I’d like to start this message with blame.
They made me post this.
It started when I approached them to apologize for my writing. “Um… did you ever make an innocent comment that came out all sexual innuendo-y?” I said. “This piece is about that…and shame…and I’m afraid someone from the church might see.”
Hugh replied, “Do you believe God is all there is? Or do you believe God is not all there is?”
Brock said, “Do you want a church where people welcome everything? Or do you want a church where people do not welcome everything?”
The questions were rhetorical.
Of course I believe God is all there is. Of course I want a church where people believe life is an embarrassment of riches, a church where we welcome the riches of embarrassment.
So here I am. I offer this off-beat examination of moving from shame-rags to riches.
In so doing, I say, peace be with you. And so it is. And here it is….
Dog Parks and Nice Sticks:
“So then Yoda goes: ‘Don’t you come in my face!’”
Seriously? Did I just fall into a Porno-Star-Wars-Reality? And if so, wouldn’t Yoda say, “Come in my face, you don’t.”
I was at the dog park.
A Grandma in a beige polyester pantsuit described how her dog Yoda, prefers to be dog-greeted from behind. The old butt sniff. But she couldn’t just say that, could she?
She had to go and trumpet the questionable phrase two or three times.
I didn’t know where to look.
It reminded me of a time I hiked with my two off-leash Vizslas, Saraswati and Bartok. We glided down the trail, headed for our parked car. A large group of hikers stood by the trailhead. A tall man with a white beard held what appeared to be a hand-carved walking stick. Bartok barks at hikers with sticks or ski-poles.
So when he charged at the man and barked, I yelled “Bartie, stop it, that man has a nice stick.”
When you bellow these words with little heed for enunciation, it sounds an awful lot like “that man has a nice dick….”
What do you do?
Do you explain to the ten or so hikers nearby that your Tourrette’s-like outburst was an accident? Do you inform them that you haven’t actually assessed the quality of the gentleman’s penis? Would explaining help or would it add to the embarrassment?
I kept my explanations to myself. I hunched my shoulders, scuttled to the car, and thought about the time I farted (twice) at the chiropractor’s. Two adjustments, two farts, and a stink-load of shame.
Aren’t We Supposed to Be Perfect?
I question my fascination with revealing the baser aspects of existence. Of all the stories I’ve held and heard over the years, I had to pick the incident of a smut-talking Grandma to write about. I had to crawl out of the closet and confess that to me, “nice stick,” equals “nice dick.” I had to tell about the farts.
Like so many of us, I was raised to be perfect. When I became a minister, my already robust perfectionism collided with grandiose expectations. In my mind, the congregation and God would only accept perfect. “Be ye perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)
Somehow “perfect” became a synonym for “shameful.”
If I wasn’t perfect – and I never was, in terms of what the world demands – that was an open-ended ticket for cardinal shame. Shame felt omnipresent. It was an ocean. I expended vast energy both hating my shame and denying my shame. It was exhausting.
I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. So I’ve done my best to learn a new way of being.
Instead of hiding the ingredients inherent in the physical human-soup, I’ve tried to laugh at them. Certainly there’s a lot of comedy there – the misspoken word, the body parts, the bodily functions that rear up unexpectedly at the chiropractor’s and whatnot.
From there, it’s not such a leap to muster a secret smile for my inner indignities. My pettiness, my shyness, my fear, my resentments, my avoidance of intimacy – all the things perfect people are not supposed to own – all of this becomes lighter when I lighten up.
A New Perfect:
I recently heard a definition of “perfect,” from Rocco Errico, a minister dedicated to Aramaic research. He wrote, “perfect” means “inclusive of all things.” Be ye inclusive of all things even as your father/mother in heaven-on-earth is inclusive of all things.
I strive for that. On a good day, I can do inclusive. I have to work on it. But as I work on it, I know it works on me.
I know it works on me, because there are times when I really should be devastated by the heartache of being mortal. The deaths, diagnoses, and disappoints that follow me in my work as a minister should cause me to collapse into a fetal mass on the couch. The shared despairs of bombings, shootings and other tragedies should cause me to stick my head in the freezer and come out armed with a quart of Pralines and Cream. The moments of personal embarrassment and rejection should compel me to resuscitate my self-loathing and lash out at someone.
But instead, most of the time now, I find poise in imperfections and embarrassments. I discover kindness and courage. Most of the time, through prayer, compassion, and the willingness to include, I find a way to say, “Okay life, come on in; right in my face if you have to. I can be in love with this too – because in its own crappy-beautiful way, life is perfect, inclusive of all things.”
Since I started this post with blame, perhaps I should end with gratitude:
Thank you Hugh for re-teaching me that God is all there is.
Thank you Brock, for re-minding me that everything belongs
Thank you God for allowing me to serve this church called Life where ridiculous and radiant are One.
Questions to Ponder:
- Where do you practice exclusion? What seems unworthy of the kingdom of heaven on earth?
- Is there a place where shame or embarrassment may in truth be a portal to the richness of existence?
- Have you ever said or done something that came out totally wrong and embarrassing? Did you learn anything from it?