being defenselessly alone felt visceral. So I would chant.
As I repeated each phrase, I could feel the ground beneath my feet feeling more firm, strength returning to my limbs, breath in my chest, my shoulders broadening and my head lifting.
Shame tried to tell me who I am.
Not enough and never will be.
But I knew who God says I am.
Worthy of delight.
This is not the first or the last encounter with shame. It’s on a prowl. Sometimes its presence is obvious, other times, subtle, looking for the next devour (1Peter 5:8) with the end goal to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). My prayer for both myself and those I have the honor of walking alongside is to have eyes to see and discern and to have an anchor for our soul during the dead of dark.