I know that some of you may be tired of talking about all of this, but I for one need to sit in this pain a little bit longer. Feel free to join me.
I read in a recent Fox News article, “The Vatican responded Thursday to the report of hundreds of Pennsylvania priests abusing children, saying in a statement: ‘There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.'"
Shame and sorrow.
I want to spend some time sitting with these two words today.
I find it interesting that the Vatican chose the word “shame” rather than the word “guilt” because as psychologist Joseph Burgo expresses, “Guilt and shame sometimes go hand in hand; the same action may give rise to feelings of both shame and guilt, where the former reflects how we feel about ourselves and the latter involves an awareness that our actions have injured someone else. In other words, shame relates to self, guilt to others.”
To feel shame is to feel humiliation when you recognize that your actions do not align with what you know to be good and right and true.
Shame is often associated with sin.
Sorrow is often epitomized by painful feelings of loss or disappointment. It is a close companion to grief.
Sorrow is often associated with sin.
These words make sense for the situation at hand.
A lot of words could make sense right now. Or not make sense at all.
But shame and sorrow are emotions that reach deep into the core of an individual. They are currently making their home at the heart of the Body of Christ as a whole and as individual, hurting people. The Body and all of its parts are grieving and that is okay.
The question now is how do we get up? How do we cope with this grief? How do we address this shame and sorrow?
In Scripture, St. Paul reminds the church of Corinth that, “...godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.”
The Church needs this shame, this sorrow, this grief to be godly. For it to be fruitful, it must lead to repentance and salvation. As a hurting Body, this must be our prayer even if we don't yet have the words to pray.
Because here's the thing, this grief could very well lead to death. It could lead to a large death and it has led - and will probably continue to lead - to a lot of mini-deaths.
And that is exactly what the devil wants. He wants this to be a worldly grief. His greatest fear is that we will embrace this deep pain as a godly grief.
You see, as Lisa Brenninkmeyer writes in the Walking with Purpose young adult women's study, Beloved, “The enemy thinks he has fashioned the perfect weapon to take you out at the knees.”His goal is always to cause death and he thinks he has won. But the truth is, “What Satan intends to use to destroy us, God uses to transform us in beautiful ways - if we cooperate with the process.”
Beauty can come from grief. It doesn't always, but it can. It can come from godly grief.
The challenge lies in the fact that we are currently in the wilderness.
Lisa writes in this same Bible study:
It's dark and frightening in the wilderness. The wasteland makes everything seem pointless and can cause us to feel ruined. When we're in the howling desert, searching for an oasis, our desperation can reach a fever pitch.
This is where our Father meets us. We are lost and wandering, and He comes for us. Instead of waiting for us to clean up and make our way back to Him, He goes on a rescue mission, enters into the confusion and the mess, and grabs hold of His daughters. As we're promised in Matthew 18:14, “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any one of these little ones should be lost.” That includes you. He has come to rescue you, the apple of His eye.
It can be hard to believe in godly grief in the wilderness. This sort of darkness and despair can seem pointless and endless.
At this moment, I feel confused and hurt and lost. I'm sure many of you can relate. But in this moment, above all, I know I must remember that God is here in this mess and confusion with me and you and the whole Body of Christ. God never leaves us alone in the wilderness.
In the book of Deuteronomy, we read the truth that, “He found them in a wilderness, a wasteland of howling desert. He shielded them, cared for them, guarded them as the apple of his eye.”
Even in the wilderness, even when we are paralyzed by shame and sorrow and grief, even amidst our righteous anger, we are the apple of God's eye. We are His beloved children.
He knows we are hurting. I promise, He is hurting too. And, He wants to hear our hurt. I encourage you to speak it out loud to Him.
I don't have any answers to any of this grief right now. But I do know that the devil will truly win if we let this situation harden our hearts and cause us to forget God's love for us.
If you take anything from this, know that God is hurting with you. He is broken with you. But this shame and sorrow is sandwiched by our belovedness. God has never ceased to call you the beloved. He has never ceased to chase after your heart. So I beg of you, don't you forget it either. In the pain, in the grief, be angry, be confused; feel whatever it is that you are feeling. But don't stop praying. Don't turn away from the God who moves mountains to tell you that you are loved.
Pray for salvation and repentance. And, allow this grief to be godly.
P.S. In case you missed it, read Lisa Brenninkmeyer's recent response to the abuse scandal.
2 Corinthians 7:10
Brenninkmeyer, Beloved, 17.
Brenninkmeyer, Beloved, 17.
Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Beloved: Opening Your Heart Series Part 1, 15-6.
I am the type of person that gets hangry. I mean seriously hangry. Ask my Mom, I am not a nice person when I need food. I am also the type of person who loves designated alone time, but hates feeling lonely. I am an extrovert who needs to unplug and refuel from time to time, but prolonged solitude makes me a little crazy. I don't like how either of these things feel, and it can lead me to react in ways that I later regret. Walking through the Wrestling in Fearless and Free has made a real difference for me in these areas.
