shame on you
(the conversation I had today at the checkout):
checkout lady: Would you like to pay for this on your Sears card?
me: No...it's debit for me.
checkout lady: Do you have a Sears card?
checkout lady: Would you like to apply for one? You'll receive ten dollars off your purchase.
me: No thank you; not today.
checkout lady (taking this whole credit card thing awfully seriously): Well, I just have to say...shame on you.
As soon as the words left her mouth, I was taken back to a memory now fifteen years old.
My first beloved bicycle had been stolen from our patio, right where my parents instructed me to keep it. I went with my dad to the police station to report it, and the lady behind me listened in on our conversation. Hearing where the bike had been taken from and assuming that it was the result of my lack of responsibility, she turned to me, looked me straight in the eye, and poured salt in my already hurting child's heart. "Shame on you," she said to me.
The memory of my stolen bike doesn't hurt anymore at all. But that stranger's words still sting. It's a pain that surprises me.
Admittedly, I've always thought deeply about words. I stop and listen to what each one means. So I assume you mean what you say. And when I heard, "Shame on you," I felt the weight of shame.
They are heavy words. They are words of humiliation and dishonor. They may be wielded with ease, but how sharp is the blade! It is specifically designed to harm.
I imagine myself now, standing beside my 8-year-old self, my arm protectively around her shoulders. I imagine standing there with a quiet dignity, invisibly shielding her from a sword recklessly swung. I imagine myself a heroine.
But there are other words that carry the same deadly weight. There are eye-rolls and glances that cut straight to the heart. There are tones of voice that are meant to demean, and the 'harmless' words they wear are a worthless mask indeed. I'd be a liar if I told you I never shame. I wield too well this instrument of death. Oh Lord, have mercy.
I pray that I will become more and more a shield from shame, and not a wielder of it. I pray that I can heal and not harm, protect and not cause pain. To show honor and be gracious.
To be like the One who stands beside us, arm protectively around our shoulders.
The One who shatters every sword.
And my people shall never again be put to shame. . . . And my people shall never again be put to shame.
-- joel 2
-- joel 2