Last night, in the middle of reading a book, I started crying.
That admission actually isn’t the newsworthy part of this post. I cry a lot. A lot. During climactic scenes of books and movies I’ve seen a million times, like when Ray plays catch with his dad at the end of “Field of Dreams.” I cry during that Folgers commercial when the big brother who has been somewhere far away and the little sister says that he’s her gift this Christmas. I cry during communion at church, when I hear a song lyric that touches my heart, and when I’m overly stressed.
So it’s not really news that I cried while reading a book. It’s that I cried while reading the sarcastic, comedy book Stuff Christians Like, written by the developer of the blog Stuff Christians Like that I absolutely love. If you are a believer who likes sarcasm and you’re willing to make fun of yourself and the funny things we do, you should check it out. You might laugh out loud. I did. A lot.
But I digress. At the end of the book (which I got as a pre-release at work and it is quite possibly the most favorite thing I’ve ever gotten in the mail at work), Jon Acuff, the author, puts in some essays that make you think. I was reading one called something like “Thinking You’re Naked.” If you don’t go read that article, let me paraphrase a little. In this essay, Acuff tells the story of the moment he knew that his daughter understood shame, which he likens to that moment in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve realize that they’re naked. God asks them “Who told you that you were naked?” and even though they’re wearing clothes made of leaves, they’re also dressed in shame. Acuff then discusses the shame we often wrap ourselves in by asking these questions:
Who told you that you were not enough?
Who told you that I didn’t love you?
Who told you that there was something outside of me you needed?
Who told you that you were ugly?
Who told you that your dream was foolish?
Who told you that you would never have a child?
Who told you that you would never be a father?
Who told you that you weren’t a good mother?
Who told you that without a job you aren’t worth anything?
Who told you that you’ll never know love again?
Who told you that this was all there is?
Who told you that you were naked?
That’s when I started to cry. Because in all honesty, those questions hit me where I live.
I’ve spent a lot of my life living among those shameful lives. I’ve believed I wasn’t pretty and therefore, unimportant. I’ve internalized almost every hurtful thing I’ve ever heard someone say to me. I’ve believed that I wasn’t a good writer, a good editor, or even moderately talented at writing because of things a professor said to me in journalism school. I’ve even drawn shameful lies from the things people haven’t said to me. Someone continually looks over my shoulder when I’m trying to tell him/her something translates to “you don’t have anything worthwhile to say.” Not getting chosen to do something becomes a declaration that “you’re not good enough at anything.” Being overlooked or ignored by a guy becomes “there’s something inherently wrong with you and no one will ever want to date you.”
But as Acuff points out, Jesus came to relieve me of my shame. And in Him, I’m not worthless, ugly, incapable, stupid, overlooked, or forgotten. I am loved. I have hope. I am a beautiful creation.
And so are you.