The story is told of a boy who heard the circus was coming to town and wanted to go, whose father couldn’t afford the tickets. So, as a surprise, the father worked extra hours. When the day came, he presented the boy with one ticket and explained it was all he could afford. He told his son that he would have to go alone. The boy headed to Main Street and watched as the elephants, and the horses, and the clowns exited the train and paraded by him on the curb where he stood. While he watched, this one clown came over and stuck out his hand and the boy gave him his ticket, and the clown went on his way, and the little boy was thrilled.
Afterward, the boy told his father about it, and said, “You won’t believe the big elephant and the horses with the dancing girls and the dogs walking on their hind legs.”
“Wow!” the father said, “what did you think of the trapeze artist and the lion that jumped through the hoop of fire?”
“I didn’t see anything like that,” the boy said.
“Well, what did you see? Didn’t you go into the big tent?” the father asked.
“What tent?” the boy said.
“The tent at the end of the street,” the father said.
“Then, son, you never went to the circus. You just watched the parade go by.”
We do this all the time, don’t we? At least, I know I do, like in worship service, when everyone is dancing and going in, and I’m watching from the curb. Everything in me wants to join the party, but the skin I’m in keeps me trapped.
When my husband was an infant, back before seat belts and car seats were mandatory, his mother was holding him in the front passenger seat, when the car they were in was in an accident. His mother held him tightly as her head hit the windshield and shards of glass penetrated her face. They took her to the hospital, where the doctor plucked out the shards one by one with tweezers.
Nine years later, a painful lump formed on her forehead and she felt something sharp in the center. The lump swelled and oozed, until a shard of glass worked its way out.
In the book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown refers to the fear of vulnerability as an armor we put on to protect ourselves against pain, rejection, grief, fear, and disappointment. The only problem is, we can’t selectively protect against these emotions without also keeping out joy, and love, and peace.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
For years now, I’ve chalked up my lack of risk taking to being reserved, but there’s something Brené Brown said that makes me think otherwise, and that is, “Shame has two tapes: I’m not enough and Who do you think you are?” I realized after reading her book that those two tapes run through my head a lot, but what I didn’t realize was that almost every layer of vulnerability was underpinned by shame.
Last week I was sitting in a friend’s car, and with tears in my eyes, I told her that God was doing something new in me. He was peeling back the layers of vulnerability and allowing some shards of shame from my childhood to surface. I told her how that throughout the day I find myself stopping whatever it is I’m doing for a praise break. Literally! I stop, and dance before God, whether it’s in my office, at the kitchen sink, beside my bed, in the shower, and yes, even at church. Vulnerability doesn’t feel so scary now that I know its real name is Shame.
I Am M.O.R.E., and so are you!