Saturday, May 23, 2015

A God Who Takes Away Our Disgrace

We cover ourselves in it sometimes, don't we? We heap mounds and mounds of it upon ourselves, like some kind of ice cream topping overload gone terribly wrong. It's a wonder we can even walk a straight line under the heavy weight of the guilt and shame so many of us keep adding to our load. Especially us women, I think. The baggage of our disgrace...our not being good enough...who can bear it and still find joy? This insipid joy-sucker haunts the moments of life where we should find delight. It steals contentment by finding flaw in whatever action we choose--causing us to second-guess our motives and feel defeated in our lack of ability to measure up to perfection time and time again.

At the lack of sounding so not religiously-correct, I just want to say, "Eff you, inadequacy!" Because I need strong words to battle enemies that feel unbeatable. I need to pretend like I'm brave enough to stand up to this veritable Goliath who eggs me on and taunts me and stands between me and the grace garden that God has planted just for mud-spattered sinners like me. Tell me I'm not the only one that gets caught in this trap over and over again!? Tell me that the insane cycle of comparing myself to everybody and their mother and always coming up short is not a one-man show? I need to hear that there is end to this madness!!

And then, there it is. Nestled inconspicuously in the first chapter of Luke, I am reminded that we have a God who takes away our disgrace. You see, Elizabeth couldn't get pregnant. Like so many strong and beautiful and kind and good women throughout history who would make amazing mamas but for whatever reason are just not able...she felt like she had failed. There was loss, but there was also shame. Maybe she wondered what she had done to deserve this...where had she gone wrong. Or maybe she strove for years to be "good enough" to hope that maybe, just maybe...but it was all to no avail. For decades she was marked by her barrenness, it was her shame. It makes me mad as a hatter that this thing she could not even control had control over her. The unfairness that those around her would look at her through the lens of "unable to conceive" makes me want to scream, yet there it is in black and white, undetailed as it may be. And then...that grace garden blooms. It could have bloomed in a thousand ways but for her it bloomed through miraculous life within her womb. After all those years of hoping and begging and finally accepting and knowing that it was just too late, she was just too old...there it was. "This is the way the Lord has dealt with take away my disgrace among men."

What strikes me isn't that she gets pregnant after all this time. It isn't even that when God does things He does things BIG and she ends up pregnant with the forerunner to the Son of of the Big Dogs in God's Story of Redemption--John the Baptist. What gets me is that even though God didn't bring disgrace upon Elizabeth, nor did He ever look upon her with disgrace, He was the one who took her disgrace away. What makes my breath catch in my throat and makes my eyes bug out in wonder is that despite being marked as inadequate and "less than" by her society and herself for longer than she could remember, it took but a moment for God to wipe away the disgrace of man and replace it with grace of Himself. I need that swap, do you?

We are so quick to cover ourselves and others with shame and judgment and expectations that may or may not be out of our control or ability. We stand at the garden wall and look longingly in, seeing the grace and smelling it's sweet scent, yet not daring to believe that it could be ours. Instead, too often, we turn from the wall and go back to the wallowing--knee deep in the mud of our own self-loathing, wondering when we will ever get it together. Anybody? The irony is, we won't. Not without venturing our imperfect little selves over that beautiful garden wall, and standing mud-streaked in the perfection of Grace--conspicuous and uncomfortable our inability to comprehend...fully accepted and fully loved.

So whatever it may be that leaves you guilt-laden and ashamed today--bring it to that grace-filled garden. There is something magical about that place, I promise you. For it is perhaps only there where we can experience the fullness of the love God has for us. As we bring our sin-sick selves eye-level with the One who is love incarnate we will see that, truly, there is no agenda. Just glorious grace-soaked love held out for our healing, and a God who wants to be with us.

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