The Burden of Shame
The day I saw Dare’s tears, I was scared. In spite of my activism for the free expression of our human frailty, I was yet to accept that people like Dare cry. It was a rude awakening, seeing a beacon of smiles who lights up the cheer in every heart, unable to keep the sparks in his eyes. His heart-wrenching sobs were like swords poking through the gates of my compassion. As Pastor went on teaching God’s word in that Thursday’s Bible Study, I couldn’t help but fix my mind on the dude sitting behind me.
When people cry during church service, it is assumed that God’s word is the whip. But from experience, I know that service time is perhaps the best time to let out those tears we’ve been too careful to shed around folks we really don’t want to know we’re hurting. So when we perceive the slightest move of God’s spirit, we dive in the flow, releasing as much tears as we can before the next meeting. Sometimes in that flow, we find God. And the sparks in our eyes. I wasn’t sure whether God’s word or life’s tantrums was Dare’s whip. So I couldn’t ignore his tears. At the close of the service, I instinctively turned my seat. Facing him, I asked:
“Dare, are you okay?”
He gave me a cute smile, then replied, “Yes, I am.”
I smiled. I do not poke nose into people’s issues. Some people would rather observe misery with dignified seclusion from reality. As much as I would love them to speak out, I do feel that one shouldn’t be too broke on reality not to be able to afford some measure of façade sometimes. But if you’re my friend, and I’m sure you’re hurting, your façade ain’t got a thing on me. I will lodge my care on your neck till you’re choked up on silence. Then you’ll speak, and we’ll walk through the issues, one step at a time.
“Dare,” I continued probing, “what is the issue? Is everything okay with you?”
He looked at me, and gave a broader smile. I knew he saw me casting glances at him during the service. He understood my concern. So he quelled my fears.
“Temi, there’s no problem. I am fine, just that the message was hitting hard on me. For the past four years, I have been fighting God’s demands for my life. It’s been pretty difficult to execute. Pastor’s message kept tugging at my heart and I was just at that point between holding back and surrender.”
“I understand,” I said. “Four years is such a long time when compared with mine. I too have been fighting for a while. I’m fighting between upholding his banner and leaving aloof his demands. But Dare, God would have us obey him. It wouldn’t be easy, but in obedience we’ll find joy and safety.”
In Dare’s expressions of fear, I saw me- the on-the-surface Jesus girl secretly ashamed of the gospel. The fear of sounding politically incorrect before an irreligious mob of creatives and pseudo-intellectuals had crippled my desire to just be a Christian, the way God sees me. But in a world where standing with the word translates to hypocrisy, Jesus wasn’t the bae I wanted to flaunt. I wasn’t ready for the sneers that would cost me.
A friend who’s a badass poet recently opened up to me about experiencing same. He’s no longer confident about his faith like he used to, especially in the midst of creatives. Usually, when questioned about things that bothers on his belief, he doesn’t hesitate to take side with God’s word irrespective of the religious inclinations of whomever he’s dealing with. But these days he’s soft, afraid that he might lose some ground amongst intellectuals, and thus, diminish his worth in the Nigerian creative scene. So my friend secretly bears this burden of shame, torn between political correctness and the deep blue sea.
After that conversation with Dare (over a year ago), I chose the deep blue sea. I didn’t know shit about swimming. But I knew about miracles, about the rod and staff that comforts, rod like that which parted the red sea. I realised God understands the chaos I face each time I try to fit into the world’s mould, that his will is not out to kill me, and this world will never fill me. I looked upon on the cross and found my shame hung. Then I ditched the urge to gift my devotion to people who didn’t spill their blood for me on Calvary.
Shame is a burden we bear when we try too hard to maintain a non-spiritual reputation before the world. But in a world inconsistent with its stand, we’ll lose it anyway. Better it’s for the Lord. Truth is, I still feel the pangs of shame sometimes. It’s chaotic, my heart panting after everything except Jesus. But in those times, I tell myself it’s okay to be shamed for the Lord. He is deserving of every sneer, jeer and ridicule. I drop the burden at his feet.
*Plugs in headphone and listens to Brian Johnson’s “Only Jesus”*