Maybe some of you are tired of talking about Modesty.
It’s okay, I’m sort of tired of talking about Modesty, too. A popular Christian website recently published my piece on Modesty and Lust from August. It has over 400 passionate comments in one week.
Bloggers I’ve been following for years are engaging with my story, responding to it, adding their own voices. Which, I know, in a broader view, isn’t much. The waves of popularity and anonymity drive hard into Internet beaches.
There’s always something new to discuss.
But for someone who wasn’t writing publicly 6 months ago, it’s been kind of crazy. These types of discussions are like riding the Bumper Cars at an old carnival. It’s outrageously loud, jolting, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one with a headache.
It’s taken more energy than I expected to open up, to have my life discounted or celebrated, to wade through the resulting arguments and counter arguments, to hear stories of other people’s pain. It actually puts me on edge when people champion my story. I don’t really know what to do with even the tiniest measures of success, other than practicing saying “thank you” and trying not to run away.
And I definitely don’t know what to do when someone attacks my story.
I’ve considered quitting.
But, I think this discussion and the way it gets volatile so quickly tells us something about ourselves.
And that’s why I’m not ready to stop talking about it yet.
My friend Allison is helping me navigate this crazy wave. She reminded me that when people try to hurt me, they are usually acting out of their own woundedness. Recognizing this motivation doesn’t mean that I have to take more abuse or offer some cheap forgiveness where I’m still wide open to hurt or limit the consequences for someone’s bad behavior.
But it does offer me some hope.
When I look over my life, I’m reminded of the wounds I have and the wounds I’ve caused. I have weaponized scripture to keep myself in the right and others in the wrong. I have judged silently because I could not bear that someone would look better than me, or be funnier, or more wanted and accepted and lovable than I thought I was.
I have expected others to come to all of my conclusions and argued our relationship into pieces. I have shut up for fear that if I spoke up with my real voice about my real experience, I’d be abandoned.
I’ve been a part of systems that have hurt people. I’ve lived out of my wounds instead of walking towards healing. So when people try to silence my story or my perspective, when they try to talk over my freedom, when they beg or pressure me to be a certain way, I just hear this overwhelming shout that we all need help.
I hear this crying to be told we are okay —
that we are known in our weakness and still loved, that someone will choose us and be near us and heal us.
I see this in the precious men and women who, in their comments, reveal their desperate fight not to be controlled by their sexuality. I hear them frantic to do anything they can to avoid what they have been told is sin, even to the point of blaming or silencing or covering up or denying their attractions, so that maybe they will be worthy of love.
I see how badly they want acceptance and how they’ve bought the lie that they can earn it if they just not-sinned a little bit harder. I see how bound we are by the shame that whispers that if we really were saved, we wouldn’t be like this.
And I know that shame is deadly.
Shame takes everything from you and tells you it is your fault. It steals your ability to see yourself and everyone else as children of God. It steals your ability to heal, because unlike guilt, shame whispers that you aren’t even worthy of healing.
Weeks after my story was published, my friend Darrell told me that he hated it the first time he read it. He told me that it made him angry and opened up his reasons why. Because he was honest with me, I saw a glimpse into his story. I saw that we both experienced a crushing shame, and that it made our wounds raw.
I saw that we both thought we were the only ones hurt.
I understood how diligently he and guys like him tried to follow God and use their sexuality well. I saw how my story seemed to want to throw every good, straight Christian guy’s hard work in his face, to publicly announce that I didn’t care about my brothers, to intentionally hurt their fight against sexual sin, to be their enemy.
I saw how much that would hurt. I felt how much it would make me want to fight back.
Shame does that.
It makes us into enemies.
It keeps us fighting against each other because maybe we’ll eventually get to the top of the heap and God will love us. It infects our wounds and keeps us from hearing each other.
It keeps us in this cycle that yells “if you want to support my fight against sin you will cover up” and “if you want to support MY fight against sin you will stop telling me to cover up” in endless circles. It shouts “you’re the problem” because it’s too afraid to say “I may be the problem and I don’t know what to do.”
And we end up just being better enemies.
But that’s not the end of the story. We can tell a better story because of Love.
I believe in Love that does not demand perfection before it shows up. I have experienced Love that demolishes shame and systems that perpetuate it. I trust in Love that gives me the confidence to sit and listen and try speaking up in turn.
I believe in Love that gives me the freedom to love back instead of trying to win. It is a Love powerful enough to give us the courage to walk away from harm. This Love captivates me with its ability to heal me.
It compels me with its ability to heal others.
We aren’t saved by right clothing choices or obeying rules or handling our sexuality perfectly or winning at Internet comments or because we’re better than anyone else.
We are saved by a Love that has arrived and is changing everything.
Love is right here, among us, ending shame and bringing us peace instead of fear, friendship instead of enemies, and healing for our wounds.
And that is something I’ll never get tired of talking about.
Speak Up! How have you experienced healing recently? Does acknowledging your own wounds help you have grace with other people? Why do people insist on posting their graphic injury photos on Facebook? Gross, right?
[photo: ashley.santiago, Creative Commons]