“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.”
Hello… My name is Alyson… and I’m a sinner. I have a lifelong addiction to downing myself, to doubting my identity as a loved child of God, and doubting my ability to be a loving wife and mother and daughter and friend and sister. But I’m trying, and maybe I’m starting to hang on to the truth a little tighter than I used to. My recovery road has been a series of little deaths and resurrections (OK, some were big), but I’m still walking and working it out.
Now that I’ve made that clear, I feel OK about addressing the drama that erupted last week over the Duggar family.
Sin, defined by The Free Dictionary as “something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong”, is embarrassing. Hiding sin is my natural, automated response. It is also the natural inclination of others to hide their sin. And our mutual deception creates a codependent cycle of repression that is rather hard to dismantle.
I spot a lovely, put-together lady at church and know she probably has her own crap hidden under there, but what if… what if she doesn’t really – not like me? And I don’t go around publicly advertising my latest follies, so maybe she wonders the same thing about me. Even if the 2 of us can be honest, we will never understand each other’s sin completely.
Sometimes we are just prideful, but often it is fear of exposure that sets us up to look like hypocrites. In desperate deflection we cast our vitriol upon the sins of the world while hiding our own. We don’t see it this way because we go to our small group or Sunday school class and readily admit to “sinning” and “struggle” and the “redemptive work of the Spirit”.
We skirt the edges of the abyss just close enough to feel sort of honest and humble. But there are a lot of things we don’t say, things like:
- I lied to my best friend yesterday.
- I was rude to the sweet, slow girl that checked me out at Wal-Mart because I was going to be late to my nail appointment.
- I looked at porn on my computer in the converted attic office most of the night and I can’t stop.
- I drank an entire bottle of wine – in an hour – and woke up drooling on the couch at 4 in the morning.
- I got so mad at my kid that I called her stupid and slapped her face.
- When my kids go to school on Mondays, I lay on the couch and watch Real Housewives from Anywhere until they get back home.
- I cheated on my History exam, again, and then my parents paid me for making all A’s.
- I fit in these skinny jeans because I sneak upstairs and throw up my dinner every night.
- Sometimes I feel so dark inside my heart that the idea that a good God created me seems ridiculous.
Most of the confessions I listed above are actual words Jesus-claiming people have confessed to me privately, and some of their struggles cut me to the quick because they rattle memories in the corners of my own heart (and I could add some other whoppers of my own to the list). These conversations usually contain another confession: “I’ve never told anyone that before.” Well, duh!
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” -Carl Jung
I am NOT saying we should climb to the rooftops and holler out our private list of horrid crimes. On the other hand, I would not go on a lecture tour for tweens lecturing them about self-esteem and identity without framing it within my own struggles. Part of what the media is going ape-crazy about is that a family (and a T.V. network) created an image around a ideal that was incomplete in it’s depiction to say the least.
Sometimes we find a place of spiritual strength in authentic, humble confession and fellowship. Other times we are shown on camera in our matching clothes, with the answers to life, with a superior system of living, with our happy face on and the appearance of deep community…
Until we’re not, until we are found out – and WE COULD ALL BE FOUND OUT! And then it is very confusing – and sometimes strangely comforting – to the people not in our corner of the world. They knew all along that it was not possible – not human – to be this “good”. When they do their victory dance around the fallen, it is to affirm that they are not alone, that they are not the only lost ones.
And now – here is how we fix it all… Just kidding. This cycle is not going anywhere until the end of days and that’s the truth.
I don’t have a solution – to the Duggars, to fallen pastors, exposed conservative politicians, lustful teachers, or run-of-the-mill screwups like myself. But I do have an answer – and that is GRACE.
It is the only thing. And if we are intimate with God’s grace, we can extend the real thing to others. We cannot expect grace for our stumblings from a desperate world, but we can and we should expect this kind of grace from ourselves.
The grace of God has astonished me. At times its presence has been downright unbearable. In spite some profound spiritual experiences, I can still become immune to its healing sting. I hope grace will continue to haunt me and to shock me to my senses when I lose my way – or whisper a reminder when I’m rocking along and come across a fellow struggler in the thick of it.
Grace to the fallen and the exposed. Grace to the prideful. Grace to the judgers. Grace to me, and grace to you.