Student Series: Saturday Night Shame
It was a chilly Sunday morning in December when I woke up around 7:45am. It was my usual Sunday wake up time to get ready for church, but this morning was different. I had woken up with a headache, in a room that was unfamiliar, next to a trashcan by my side. I had no idea where my phone, shoes, or purse were. As I hobbled down the stairs to find my friends, I saw a living room that was in complete shambles. Bottles and cans and tipped over chairs scattered the floor. I picked up an empty liter of Vodka, the one I knew I had been drinking. Hesitantly I asked a friend, fearing what the answer would be, “Did I finish this?” My friend gave me that kind of look that answered my question without even having to use words. Shame.
I knew at this point I still wasn’t in a state to drive, so I asked to be taken home. After stumbling to my room, I threw up eight more times. I showered off the throw up but the strong stench of liquor lingered, and my head still spun with confusion.
Before I knew it, my ride to church was outside waiting on me. Somehow I made it into the church building, but I didn’t make it into the service until throwing up three more times. As I finally entered the doors to the sanctuary, the worship band and congregation were singing “Come As You Are,” by David Crowder. Wow. God is not subtle, that’s for sure. I needed those words, because that is exactly where I was. I smelled like the inside of a frat house, with my eyes blood shot, and my head still in a whirl. I was a complete mess. I was so intoxicated still, it’s nothing short of a miracle in God’s powerful hand that I was even able to comprehend the sermon and still remember. The sermon was about how we don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to Jesus; He loves us so much, He already paid the price so that we can freely walk to the foot of the cross.
Those words would remain with me heavily over the next week as I was beginning to learn more and more about what had happened that awful Saturday night. First, I learned that I had had severe alcohol poisoning and was throwing up what appeared to be black tar (which means I had a stomach bleed). I could have died that night since I was not taken to the hospital. The Lord was with me, protecting me, right there in my sin. Secondly, I could remember tiny fragments about another event I thought might have happened that night, but everything was still so hazy, I decided to ask a friend if she knew anything I didn’t. Her words were haunting as they affirmed my fear. I was taken advantage of in my vulnerable state of extreme intoxication. Shame.
I sank under the weight of that shame and crippling depression as I tried to make sense of everything. I was so lost. I believed my story was unredeemable. I quickly relapsed with my eating disorder. Only weeks later, I was lifelessly depressed, having extreme anxiety attacks, throwing up my meals again, falling behind in school, and still drowning in the shame of my sin from that one tragic night. My life was out of control. Unredeemable. Shame.
Redemption. It was a while before I began to read my Bible again or wanted to be near to God because I was so ashamed. I tried to hide, but I couldn’t escape Him. His wreckless love chased me down…and He had to run really freakin far to bring me back. That’s the beauty of the gospel; It’s for people like me who feel they are too far gone. It is THE good news for broken and messy people (news flash: we are all broken and messy people). The Gospel changes everything. It changed me. I’ve heard the gospel my whole life and I knew that Jesus died for my sins, but that truth wasn’t real to me until I saw the extent of my sin and what I am capable of when I am searching for fulfillment in places that cannot bring it. Jesus not only fulfills us, but He takes our shame and metaphorically eats it. He consumed all of our shame so that we don’t have to hide. Jesus became shame. The perfect son of God became shame. Let that sink in for a bit. He came to restore and redeem us because we cannot clean ourselves up on our own.
To be honest, until I was so broken, filthy, and empty, I didn’t truly see my need for Jesus. I thought I did; I said I did; I said all the right things and I lived a morally correct life until I couldn’t keep up the image anymore. But you see, in a twisted sense, I’ve come to see this huge fall as utterly necessary to my faith story. At my lowest point, I couldn’t save myself. I was forced to face the reality of my sin and my drastic need of a savior. For the first time, I finally acknowledged how helpless I was. I was humiliated. I was a mess. I went pretty far, but Jesus met me there. He picked me up, and He carried me to the foot of the cross for healing. When I realized that He died not only for my little white lies, but also for my decisions on that December night, my understanding of His love grew and transformed as, through His grace alone, He began to transform my heart. I wish it were a quick process where Jesus just snapped his fingers and I would never screw up again, but I don’t think sanctification works that way. It’s not a “The End”moment; for me, it definitely isn’t that. I still struggle with sin, and shame, and I still fall daily, but it’s in those moments now that I have the eyes to see how much I really need him, and it’s His blood that tells me I am covered and redeemed no matter what.