My home congregation is following the denominational Lenten emphasis “Ashamed No More.” As part of that study we have been introduced to a wonderful TED talk by Brené Brown (which you can find at this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.htmlhttp://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html) that distinguishes between shame and guilt.
Dr. Brown’s research is in the area of shame and (more recently) vulnerability. She differentiates between shame (which is a judgment about self — “I am a mistake”) and guilt (a judgment about my behavior — “I made a mistake”). This has been helpful as we travel our way through Lent and consider the ways in which shame and guilt are at work in our lives and in our society. The gospel message clearly reminds us that in God’s eyes we are not a mistake, even when we may make mistakes in words, actions or thoughts. For many, this is truly good news that needs to be heard.
Dr. Brown goes on to note that in our Western society we understand vulnerability to be a weakness. But that is a myth. In reality, vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. She believes vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage. If we want to innovate, create or change, we must be vulnerable, try something different, be ready to fail in an attempt to find what works (no matter what area of our life we are considering).
This got me to thinking about Luke 10, the passage in which Jesus sends out the 70 in pairs to go to the towns and villages to which he intends to go. These pairs of disciples are to go with the simple message: “The Kingdom of God has come near to you!” They are to go with incredible vulnerability, not taking along money or food, relying on the hospitality of those whom they meet. Jesus tells them not to be overly concerned if a village refuses their message, but just shake the dust off their sandals and move to the next town. They are sent with more a sense of sharing who they are (sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God) than what they have. Their message is that this Kingdom experience is one the villagers they meet can also share — these villagers too can realize they are sons and daughters of the Creator who need not be ashamed.
If we think about this approach in our own day, this Kingdom living is demonstrated not by what we think others need from us in order to be “whole,” but is demonstrated by our concern for who they already are and who they can be in God’s Kingdom. Just as God has done things for us, so may God do things for them that make their lives fuller.
Based on how God has encountered us, can we visit others in a vulnerable way, not asking them to come to us, but rather by reaching out and going to them? And can we engage them not with words and actions that say, “Here is something I think you need,” but rather in a way so that they will sense within themselves, “Here is someone who truly cares about me. Here is someone who lives as I desire to live. I wonder how they do that?” This approach may open the door to a fruitful conversation about which none of us need be ashamed!