Several weeks ago I reflected on how the Voice of Shame was winning the battle.
I was at a conference called Gathering by the Sea in Marco Island, Flordia, and for a number of reasons I was unsuccessful the first couple days of the Gathering in fighting back the lies of “don’t belong” and “not enough.”
As I stated in that post my plan was to focus on the voices of people that I loved and trusted. Voices that I knew, if they were there with me, would drown out any and all inner voices that tried to convince me I shouldn’t be there or that I didn’t have anything to offer.
Reflecting back on that week I can report to you that it worked… in part.
If Monday and Tuesday in Marco Island were plummeting downhill on a shame spiral, then Wednesday was the day that mindfulness of what is true and what is good slowed the spiral and leveled off the destructive descent into smallness.
But Thursday was the day that two Lights showed up and snapped me out of shame’s snare so swiftly I think I’m still recovering from the whiplash.
And I’m positive they had no idea they functioned as my Liberating Tour Guides. The first Light came in the form of Glennon Doyle Melton. The second Light was none other than the guy who functioned as my original Liberating Light 10 years ago, Brian McLaren.
The Contagious Infectious Presence of Joy
If you recall I had a pretty awesome “chance” experience with Glennon several months ago out in Phoenix
Now, Glennon is a New York Times Bestselling Author, creator of the wildly popular Momastery, and she sells out venues everywhere she goes. She is this rare phenomenon in our culture, a fish who doesn’t just swim against the current but who somehow manages to find a way to stop swimming altogether and transcend the whole darn thing, inspiring other fish to see the raging river as a beautiful and brutal reality to be embraced and enjoyed. (I have no idea what that metaphor means, but there it is nonetheless).
In short, there is an energy and a presence about her that you can feel as you read her book and read her blogs. And it’s life giving, to say the least.
As it turned out she lives not too far away from where our conference was in Florida. And even though I’d only met her twice she now feels like a friend. And even though she undoubtedly has an incredible demand on her time from so many people and places, I still thought, “hey I know, I should reach out to this insanely busy person who barely knows me and tell her that I’m just a few miles down the road from her! That won’t be creepy and weird and annoying at all!”
Lucky for me she knows that Brian lives in Marco Island, so it wasn’t as totally bizarre and odd and is it could have been, when I told her I was in her ‘hood, because I affirmed that yes I was with Brian.
She ended up curious about what we were doing at The Gathering By the Sea and actually drove out on Thursday, along with her co-conspirator at Momastery, Amy, to come join me in soaking up the morning session.
And here’s my point in all this. I was just starting to emerge out of the fog of “not enough” and “don’t belong,” and then Glennon shows up. You know that moment, when you’re in the middle of a deep deep sleep, and suddenly your alarm goes off and you find yourself momentarily disoriented because you’re not sure what day it is or why your alarm is going off or what you’re going to do about, but you do know one this is certain: you were asleep, and now you’re wide awake?
Yeah, that’s what that Thursday morning hanging with Glennon was like for me.
She is this ball of energy, love, and light. And it’s hella contagious. And it doesn’t matter how dark the darkness can get, when light shows up it wins every time. That morning Glennon was a light for me just by showing up. I could feel the dark cloud of Shame slowly breaking down. I could feel myself begin to relax. I could feel myself starting to feel like I belonged, and like I was enough.
Because someone showed up.
Not to turn it all “preacher” and give some sort of take-away from all this, but seriously, would you consider something? Sometimes you have no idea the power of just showing up for someone. Doesn’t matter the words you say. Doesn’t matter the thing you do. All that matters is you affirm their humanness by showing up. That alone, my friends, can be more than enough to help people begin to see light instead of shadow.
So Glennon, if you ever read this, I just want to say “Thank you” for showing up that day, because it was a much needed lift and gift for me.
A Familiar Light Shines
The other person that day who played a role in me emerging from the lameness of Shame was Brian McLaren. Now, if you’ve ever heard me tell my whole faith story then you might recall that it was Brian’s book, “A New Kind of Christian,” that was the catalyst for me in becoming who I am today. When I read his book back in 2005 I had just recently graduated from a Baptist College with a degree in Pastoral Ministry and was working at a large church up in Oregon. I was cruising down the path of conservative evangelicalism but at the same time wondering why it started to feel a bit off.
It was Brian’s book that opened my eyes to a new way of seeing.
It was Brian’s book that offered me hope for a new kind of Christianity.
It was, in short, Brian’s book that set me on the course of discovering Jesus again for the first time.
I’ve read everything he’s written since then and consider him to be one of my mentors, even though we’d never met until just a couple years ago when he came through San Diego on a book release tour.
But Thursday afternoon, in Marco Island, right after the morning session had ended and Glennon went home, Brian walks up to me as the crowd began dispersing for lunch and says, “wanna grab some food and chat?”
Does a bear shit in the woods?!
The next hour was a treasure for me. Getting to spend one on one time with someone who I admire and respect so deeply. He wanted to know more about me and my story, about my journey of getting fired from two churches in two years. He listened intently and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. I can’t tell you how much that lunch meant to me.
The highlight came when I was briefly sharing my spiritual journey with him and I came to the point in the story where I mention reading “A New Kind of Christian.” Because I’ve told this story so many times I was a bit on autopilot and it took me a moment to realize, “wait, I’m sitting on a bench, in the courtyard of an Episcopal Church in Florida, next to the person who I’m currently describing as the person who helped change my life?!”
The weight of the moment suddenly hit me and I started to choke up. I turned to Brian and said the words that were 10 years overdue: Thank you, Brian, for writing that book, and for articulating the struggles of my soul and for giving me a hope for my Christian faith.
Following Two Lights Out of Shame
The rest of Thursday, and then on through Friday and Saturday, were a real treasure. I was more relaxed and present. I felt comfortable and like I could lean in to the discussions and the strategizing and the excitement of what we were doing.
And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to both Glennon and Brian for helping me get there. These are two people who’s work have been hugely inspiring for me, and now I love that I have personal stories to go along with them.
The Voice of Shame is strong, there’s no denying that. And sometimes its power feels like too much.
But there are greater forces in the world. Forces that will win against Shame every single time, like the Harlem Globetrotters crushing the Washington Generals in laughable fashion.
Love. Joy. Hope. Peace. Kindness. These things expose Shame for how weak he really is. And people like Glennon and Brian have these things in spades and they share them liberally with everyone they come in contact with. They become lights, helping lead people out of the shadows of Shame.
Which turned out to be exactly what I needed in Marco, Island last month.