Blushing

At 5 years old I tried to steal $20 from my brother… but I got caught. The moment I got caught my cheeks went scarlet red, tears filled my eyes, and I was overwhelmed with regret. I knew it was wrong, and my body was doing what it was designed to do in that moment. I was blushing. 

This wasn’t the cute kind of blushing that happens when someone says something nice about you and you act bashful- this is the blushing that comes when you are embarrassed and full of shame because you’ve blown it and you know it and everyone else knows it too.

At 10 years old I tried to steal a piece of candy from a pharmacy but I got caught. They called my mom, and she told them to send me home right away. When I walked into our apartment, she didn’t even look at me. It was like a perfect parenting move- the sadness I felt when she couldn’t even look at me. Brutal.

My cheeks went red again, tears filled my eyes again, and I was filled with regret. I knew it was wrong, and my body was doing what it was designed to do in that moment: I was blushing.

At 13 years old I said, “Hey everyone, watch this! I’m gonna throw this rock at Mr. Queen!” Mr. Queen was our 60-something year old P.E. teacher, who was standing about 30 feet away helping kids load the bus after school.

I threw that rock, and it hit him right in the side of the head. I couldn’t hit the side of a barn from 3 feet away usually, but suddenly in my depravity I was channeling Carl Yastrzemski… He stumbled, almost went down, then looked in our direction as he grasped his bleeding head.

Every 8th grader at my school pointed at me simultaneously. Bunch of sellouts. 

He rage-walked over to me and, through gritted teeth demanded, “Why would you do that?!” My cheeks went red, and I was filled with regret, but there were no tears this time… My pride wouldn’t let me cry in front of my classmates. I couldn’t show that kind of weakness, even when I knew I had done something terrible.

This trajectory continued for the next decade, until there came a point when I could do whatever I wanted, no matter how wrong it was, and I would feel nothing. My cheeks wouldn’t go red, I wouldn’t feel any regret, and I was numb to the pain I had created. It took a while, but eventually, I forgot what it was like to blush.

It felt like freedom in a way- when you don’t have to worry about blushing any more, you can behave however you want! You can hack your conscience. It takes a while, but anyone can do it!

So, even though it was uncomfortable, the blushing was actually a good thing. It showed that I knew the difference between right and wrong.

But I’ve felt firsthand what it’s like to forget how to blush. I’ve felt firsthand what it’s like to ignore and suppress those initial feelings when they start to well up inside. I’ve mastered the art of making excuses, and convincing myself that my justifications are true. 

(this is a transition)

I’m not going to say this is is exactly what is happening in the Evangelical world, but I keep bumping into Christians who seem to have forgotten how to blush. I’m not big on shaming, it doesn’t work… but I’m seeing something concerning.

Many Christians have pledged their allegiance to a President whose actions should make people blush (at a minimum). They’ve given a free pass to actions that should fill a healthy person’s heart with grief. They’ve ignored the countless lies, the bullying, the obvious insecurities and the corruptible behavior that should make all of us blush.

Unless we’ve forgotten how.

When I have pointed this out, I am typically told that I am being divisive, that nothing is wrong, and that I should be more encouraging or hopeful. It makes me wonder if they can even see what I can see. These are good people, who seem to have blinders on, incapable of seeing what is so obviously wrong. 

It’s a familiar script. It comes from the Book of Jeremiah:

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed of their detestable behavior? No, they were not ashamed at all. They have lost the ability to blush.” Jeremiah 8:11-12

They had the ability, but they lost it.

They’re saying, “Peace! Peace!” because they can’t see that they’re standing in the middle of a chaos they have perpetuated.

It’s not even intentional any more… they’ve just lost the ability altogether.

This is the only explanation that makes any sense to me, in light of the behavior I’m seeing. I can’t explain it any other way. 

In my life I have earned a Master’s Degree in Stupidity, but I’ve also been given eyes to see…. 

that humility is better than arrogance.

that honesty is better than deceit.

that inclusion is better than discrimination.

that meekness is better than bravado.

that mercy is better than judgment.

that purity is better than toxicity.

that peace is better than war.

that the way of Jesus is better than the way of Trump.

It seems to me that most Christian I see are trapped in a prison of their own making: they want to support a President because he is allegedly pro-life, but they’ve had ignore so much to do so. 

How else can we make sense of the people who are supposed to be followers of the Jesus way? It seems that many of us have forgotten who we are.

We’ve forgotten how to blush.

But we can learn again. That’s the beauty of being human- we can change. We can start today. We can, as Christians, reclaim the story that we’re a part of. It’s the only story that will last forever. 

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