Talked to a friend the other night who was there on Sunday morning, when I preached. She made some affirming comments about the message and how she and her husband had been discussing it. Then she said something that I've never heard regarding one of my sermons: That's the first time I've heard that passage preached and not walked away feeling shame. I probably said something goofy, like "wow," and then the conversation continued and moved into other topics.
But I've been thinking about that statement. That's the first time I've heard that passage preached and not walked away feeling shame. Wow, indeed.
Someone might quickly reply, "Well, maybe those other times the truth of the Word pierced her and she realized how far short she has fallen and she felt shame about that. You watered it down or stripped it of its power to the point there was no conviction. You did a 'feel good' and she felt good." Well, maybe. But maybe not. That's a quick and easy reply or reaction, but not a response.
She didn't say she felt "good." She said she didn't feel "shame." That's two entirely different things.
Now I don't know all that was going on in my friend's life that day, all the thoughts or feelings she had during that message. I don't; only she does. But in all that was going on that day, I had the opportunity to speak into her life, and the words that came out did not elicit shame. I am grateful for that in a way that's difficult for me to type.
I was listening to Dave Matthews' song Grey Street yesterday. I sure wish somebody'd sing that at our church; I really do. There's this incredibly poignant verse that says:
There's a stranger speaks outside her door
Says take what you can from your dreams
Make them as real as anything
It'd take the work out of the courage.
That last line totally shook me.
The stranger outside our door speaks words to shame us. Dear God how that's true. And if we're not extremely care-ful, we'll adopt those "stranger" words and pass them along to those around us, those we love and care for, those we work with, those we preach to. To NOT do that takes the work of courage. To work at listening to our words and weighing them before we speak or type. Not in some crazed, internal editor way; that's the path of shame. But in an intentional way that extends grace and mercy to all paths we cross. The goal is not to make everyone feel good, mind you. But to not make them feel shame. And that's two entirely different things.