So far in our look at the Wrestling, we have discovered that to wrestle, we must grow in maturity, which only happens when we are rooted in truth. Spiritual maturity happens when we study the voice of God in Scripture and learn what it means to wield “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). One of the main purposes of this maturation is to grow in discernment.
Discernment can be such a terrifying buzzword in our Catholic culture (especially amongst young people) due to the amount of pressure put on people to “discern” the “right path” in life. But, I think it only seems terrifying because we often make discernment far more difficult than it needs to be.
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., describes discernment as “a decision-making process that honors the place of God's will in our lives.” (1) When we are discerning something, it's critical that we be able to identify the difference between truth and lies.
Discernment requires an awareness of what God says is true, mingled with an awareness of self. It is a marriage of the ability to recognize the voice of God and of the ability to be aware of ourselves - in particular, what triggers us and what makes us come alive.
As much as I would love to spend a lot of time on the latter part of self-discernment - what makes us come alive - being aware of our triggers is the most important part of our self-knowledge in terms of wrestling and discernment. Why? Because the evil one knows our triggers well and if we are unaware of them, he uses them to take us down.
To wrestle, we must be able to discern our triggers. We must be aware of what takes us down. We must stay one step ahead of the enemy so that he no longer can mess around with our hearts and actions through our triggers. True discernment of self leads to us responding rather than reacting when we are triggered.
It didn't take too long for me to figure out that I have the tendency to be an unkind human when I'm hungry, but it took me a whole lot longer to discover how much loneliness triggers me.
When I graduated from college, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment all by myself. I was stoked. That was until the loneliness kicked in. I went from craving alone time in college to despising it. I used to long for my 20-minute Netflix detox between classes, internships, and work. But suddenly, I would do anything to be surrounded by people. Before I realized the problem - the trigger - I was bombarded by lies. The devil had spotted my Achilles heel and was taking full advantage of my lack of self-awareness. He was taking me down and I was clueless.
After about a month of this, I walked into counseling because I was so confused by my perpetual displeasure with life. I usually love life. In high school, my Senior class award was “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.” I share this not to brag, but to emphasize my bewilderment when my brightness went dark.
When I explained this phenomenon to my lovely counselor, she asked me what lie I was telling myself when I was lonely. After thinking about it for a moment, I informed her that when I was alone, I told myself that no one loved me and that no one cared about me. After saying it out loud, it didn't really take her naming this as a lie for me to realize it myself. Finally, my trigger and the coexisting lie had been named.
After this happened, everything changed. I no longer experienced loneliness in my aloneness. I no longer allowed the devil to whisper his lies to me. I no longer doubted my belovedness. I knew that people loved and cared about me. And suddenly, my brightness returned.
To wrestle, to become spiritually mature, we must be able to discern our triggers. We will stop the devil in his tracks when we grow in this way.
Self-knowledge is a weapon. Awareness of self, partnered with an awareness of the voice of God will grant us the ability to wrestle fearlessly.
In Fearless and Free, Lisa shares an amazing practice written by social scientist Brené Brown. She asks us to begin using this sentence; “I am feeling ________, and the story that I'm making up is _________.” Originally, this sentence was meant for use in interpersonal relationships, but I believe we could all begin to pray with this.
When I was triggered in my aloneness, not only did I make up a lie about the people in my life, I also felt unloved and uncared for by God. I made up a story about Him too. But when we name our pain, our trigger, and the lie, we give Jesus room to share His truth with us- His version of the real story.
As you begin to wrestle, may you always recognize His voice and be self-aware enough to be able to take action and wrestle when the devil attacks. Because my friends, it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. So throw on that armor and prepare to wield your swords.
PS: Join us on Instagram Live this week on Thursday at 10 AM EST! We will be discussing the Wrestling and all things Fearless and Free!
PPS: Don't forget to send in any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org!
(1) Joe Paprocki, D.Min. “Discernment: Making Inspired Choices”, Loyola Press, https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/discernment/discernment-making-inspired-choices.
To the mamas out there in the trenches…
To those who are spending this Advent waiting for a miracle…
This is for you.
We all dread the phone call that comes unexpectedly and causes life to feel like one big “before and after.” There's the bad news that sideswipes us and no one is at fault, and then there's the news that makes it very easy to point a finger. So many emotions can explode in those moments- fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment, worry, anger, resentment.
As a mother, there is nothing worse than a call that involves your child. From the moment our children are placed in our arms, we make an inner vow to do all in our power to protect them and give them the best that we've got. The more years I live and the more broken hearts I encounter, the more certain I am that we all are giving mothering the best that we've got. Is it perfect? Far from it. But for the most part, we are doing the best we can with what we know and are able to do in the moment. But this doesn't mean that outcomes are guaranteed. Each child comes with his or her own journey ahead, and while we play a significant role in it, it isn't all up to us. The grand majority of it is up to them and the choices they will make with the great gifts of freedom and life that God has given.
