It was one of those days. I was un-showered, sans-makeup, and in a hurry.
None of which make for an awesome trip to the grocery store.
I spent most of the time yelling at my kids to be quiet, to sit still, to stop eating that or youâ€™ll spoil your appetite. I might as well have been wearing mom-jeans and curlers. I was THAT woman. (I was donning sweat pants and a ponytail — a huge improvement.)
I pulled up to the check-out line, sweaty from stress and exhaustion, ready to scream and/or get the heck out of there. The checkout lady took one look at me, glanced at my sons dangling off the cart, and decided it was the perfect moment to step onto her soapbox.
In a voice loud enough for the customers outside to hear, she announced that my three-year-old wasnâ€™t properly buckled into the cart.
At first, I tried to keep things light. â€œI know. He keeps taking it off. What can you do? Crazy kids.â€
â€œMaâ€™am. I canâ€™t load your groceries unless your son puts on his seat belt.â€
I attempted to appeal to what I hoped was a sensitive side, â€œIâ€™m just trying to survive this outing. Can you please help a mom out?â€
â€œYou need to take your child out of the cart or buckle him in. Otherwise, I canâ€™t give you your items.â€
â€œThis is the most ridiculous thing I have ever dealt with,” I huffed. I then proceeded to yank my kid out of the grocery cart which such pomp and dramatic flair that I just knew she’d see the error of her ways. The customers in line behind me would applaud. The manager would come over and offer his sincerest apologies. My righteousness, in light of this unjust personal affront, would be duly awarded with a lifetime supply of gift cards.
(Cause stuff like that happens.)
Instead, my son started crying and the checkout lady just smiled at me. â€œNow then. Would you like paper or plastic?â€
I stomped to the parking lot, hurled my kids and groceries in the car, and then stopped for a moment to breathe. What is triggering this anger, Aubrey?
I was annoyed because, well, it was annoying. But, there was more going on under the surface.
Already embarrassed about how Iâ€™d been speaking to my kids at the store, how they were all in their pj’s, about how I looked, when the lady pointed out the seat belt situation, my Bad Mommy-Shame sounded off like an alarm.
I was also experiencing Financial Shame. We were at the end of a pay period. I was embarrassed about the little amount of food I was purchasing for three hungry boys, and I was worried about how much it was going to cost.
I’d forgotten that I was actually buying food. God was providing. I let the stress of what I didnâ€™t have, along with anxiety about what I couldnâ€™t afford, get the better of me. I was the store purchasing food when millions of people go without. So, what if the cashier got a little testy? At least I have a cashier to go to (albeit, a bit of a high-horsey one.)
Essentially, I had forgotten God’s goodness to me.
From The Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 31
â€œI will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
And all his ways are just,
A faithful God who does no wrong,
They have acted corruptly toward him;
To their shame they are no longer his children,
But a warped and crooked generation.
Is this the way you repay the Lord,
O foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
Who made you and formed you?â€
Moses is prophesying about the future rebellion of Godâ€™s people. In a nutshell, they will forget God’s goodness, begin to worship other gods, then blame the Lord when life gets hard. Even though He will take them into the Promised Land and remain faithful to them, they will reject Him.
Sometimes I imagine that if I knew my future then I wouldn’t get it wrong. Here in Deuteronomy, God is literally forewarning his people of their future shame. He even tells Moses to teach the people this song, have them sing it regularly, so that they will remember. And yet, they still reject Him. Such is human nature.
Although God does not intend for his children to live in Toxic Shameâ€”a state of identityâ€”the belief that you are not enough, do not measure up, do not have value, we learn from the Song of Moses that there is another kind of shame. One that holds a mirror up to our flaws, our sinful hearts, and reveals that we are in desperate need of Someone to rescue us.
In other words, sometimes there is kindness in shame. Healthy Shame, from the Holy Spirit, can serve as a guide post back to Jesus.
A few days after “Seatbeltgate,” (and after praying for a lot of help and grace) I returned to the store to apologize to the checkout lady. I wish I could tell you it ended beautifully and we hugged and are now best friends. Mostly, she didnâ€™t remember me. Which goes to show you that sometimes shame makes things bigger in our minds than they need to be.
My husband often says that Jesus didn’t come with platitudes. He didn’t come to bring silver linings or to teach us to “look on the bright side.” Jesus came to change our entire paradigm. He came to transform the way we see and operate within the world. Shame does its best to keep that from happening. However, if we learn to recognize our shame-triggers when they are happening, God can use those moments to remind us of His goodness.
Later in the song, Moses tells the people to remember the days of old:
Consider the generations long past –
how in the desert God shielded and cared for his people,
how he guarded them as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, and carries them.”
In other words, remember God’s faithfulness and love.
Ancient Bishop, Paterius, wrote this about Deuteronomy 31:
This week, when you experience Bad Mommy Shame or Financial Shame or simply Not Good Enough Shame, may you remember the gentleness of God. Even in your forgetfulness, may you live shamelessly under the shielding wings of your Savior.
(And while I’m at it…May you never cause another scene at a grocery store. Unless, of course, it gets you that lifetime supply of gift cards.)