Shame is a feeling I’m familiar with. As a kid, whenever I got caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to, my cheeks would burn red with the fire of a thousand humiliations and hot tears would flow from the corners of my eyes. I hated to mess up.
As a result, I am now a person who largely doesn’t make the same mistakes twice. With one giant caveat: romance.
What is it about romcoms that makes me believe I’m living in one? There’s something so familiar about looking at the screen and seeing a plucky heroine whose quirks are the admiration of all her married friends.
Part 1: She and a man she loves try to make it work.
Part 2: They can’t.
Part 3: Something incredible and unprecedented happens.
Part 4: The stars are finally aligned.
That’s so appealing to me! But unfortunately, I’ve never made it past Part 2 in my own life. As a result, I try to fabricate as many versions of Part 3 as possible. Which means I give second chances. Third chances. Twenty-eighth chances. I’m pretty book smart but when it comes to romantic comedies, I’m as hopeful as I am truly stupid.
Luckily, I’ve been blessed in this season of life by friends who don’t shame me for the mistakes that I make. But it hasn’t always been that way. I remember once, after trying (in vain) to win back the affections of a college suitor, my closest friend at the time saying to me:
You are the child who continues to press her hand to a hot stove. And I refuse to wait for you to learn anymore.
That friend gave up on me. Loudly and without remorse. (That story ended at Part 2 with no attempts at reconciliation.)
Surely there were things this friend struggled with again and again, but so blinded was he by his perceived perfection that he was able to cast aside my relapses and declare me a person whom no one could help. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that projection of perfection a lot lately, albeit in a much more subtle approach.
Books, blogs, instagram feeds, Facebook posts pioneered by Christian women have this theme of: I once was lost, but now am found. That’s wonderful. But the secondary message appears to me to be, now I will help you get found, too.
Don’t misunderstand me, please. We should help one another find Christ. We are called to be examples and lead in holiness. But I want to be really clear on this part:
We are not the Savior.
The last thing we need is to feel condemned for not having it right by the people who project their “finished product” style lives on social media or their public channels. And the reason I say it’s subtle is that I honestly don’t believe people are actively trying to ostracize others, but when we only show off our best foot, that’s what happens. I’m urging you to show both feet, tripping over one another as they walk towards holiness.
Even St. Paul whined about the thorn in his side. We don’t have to have it all together in order to inspire or uplift other people. We have to start being transparent with one another about our struggles, not just our victories. Because when we only share the triumphs, we’re sending the message that works in progress aren’t welcome here. Or that once you have found Jesus, you won’t suffer anymore.
I long for a day when we don’t say: I struggle with addiction, but I love Jesus. But instead we say the much more honest: I struggle with addiction and I love Jesus. We don’t need to choose one or the other. I know my last blog post was about not being able to live two lives–and that’s true. But there’s a difference between giving yourself a free pass to do whatever you want because you assume God’s grace, and wading through sin with Christ at your side because no matter how much you love Him or accept Him, you understand that we still live in a difficult and imperfect world.
There is no higher road or easier journey for people who have found God. We don’t atone for the sins of others once we hit a certain level of holy. Jesus did that. He died for everyone’s sins. Not just the big ones, not just the near occasions or the sins of omission. Jesus hung on the cross for every sin of every person throughout all time.
He paved not an easy road for us, but a road with more help. It’s not that we lead the broken towards God. It’s that we are the broken, and we need to turn to the others who are broken around us and confidently say, “I know it’s this way. Salvation is up ahead. The hospital is up ahead. Let’s lean on one another and make the journey together.”
Honestly, the more I learn about WeightWatchers, the more I see the most poignant comparison between my physical and spiritual journey.
On WeightWatchers, I am allotted 23 points to eat in a day. Yesterday, I ate more than that. In the morning, I wanted a hearty breakfast sandwich from Chick-fil-a. Then I really felt like a Dr. Pepper after my lunch (which was 0 points). So I got one from QT and it was delicious. Then I got back to work at our supervisor had sent out for Frostys from Wendys. Yum! I didn’t want to miss this Friday afternoon treat! But last night, around 8:00, I felt restless for frozen custard, which is how I usually celebrate the weekend.
Dr. Pepper: 12
Frozen Custard: 23
= 65 points
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 42 more than I should have eaten. Oops.
Here’s why I share that with you. I’m not suddenly going to quit the program because I made a few bad calls yesterday. I’m also not suddenly going to be someone who doesn’t crave frozen custard on the reg. But if I pretend this didn’t happen, there’s a new habit that will form under the surface: hiding. If today I’m not honest about all these points because I’m embarrassed, I see how easy it is to just not track something. So I do it again on a tough day; then again on a long day; then again on a special occasion; then the weekend becomes a special occasion; then I’m back to every day in the line at Andy’s Frozen Custard.
You know how I know? Because that’s how I got overweight in the first place.
At this week’s meeting, we were talking about the things about the program are tough. People were calling things out left and right, until finally one woman said what we were all thinking:
It’s all tough. If we thought this stuff was easy, we wouldn’t have ended up here in the first place.
The most incredible thing about WeightWatchers it that everyone there totally admits and even celebrates that we are all just works in progress. Even the people who have hit their goal weight aren’t “finished products.” They keep coming to the meeting because without it, they’d gain it all back. We are always going to have this relationship with food. It’s not about changing the relationship, it’s about staying accountable to the daily decisions that keep us in control.
That’s how we need to approach one another. We need to create a safe place to fail and stumble so that instead of eating in secret in our cars in dark parking lots (yes, I’ve done that) we can bring our battles into the light for everyone to see and together we can create a plan to walk together toward Christ. Not in a line but side by side.
Pray for opportunities to be transparent with people this week. And for the courage to be honest. It’s not easy to share your struggles with people, but when you do, you open the door to help people in a more profound way than you ever could by hiding your ice cream.