With seven children, I've gotten my fair share of those phone calls. Each time, a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach has taken hold. My breath shortened and my hands felt clammy. I listened, and prayed that it wasn't true. And then I began walking the unpleasant road of picking through rumors, truth, lies and some shattered hopes and dreams. Was the various news I received the end of the world? Absolutely not. But did my heart feel devastated? Yes. Each time.
Someone asked me if I would be worried about Walking with Purpose if my “worst case scenarios” regarding my kids came true and became known. Without a moment's hesitation, I said, “Absolutely not.” The reason I responded in this way has everything to do with the way that I define success and failure. I think it's worth sharing, because I think there are a lot of moms out there who are dealing with their own set of disappointments that involve their families, and there's a lot of hiding going on. This hiding doesn't help anyone or anything, and is actually the devil's playground. He loves the shadows. So many mothers feel like failures, and I believe they are using the wrong measure to determine how well they are doing in this critical area of life.
We live in a world that tells us the success of our children is measured by the outward appearance. Physical beauty, athletic ability, academic accolades and a charismatic personality are all sought after and considered the highest prize. As long as outward appearance looks good, all too often mothers are willing to hide-or more tragically, ignore-sins and deficits of their child's character. We don't want our children to suffer, but perhaps just as much, we don't want their reputations to suffer. In our world, reputation, what people think of us, is everything. As a result, we step in the way of natural consequences that God wants to use to teach our children deep, lasting lessons. We make excuses, cast blame, and bail them out so that their spirits aren't crushed. And in doing so, we warp their understanding of choices and consequences. We leave them ill-equipped for a world that will not continue to soften the blows or buffer them from discomfort. The result? They will never grow up.
Why do we do this? Because we are caught up in the very things the world values. We are mixed up with it all ourselves. We gain an extra ten pounds and feel less valuable. We measure our worth against what we accomplish. Striving and hustling to be considered good enough, we focus on the tip of the iceberg and ignore the enormity of what lies beneath.
God leans into this mess and reminds us, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) He cares about what's going on underneath the water. The tip of that iceberg may look great and earn us a lot of applause, but God is disinterested in those bells and whistles. He looks beneath, and measures our success by how we love. First and foremost, He cares about how we love Him. The first and greatest commandment is this: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
One of the ways that we love Him is by raising the children He has placed in our care. Raising children today is a battleground. We no longer live in a society that backs us up when we teach our kids what is most important. Leading our children to love and serve the Lord is incredibly hard in a culture that says truth is relative, everything in life revolves around them and their happiness, and that actions don't have consequences. The older our children get, the more we recognize what a battle it is. It's hard, and so many of us are weary.
Those of us who have determined to let the shoe fall, to let consequences be felt, often feel so alone on that path. We want to give up. We want to give in. We desperately want everything to just get comfortable again, even while we recognize that discomfort is exactly what our kids likely need in order to learn. Many of us are facing really serious battles with long term consequences, and too many of these warrior mamas feel like failures because their kids are seemingly not learning these lessons.
I believe that even when we recognize the battle for what it is, too many of us are fighting with the wrong weapons, and we're getting discouraged about the wrong things.
The true battle isn't what we see with our eyes. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The battle is in the spiritual realm. Only one kind of weapon can meet the battle in the air. It's described in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
The weapons of the world are reputation, money, influence, power and a shiny outward appearance. They can take us only so far. And from the Lord's perspective, all they are affecting is that tip of the iceberg, evident to all. But the weapons that have impact below the surface are far, far, more powerful than the worldly weapons.
The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). This is an offensive spiritual weapon. Prayer is tremendously powerful because it literally moves the hand of God and calls down angels to battle on our behalf. The Eucharist has been used in physical battle, and the rosary's power has been seen for hundreds of years.
It's what's going on under the water that makes all the difference and is the true measure of success. And that's where we employ the weapons discussed in 2 Corinthians 10. The spiritual battle is a hidden battle-done in the quiet of our homes and adoration chapels. It's waged on our knees and literally pushes back the darkness.
If we copy the world and use its weapons, we are guaranteeing a lack of power. This is because those weapons have nothing to do with the release of the Holy Spirit. If we seem to win a battle by using the world's weapons, from God's perspective, we have lost. The reverse is also true. If we seem to lose a battle but we have relied on the Lord, trusting in Him and the weapons of prayer and God's word, we have won. We have WON, regardless of what it looks like to the rest of the world. This means that what others might say is a failure can actually be an enormous victory.
Join me, precious mamas, on your knees. Engage in this spiritual battle with heartfelt, fervent prayers. Let's storm heaven as we plead on behalf of this next generation. Do the hard things. Let the hammer fall and the consequences be felt. Don't stand between God and the lessons He is trying to teach your child. And over all these things, put on love. Tough love is real love. And isn't this what God is teaching us during Advent? The gift of love is always costly, but always redemptive.