March 15, 2020: (un)Packing for the Journey: Shame

Third Sunday in Lent

It was 1952, and Emma Langdon lived in the small Southern town where my mother grew up. Her house was forlorn, often dark, and badly in need of paint and repair. It was the kind of house that neighborhood kids walked past a little quicker—or dared each other to touch, by running across the shaggy lawn. Even the adults acted funny around Mrs. Langdon. They never really spoke to her, never really saw her. But, oh, how the town talked about her; and, oh, how the stories passed around!

My mother thought that Mrs. Langdon was a witch. It turned out she was a divorcée. My grandmother had made it her mission to get to know Emma Langdon, to draw her out of her sad little house and back into the life of the town. But it wasn’t easy. Her husband had left her. Why? Had she been unfaithful? Lazy? A nag? Surely something was wrong with Emma Langdon. That’s what the town thought—and, over the years, that’s what Emma came to think too.

For some of us, it is easy to feel the shame others impose on us; it is easy to get wrapped up in the self-pity and self-loathing that comes with being a pariah. For some, it is easier to fade into the background—a shunned person—than to fight for respect and consideration. But if we carry that shame long enough, it sometimes begins to feel like our normal lives.

God doesn’t want us to live lives of shame. God wants us to find the courage to face the world, and stand as the people we are created to be! Sometimes it takes a friend like my grandmother—but if we want to take the journey, we have to leave our shame behind.

Reflections of a Moravian on John 4:5–42 (Woman at the Well)