There’s something special on the other side of this moment.
And its about what you and I decide
And its important for you to remember we did this together
And finally, they’ll know the story of our lives.
Pharrell Williams, “There’s Something Special”
A tattered old ugly memory occasionally sneaks into the room in the middle of the night. He climbs up on the bed and taps me in the throat with one clawed finger. I wake up to find him gleefully squatting on my chest ready to chat about a twenty-year-old event. He is there to remind me that tomorrows stress is nothing to what a real failure I was yesterday. He loves to tell me that if anyone knew the real me they would turn away or worse yet, they might tell everyone else.
I eventually fall back asleep, after drifting around alone a while on the sea of loserness. Hopeless, it’s hopeless. That’s the middle of the night message. “Remember that from twenty years ago and add this from last month and know that you will always be caught up in the mess. You could run from all these problems but wherever you go you will be there to screw it up again in the end. Look at yourself and despair.”
I have millions of ragged little memories, shames, and not so tiny insecurities that create in me a default hopelessness. “That project won’t get done because you know you don’t finish what you start. Your marriage won’t make it because you know she can’t carry the weight of the real you. The kids are doomed to failure because you work too much and don’t spend enough time with them. Remember your brilliant contribution to that conversation yesterday? Hoo boy! That was soooo dumb.” Shame builds entire structures on top of tiny pieces of truth and then condemns me to live in them.
A couple of weeks ago, during a continuing series of brutally difficult, death-defying conversations, I told Hannah that story that wakes me up at night. For a couple of years, we have talked about being more vulnerable with one another, being transparent about ourselves and genuinely curious about the other. Or I should say, she has talked about these things. The dam between us broke last month and for four weeks there has been a flood of this talk in our house. We are finding that shame is a devil who can only work in the dark.
As I told her the story, the only time eye contact was broken was by me. The only time anybody said anything condemning it was me. The one who turned away to not see this train wreck was me. At the end, she hugged me and acknowledged that it was a humiliating story and that she was glad I told her. Somehow, I had only ever seen the shameful side and hadn’t thought about how unfortunately humiliating it had been. Each of our conversations has felt like smashing through the door of hell and finding that the other side contains nothing but grace and love.
I realize you can’t lay out all your business for the world to see, that’s why this is short on details. But I’m learning that I need a safe person, or safe people, and it was a lie to believe that the safest person I know couldn’t handle knowing all of me. The Imago Dei isn’t faces and fingernails, it’s the impossible, unstoppable love of Jesus shining in the eyes of someone who refuses to look away from your darkest shame. Amen. That sentence makes me cry.
The light of that kind of love burns up shame. It burns up insecurity and petty jealousy and all the other reasons to keep secrets and hide. With the shame and insecurity burned up the hopelessness doesn’t have anywhere to grow and soon little sprigs of hope begin popping up everywhere. If my most hopeless place grows a miracle then everywhere else can have one too. When Shame comes around running his mouth find someone safe and get that garbage out in the open and put some light and love on it. Because there is something incredible on the other side of this moment.