"I write this to you, not because I want to make you feel ashamed, but to instruct you as my own dear children." (I Corinthians 4:14)
Something told me not to get too attached when I discovered this mother goose on her nest a couple of weeks ago. She and her mate had constructed a nice nest on its own little island in the middle of the creek. The mother patiently perched upon the nest while the expectant father hovered a few feet away. Every once in awhile she stood up to reveal the eggs she was safe-keeping.
Then came the rains... and more rains... and more rains.
Today I returned to find the nest abandoned with the waters of the creek flowing almost at the base of the pile of brush the geese had formed to hold their brood. There were no geese to be seen. Frankly, I think the nest was flooded. It looks like the geese picked the wrong spot at the wrong time. They made a mistake, a terrible mistake that apparently cost them dearly.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the people of Corinth who were members of the early Christian church he had a lot on his mind to share with them. Apparently there had been some pretty big mistakes that had been made and needed correcting. It's interesting (and important) that Paul included in his admonishments and teaching, "I write this to you, not because I want to make you feel ashamed, but to instruct you as my own dear children."
Paul knew the power of shame, its ability to trap and destroy instead of instruct and heal. We all make mistakes, even big mistakes that can cost us dearly. If our response to a mistake is to feel ashamed, the shame makes us feel like we are a mistake instead of feeling that we've made a mistake. That's why Paul impressed upon the Corinthians that his goal was to instruct them, not shame them. Shame causes us to want to duck and run to avoid the terrible feeling of being a mistake. Then we're left alone in our shameful prison. Instruction invites us to consider the mistake we made so we might learn from it, be forgiven for it, and be free to grow in relationships.
Lent is about instruction, not shame. God invites us to consider our mistakes, our bent to sinning, not so we can be shackled by shame, but rather, so we might be lovingly instructed by grace and invited once more into relationship with God through Christ. God knows the power of shame and offers grace in Christ to combat it.
It is extremely easy for us to shame rather than instruct one another. I pray that I can accept God's grace to combat my own shame, and carefully instruct rather than shame others. How about you?
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
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