From Shame to Grace

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I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

— Joel 2:28

You should be ashamed of yourself. I remember hearing this often in grade school when my behavior needed redirection. Eventually, I carried shame around with me like an overloaded backpack. Therefore, the shaming I received from teachers made that backpack heavier and heavier until I believed that I was just a shameful child.

Fortunately, my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Bednar, kept me after school one day to talk to me about my behavior. She sat down beside me. I felt my heart rate elevate, believing she was going to unload more shame on me. Instead, she looked me in the eye and said, “You are a good person. You are smart and capable. I believe you can do better in class. I believe you can be the good person you are meant to be.” Then she prayed for me, asking God to embrace me and to let me see Jesus in all that I did.

When she asked me to stay after school, I prepared myself for a punishment. Instead, she prayed for and with me. I cried, which was ironic because when I received a punishment, I refused to let the teachers see my tears. This one day in fifth grade I saw a way of tenderness and mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. Consequently, I shed tears of empowerment.

When I read Joel’s prophecy that God “will pour out my spirit on all flesh,” I am delighted that God—through Christ and the Easter miracle—empowers all people to live lives of tenderness and mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. God calls us forward to be the good people we are meant to be. It doesn’t matter if we are sons or daughters, old or young, rich or poor. What matters is God’s display of extravagant love by sacrificing his only son to show compassion and to restore us to righteousness. Joel reminds us that God —even when we are exiled—keeps calling us toward him. As a result, God pours his spirit out on all flesh. God does not discriminate in his giving. I personally rejoice in that.

Mrs. Bednar saw a vision of me that I couldn’t see. So too God sees a vision of us that we can’t see, and it is goodness and righteousness. As a result, God calls us from the sin of our own darkness into the light of divine goodness. Therefore, during this Easter season, we can offer prayers of gratitude that Christ came to offer salvation, to give us eternal life, and to guide us to be who God calls us to be.

— Tim Gavin


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