September 25, 2017

Utterly and Profoundly Alone?

What is the first memory you have of being utterly and profoundly alone?

Mine was in second or third grade. I had an embarrassing mishap made worse by a teacher who would not let go of it, called me out in front of the class, detained me after school, and drove me home to my mother to make me confess. Whatever she thought I had done I did not, but for an eight year old boy, it was the worst pickle I had ever been in.  At home with Mom and the teacher, I refused to say a word. There are some things boys can’t put into words. I might have told my Dad, but not Ms. Elsie. Mom coaxed it out of me privately, but then told the teacher whom I had to face the next day. She meant well, but I felt betrayed.

Not one word was ever spoken about the incident again, but, as you know, the searing of a young boy’s heart starts early. The incident is almost funny, well, is funny, but what the Creepy One did with it in my life was not. The devil loses no opportunity to begin the process of mistrust in the life of a lad so he can continue his gnarly business in the life of the man.

What I learned that day was SHAME. Every shame after the first feels like Original Shame, and shame became a battle to win for many years of my life. The feeling I had that day is the same one I have had hundreds of times I’ve messed up, or when I was accused of messing up. I’m in the mess alone, again and again, barely comprehending the reinforcement of the pattern of guilt, shame, isolation, confession and wondering whether God actually loves a guy like me. The voices of this deception are always the same, and they conspire to remove from a man his sense of worth, a conspiracy begun in a boy the day the world became unsafe.

In the Garden of our Eternal Birth, there is another Voice…the “voice that breathed o’er Eden.” This voice gives us our identity, our hope, our comfort and our instruction for life. It is the voice of our Father telling us it is not good for man to be alone. It is also the lonely voice of the Man of Sorrows in Gethsemane where we, his betrayers, deniers, and runaways, are invited into his presence to find healing, forgiveness, friendship, and life.

What I did not know that bizarre afternoon in second grade was that I was not alone. Nor did I know how innocence could be used against a child to make him feel like an orphan. Or that someone even then hated me enough to set a trap with feelings he could evoke years later to keep me from the joy of life and the dynamic spark that marks a man living in freedom and grace.

What about you? What early scars do you bear that may be connected to the troubles and sorrows of your life today? Jesus wants to restore the heart of a child in the chest of a full-grown man. He says so himself – “Unless you become like a child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” He stands by to make this possible for me. This means forgiving the teacher who embarrassed me, the friends who betrayed me, the disappointing business relationships that ended along the way, and connecting some dots to my past where innocence and child-like joy first met the debilitating undertow and dark waters of evil.

Healing is the restoration of what you lost before you even knew there was a war. It is the journey in grace and truth Jesus gives to us in the company of our brothers after our innocence was lost.