Some of my HOW posts portray bold and confident responses to those who say:
- “You should be glad you have a job
- “God must have you here for a reason”
But, if the truth be told, that has not always been the case. Many times I have said “I hate my job! I don’t belong there!” and many other similar comments. And many times someone has shot me down with one of many Christianized “It’s your fate” clauses. And I cowered in response. Yes, cowered. Head down, pursed lips, a disheartened nod, everything.
Finally, one day I woke up! I thought to myself “I don’t believe in fate! I believe in a loving God who orders the universe and hears the cries of His children.”
The Reasons for Cowering, Cringing, and Recoiling
So why did I cower, cringe, and recoil at these comments? Shame. Yes, shame.
If the truth be told, my job brought me great shame. The reason for my personal shaming is probably shared by few others—I want to serve God in full-time ministry. Yet I am stuck in an unfulfilling job where I die a little every day. Shame says “obviously, I am not good enough for God or His work. Shame Shame Shame on me for being less than, even to God.” (Shame is merciless.)
Shame: The Great Cowerer, Cringer, and Recoiler
In the article “5 Ways to Silence Shame,” Dr. David Sack says “Shame can shut us down or emerge in ways destructive to ourselves and others.” Shut us down. Cower. Cringe. Recoil. As I look back, I can also see mountains of destructiveness, especially to my spirit.
The article also quotes Brene Brown, a leading expert on shame and vulnerability, who describes shame as:
The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
If the truth be told yet again, it makes my heart heavy to read that quote by Dr. Brown. I was that statement. Especially the words “painful” and “unworthy.” Every time someone said “you should be thankful you have this job,” there it was–SHAME!
And I still fight that statement. I still fight shame over my job situation.
Recognizing the Pervasiveness of Shame
What makes my heart even heavier, is to know there are so many people who experience shame and are feeling the same way. It may be over a job, or it may be over something a lot worse.
I used to be ashamed that my dad was an alcoholic. But after I let it in the light, amazing things happened. I was able to see his troubled childhood, the effect it had on his life, the self-medicating. And yes, my dad’s own shame. As Dr. Brown says (quoted from the same article):
“When we bury the story, we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending.”
God was working on me when I first dared to start Harps On Willows. “Someone might see it and O! The shame!” But I did it anyway. Hidden and safely tucked away in TUMBLR. No followers. Just me venting to myself and crying out to God.
The healing had begun.
And then an opportunity came to write an article about Thomas Merton’s teaching on spiritual poverty. Merton is intensely philosophical, yet theologically practical. So this subject required a lot of reading.
And then of all things–a monk’s musing on trees taught me how utterly fabulous I am in God’s sight
That was all I needed. By bringing my greatest shame into the light, I began narrating the ending. I even spoke publicly about Harps on Willows and my job struggle at a 2015 Christian Writers’ Conference. I cannot tell you how many people said “I understand exactly what you mean.”
Paraphrasing the part of Merton that helped me the most, “a tree brings glory to God by being a tree. By being a tree, it is being what God made it to be. And in being what God made it to be, it brings glory to God, because in being what God made it to be, it is most like Him.”
Here is the passage in its entirety from Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplation. Print it. Hang it in your cubicle, on the frig, wherever. And never forget how utterly fabulous you are in God’s sight.
A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory. No two created beings are exactly alike. And their individuality is no imperfection. On the contrary, the perfection of each created thing is not merely in its conformity to an abstract type but in its own individual identity with itself. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in away that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do. Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now, in the circumstances ordained for it by His Love and His infinite Art.
God, help us all to fulfill our chief end–to bring glory to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen