Last night I had one of those dreams we all have periodically. I dreamt I was at a church camp-type place with a group of Christians who were strangers to me except for Joey (my son) and one person from my current church.
As it turned out, I was rushing to get ready to go home from the camp when I took a shower and put on a long tee shirt to get back to my cabin to pack. Only . . . my long tee shirt turned out to not be quite long enough. It covered me like a mini skirt until I moved. When I walked, it was possible to see I was not wearing underwear.
And, of course, on my way back to my cabin, I ran into a crowd of people, one of whom, a male, had wanted to get a picture of me. Until . . . they all realized that I was not fully covered.
No one said a word, but the silence was deafening. All of us knew what all of us were thinking. I walked away, realizing that I would never again look any of these people in the eye, including the one from my church. I had stumbled into an awkward social situation and one strike equalled an out with this group.
When I woke up, I was thinking about this scenario, which we all dream from time to time but which rarely happens in real life. I was thinking about how different the outcome would have been with my secular work group. For some reason, secular folks would either ignore the situation (only talking about it privately behind the person’s back until they got tired of talking about it and moved on) or . . . more likely, make a joke about it and clear the air. Either way, there would be no ostracism over the issue, but just an appreciation of the absurdity of life, which includes inadvertent nakedness sometimes.
And then it occurred to me that the Christianity to which I cling can be a system that shames its adherents. Honestly, if I were inadvertently naked in front of someone, there are many cases in which fellowship with that person would be expected to end thereafter. The shame (or presumed shame) would lie between us like a chasm.
That would not affect my relationship with the Lord. He never shames me. My sin might do that at times, but He never does.
So why do His people shame each other? Why do I participate in that sort of thing sometimes?
It seems that, for some, the unforgivable sin is to embarrass them. If you do something socially inept that involves them, one strike does equal an out. As the mom of someone with special needs, I am fairly attuned to what does and does not fly socially. And, yes, there seem to be times when those who have committed things that are classified as sins (as preached from the pulpits of our churches) find it easier to get a pass for their behavior than do the socially awkward people.
This is key to consider as our baby boomer generation ages. There will be times when we are suddenly taken ill in public and can’t get to a restroom in time. There will be times when we unexpectedly get visitors in a hospital room and don’t have proper coverage from those stupid gowns they give us there. If all such times are treated as something that set us apart from the rest of the human race and mark us as socially inept old people who don’t have the sense to come in from the cold, we are going to be heartbroken to realize that we don’t fully belong to our community of believers anymore.
I have a better solution for us. We can learn from the secular world in this. Last week, running with my class of students at our Coast Guard base, one of the men was suddenly overcome with a need to use a bathroom (in the worst possible way). He managed to make it back to the gate and use the guardhouse but had he not, he was surrounded by discreet folks who were all commisserating with him about his condition. Even though he and they are in their 20’s, they were all realizing that that condition can happen to anyone.
As Christians, we can humbly realize things happen, even embarrassing things. Cutting someone off for a socially awkward moment might stem some embarrassment later, but it also makes our circle very prematurely narrow. And God help the person who has been that judgmental to others when she herself faces an embarrassing incident, as I did in my dream.