Stuck in the Loop
I am often confused in my surroundings. My family knows this about me. We have an annual race in Richmond called the Monument Avenue 10K, and for some reason it never really clicked for me that the race was actually run on Monument Avenue. Or last year, I ordered a chicken sandwich at a local drive-thru, and after a long moment of silence I looked up and realized that I was speaking into a trash can. This is probably funny to you (and eventually to me), but in the moment, it is just plain disorienting.
One morning last spring I drove my son to his high school. We were hurriedly discussing plans for the afternoon, and in the process, I flew right past the entrance to the school. My son alerted me, “Mama, you missed the turn.” The drop-off is always chaotic. There are cars everywhere, with no easy way to turn around. So I made a quick decision to take a right into the next driveway, and as I did, my son groaned, “Mama… this is the bus loop.” How did I miss that fact? I looked up and saw a sea of yellow buses — before me, beside me, and now behind me too. My son opened the door and gently said, “Um…I think I’ll get out.” I shouted a flustered “Okay! I love you!” and then floored it, hastily speeding up behind the buses in front of me (as though this would help me get out faster?). At that point, two administrators came running out and yelled, “Ma’am! Slow down! What are you doing here?” I felt embarrassed and helpless.
When I finally wound my way out of the loop, I drove on to my job, internally berating myself: “I am too distracted … I don’t love my children well…I need to pull it together and get more organized.” In the course of about 5 minutes, my mistake had led me into a full-blown indictment of my character and set me up to planning a major self-improvement project. Is this a big leap to take over a small error? Yes. Is this the response that anyone would have to pulling into the bus loop? Probably not. But for me, the whole scenario revealed an area in which I feel vulnerable. It exposed some low-lying shame that I would have preferred to remain happily unaware of on that sunny Monday morning.
Shame adds a unique edge to normal human suffering. It internally isolates us from the love and support we long for the most. We experience intimacy by being vulnerable (“They were naked and they felt no shame”), but in the harshness of the fallen world, we learn to resent our vulnerabilities as our worst enemy. A friend who was the victim of childhood abuse learned to despise the experience of feeling small. He says of himself, “I hated that little boy so much.” A woman struggling with infertility feels not only the ache for a child, but also that she must be uniquely flawed in some way. A young man struggling with insomnia is tired, but also embarrassed that he cannot do something as simple as fall asleep. We all ask: what exactly is wrong with me? And we are afraid that the answer will leave us abandoned and rejected. Stuck in the bus loop with no way out.
This is where God found Adam and Eve: panicked, and unable to diagnose, let alone fix, the problem of their shame. This is where they would have stayed, naked and hiding, had God not come to find them. But find them He does, with the bracing question, “Where are you?” God responds to their shame with a painful truth, a hopeful promise, and (such kindness!) a better covering.
This same God found me in my anxious thoughts on my way to work that morning. To his question “Where are you?” I was able to confess, “I felt embarrassed and panicked back there.” And I suddenly realized that for the Lord, it doesn’t matter how I got in the bus loop. At the cost of his own naked vulnerability on Calvary, He covers me either way. Am I distracted? Yes. Am I selfish? Yes. Do these invalidate the favor He has set upon me through Christ? Amazingly, no. I won’t be left for lost.
And this is interesting too – as I went on with my day, I was clearer about my surroundings. I saw, really saw, the sea of people all around me- before me, beside me, and behind me too- with their own wrong turns, their own vulnerabilities, and their own desires to be found.
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Kim Greene is a counseling intern with the Barnabas Center, currently completing her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Regent University. She graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in Psychology in 1989. As a Counseling Intern with the Barnabas Center, Kim counsels individuals and facilitates Barnabas Training groups. She counsels under the supervision of Lisa Ould, LPC, while she completes her internship training. Kim is married to Kevin, and they have two teenage children. She enjoys live music, time with her family, and reading a good quote.