Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The one where Bekah burned her hand

Last Sunday after church, we had a 10-year celebration for our pastor. Being good Baptists, that of course meant lunch. Since this was a little more than your typical potluck, the really important dishes (meats) were kept over sterno heat.

While I was immersed in conversation, Bekah, our 4-year-old, headed to the buffet line with some older yoots. It didn't take too long before the cry rang out - not a typical 4-year-old whiny/drama cry, but THE cry, the one that happens when they're actually hurt. It wasn't easy deciphering what she was saying through the tears and screams and terror, but I was able to pick out a strained "I burned my hand!"

A little first aid, some Neosporin and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle band-aids and a week to heal, and everything's all right. She just had a burn on one finger, and the remnants of that ("I have a hole in my finger!") will soon be completely healed. She's all better now, but when her hand was on that hot dish, it HURT.

As her father, I'm so glad it did. I'm glad she felt the pain.

Now don't get me wrong, I'd obviously much rather not have her burn herself. But getting burned and feeling the intense pain is much, much better than getting burned and not feeling it. Just think how much damage would be done if she didn't feel pain, and just left her hand there while it cooked! So no, I'm not happy she got hurt - but I am so thankful that when she did, she could feel the appropriate pain, pull back from the danger, learn her lesson with minimal damage, and heal.

So let's talk about shame.

The best of all possible scenarios is to not sin, to be righteous, so you have no cause for shame. But this being reality and us all being sinners by birth, we're going to sin. When we sin, when we do what should not be done, we should feel shame. As pain is your body warning you to pull back from greater danger, so shame for sin is a warning of greater danger, a call to repentance. As Paul described the shame he caused the church in Corinth by confronting their sin:

"For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter." 2 Cor 7:7-11

So we do not rejoice in shame in and of itself, but in how conviction leads to repentance and salvation.

Unfortunately, there is another way to deal with these warnings. Rather than pulling your hand back from the fire, you can believe that having your hand in the fire is good, and take pain meds or sever nerves to allow it to stay there. And with shame, we can pretend the sin is actually good, and try to deaden the conscience and silence those who warn us of the danger.

And so the Bible warns of those whose consciences are seared, who seek to enslave others in their sin. We hear of those whose god is their belly, who glory in their shame, for example holding a parade to celebrate their sin. Or as Paul sums up our depravity in Romans 1:32, "Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." You can guess what God thinks of this, and the destination that way leads.

There is something worse than feeling shame - not feeling shame when you should. When that conviction for sin comes, repent. The worst thing you can possibly do is suppress it. Instead, turn to Jesus, who alone can save.