Monday, September 9, 2013
THE WOMAN IN THE EMPTY CHAIR
Several years ago I participated in a Bible study. Anonymously.
No one knew me, or my story.
I went, week after week, hiding behind my mask and I felt safe and in control.
I really liked the "in-control" part.
For weeks I sat with women who shared their hearts while I hid mine.
They shared about how God had delivered them from addictions and how He had put their families back together.
They shared about their prodigal children and their fears for their future.
They shared about how they hated the lukewarmness of their hearts and how they longed to be pasionate about what Jesus had done for them.
One sweet mother shared, through sobs, what God had done for her when she found out that the baby she would deliver would never take it's first sweet breath. That her baby's soul was already with Jesus.
They shared while I sat there, behind my mask, determined to remain anonymous.
But the thing about a miracle and a story of grace and redemption is that you can't keep it quiet. You can't keep it hidden.
Keeping your Grace-story quiet is like trying to hide a light under a bush. You keep searching for a bush big enough to hide it under but one doesn't exist. So you try putting your hands over the light, or you lay your body across it to keep it from shining but it just keeps shining, and as it does it just gets hotter and hotter and you only wind up getting burned in the process.
One day, weeks into the study, a new woman came into our class.
Actually, she was only new to me. The other women in the class all knew her, and by the way their faces lit up when she entered the room, I knew they all l loved her.
She sat down in the empty chair next to me.
And it was that day that somewhere during the story about David and his sin and him losing his son and his praising God, that I felt the heat and pain of trying to hide God's light and my story.
The mask, the hiding, the self-protection were burned up as the words that made up my Grace-story fell out of me and filled the room.
Regret. Drugs. Loss. Heartbreak. Shame. Brain-injury. Miracle. Grace. Redemption.
All of it.
The room was silent.
When I finally looked up, I saw tears being wiped away. Yet I still felt terribly alone. And terribly exposed.
I hated it. I wanted to put the mask back on, to take all the words back, but it was too late.
And then I felt her hand.
The woman, the one that was loved, the one that sat down beside me in the empty chair, had reached over and taken my hand in hers.
She held it for the rest of the class.
When Adam and Eve first sinned and experienced shame for the first time, they tried to hide behind fig leaves. But God had a better plan. He wanted them to come out of hiding. He wanted them to be exposed. Not to be punished, or to be shamed, but because He wanted to dress them in garments He had made for them.
I wanted to hide. I wanted to protect myself.
But God always has a better plan.
That day he called me to come out from behind my fig leaf. To stand naked and exposed as I told my story.
And when I did He dressed me with compassion, and acceptance, and the freedom from shame.
He held my hand through the woman who was loved and sat next to me in the empty chair.
Do you have a story that needs to be told?
Are you tired of trying to hide it, only getting burned in the process?
Are you hiding behind a mask of self-protection and pretense?
Are you doing anything you can possibly do to keep from feeling vulnerable and exposed?
I get it, and I won't lie.
That first moment, when you realize there is nothing you can hide behind, is terrifying.
But I guarantee you in that terrifying moment, when you step out from behind your fig leaf, that Jesus is waiting for you with a new garment prepared just for you.
He had a garment prepared for me that day in Bible study, and it was in the hand of the new woman, the one who was loved and had chosen to sit next to me in the empty chair.