So he stands there across the island from me, all grown up, wanting so much to be a man, to be seen as a man. I ask him. I ask him, though I vowed to myself I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t get into his business because he doesn’t want us in his business. But it’s so hard to mind your own business when one you love more than just about everything is on a crash-course he can’t see.
So I broke my promise. I opened my mouth and out poured some heart.
I asked him a question, calm and quiet like lake water first thing at dawn.
He gave a one-word answer, eyes dropping to the floor, and I know Shame lowered the shades of his soul right then, hiding him behind. I saw them come down. I’ve seen it happen to me too many times to count. The lowering. The hiding. The wishing to keep anyone from knowing how I really feel—about me.
Chiseled jaw gets more angular with the muscle popping on the side from gritted teeth.
Back off. Back off.
Might as well be screaming it but there are no words. Just a stare-down with the oak plank floor.
I proceed with caution, determined that Shame will not have my son. I assure him I am for him, not against him.
His eyes won’t budge. They’re stuck on the floor. So I take a step forward and reach out my hand. Under his chin I place my palm and say,
“You don’t have to hide. You can lift your head.”
But he can’t. So I lift it for him and he lets me.
He looks at me through eyes a bit misty and I trudge over the lump in my throat to say some truth to this young-adult child we’ve raised. I’m not afraid of him crying. And thankfully, he’s not afraid either. Not really. He knows me. We have history. I take off my Superwoman Mother cape and become a plain old human being, just like him.
Heart-to-heart. Soul-to-soul. This is hallowed ground and I know it.
“Zach, you’re not the only one with weaknesses. I have weaknesses too. Everybody does. So you’re not good at managing money. I’m pretty lousy at organizing stuff. And you know how I get all bent out of shape when stuff isn’t organized? And I get all mad at myself because I think I should be better at something than I am? So I just keep trying and I get no better so I just feel worse and I avoid all the stuff I have to organize by shoving it in laundry baskets, trying to forget it, and before you know it, my life’s a literal mess and I’m a basket case?”
He can visualize my fits of self-frustration as I make like a hurricane, sweeping entire kitchen counters clear of their papers, magazines, books, calendars, cell phones, I-Pods, car keys, and whatever else might be underneath into one very large, white laundry basket. Five seconds flat and the kitchen is clean! Then I fume when I can’t find the car keys and we’re late for an appointment and where the heck did I put my CALENDAR?! Yes. This would be me. A natural disaster.
I continued my pep talk to the both of us . . .
“When I finally had enough of my self-induced pain of being disorganized, I gave up and just admitted that I’m bad at organizing and I finally asked someone to help me. I let someone else use their gift to help me with my weakness. Now two people feel better—the giver and the receiver. We all need help with something, Zach. The strongest people are the people who can admit they are weak and ask for help.”
Right about then, I believe I saw the shades begin to roll up. A little self-disclosure of weakness leveled the playing field and suddenly a son was all ears, eager to accept some help for himself.
We talked about the obvious issue I had raised and came up with a plan. But we were addressing far more important issues than money or organization.
We were talking about the importance of virtues like honesty and humility, acknowledging both weakness and strength. We were talking about letting yourself be loved when you don’t feel one bit worth being loved. We were talking about giving and receiving as natural movements of every healthy person, just like inhaling and exhaling. We were talking about finding a whole lot of peace that’s been lacking all because we try too hard to hold ourselves together by thinning threads and we live in fear that the slightest breeze of bad circumstance might break us and blow us away.
Most importantly, we were talking about mother and son realizing we’re both human, both made by the same God out of the same dust, both adopted as His children through Jesus Christ, both in need of daily grace to grow. And how He wants us to grow. Because that’s what Love does.
Love is the hand that holds all shame-filled faces, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), not wanting any to persist in their self-imposed prisons (Luke 4:18). Love is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3). Love is the healer of our hearts because perfect Love casts out all fear (I John 4:18) and covers a multitude of sins (James 5:20).
We need to get our eyes off the floor, you and me. We need to get our eyes off our inflated or deflated selves. We need to fix our eyes on one and only—the Author and Perfecter of our faith—Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), who came that we might live life to the full (John 10:10).
Are we ready yet? To step out of hiding and step into humility.
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4