I bashed my not-quite 3 month old car into a gate today, and my first instinct was to pretend it didn’t happen. When the crunch stopped, and the gate closed behind me, I continued on my less-than-merry way. It took 4km for me to pull over and look at the damage, 4km to reject the voice telling me that what I don’t know can’t hurt me. Other ways my brain rushed to smooth it over: I schemed about where to park so people wouldn’t notice the dent, I resolved not tell my brunch-mates, and I debated even reporting what happened if the gate seemed ok when I returned.
What is it that rises up in me when I am ashamed? Denial. Excuses. The desire to cover it over and smile as though there is nothing here to see.
Thankfully these impulses didn’t prevail, but this is no thanks to me. I pulled over in the sunlight and looked at my wounded car, with a shudder. I told my brunch-mates the sorry saga with an attempt at wry humour. I called my insurance and emailed my landlord. Sorry, sorry, sorry. And then, a modern mea-culpa, I instagrammed the picture. Look at this dumb thing I did.
All of these things are the opposite of what I wanted, which is why I did them. In a few fell swoops they nullify the scheming voices inside of me. I do them out of fear, mostly. Fear that those voices are still the first to clamour. Little comfort that I do not ultimately listen, because why on earth are they even still speaking? Is my identity, so sure, actually threatened by the risk of a minor embarrassment? The cover-up I ponder is completely at odds with who I say I am. Who I am. And it all hangs on that thread, for a moment.
Other voices prevail, other words, eventually recalled by me. The story of my life is that my shame has been borne by another. Ok, the shame of silly driving decisions, but also the shame of my reaction to them, a wail of ‘the world owes me’ self-pity. A desire to hide in the darkness. There isn’t comfort in pulling the blankets over my head and putting on a sunny voice and stilling a rapidly beating heart and tasting the sickly sweetness of getting away with it. There is no getting away with it.
And somehow, in the ultimate twist, this is where the comfort is. Right out here under the brightest light. Gaping dents blistering in the sunlight, a huge lack for all to see, that I couldn’t begin to make up for. Comfort is found in the very One who surveys those dents and does not recoil from them. Who walks around the mountain of twisted wreckage to see it from every angle, without an eye roll, or a smug quip. With pierced brow, in fact, and hands, and side. Comfort is in the One who knows this darkness in me and came to shine purest light upon it. Came to be consumed by it and yet consume it. Who could not Himself be held by it. Because of whom, I am not resigned to a life of burying the worst of me below layers of pretence. Because of whom I am being taught, slowly (for I am slow to learn), what it means to walk as a child of light.
This is not a story of my success or failure. It’s a story about grace, and freedom. One of those moments when everything slows down and I have to think about who I am. Who God says I am. Someone who can be honest about how much dross remains. Someone who is certain that what God has started, he will carry to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
“…so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.” Acts 26:18.