Wednesday, January 22, 2014 – Week of 2 Epiphany, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 38 (morning) // 119:25-48 (evening)
I’ve never been much of a drinker, but I do have a small handful of stories about alcohol-related escapades between the ages of 19 and 25. This morning’s first reading reminded me of one of them.
I had gone out with some friends on a “pub crawl” in Edinburgh, and after all that crawling we somehow stumbled home. I guess we stopped for French fries, because I found a half-eaten container of them on my desk the next morning. I also woke up in the same clothes I’d worn the night before, with a blanket folded into a neat square on my chest. Clearly I’d tried to cover myself with the blanket before falling asleep, but I hadn’t managed even to unfold it! Not much use on a chilly Scottish morning.
At least I’m not the only one to fall asleep drunk without a proper blanket. In our reading from the book of Genesis, Noah has planted a vineyard, harvested grapes, made wine, and drunk the fruits of his labor. In his drunkenness, he passes out completely naked. His son Ham sees Noah and tells Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth. The brothers then take a garment, lay it on their shoulders, and use it to cover their father. They walk backwards and turn their faces away so that they don’t actually see him naked.
To me, this gesture of covering shame with a blanket is incredibly merciful. All of us carry at least a few memories of shameful incidents that we might love to cover up. Perhaps they are also related to alcohol or the abuse of other substances. Perhaps they’re the result of our sins. Or perhaps they’re simply connected to moments in our lives that made us painfully vulnerable: when we took a big risk that didn’t pay off, or when we exposed ourselves to rejection or hurt.
How can we cover up this shame in a holy way, without simply trying to smother it or brush it aside? Trying to deal with shame in unhealthy ways can leave us emotionally disconnected and afraid.
Even when we’re held accountable for a mistake or misdeed, if any, we still have to deal with the shame that is connected to it. Remember in the garden of Eden that God first spelled out consequences for Adam and Eve, but then sewed them clothes to cover up the shame that they’d experienced. God knew that they needed more than accountability. They also needed a covering.
Today, perhaps we can offer to God one aspect or incident in our lives that makes us feel shame. Even if we’ve confessed, outgrown, or changed this part of our lives, the shame may still not be covered. So take a moment, and let the angels take a garment and, walking backwards with their faces turned away, gently lay it over us.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.