Signs everywhere have created a new form of shame. If you are sick… do not enter! But as January unfolds and variants make the new headlines - it’s amplified.
Over my 40 year history of being involved in education - we had sick kids at school every day. Sometimes it was difficult to get parents to keep them at home. Coughing and sniffling and sneezing were just plain common. Even when swine flu affected 60 million Americans, we just went on with school, transportation, business, and life. Our family didn’t die alone; we weren’t barred from nursing homes, hospitals, businesses or churches.
But today, it’s almost unlawful to have a cold. The “what if” is tied to it at every turn.
Parents used to feel a little nervous about having their kids in public because of their behavior. Now, they have to be freaked out that their child may show any signs of sickness. What if they are guilty of having a fever as they enter school?
No matter what our emotional response is, we can all agree 2020 has put public health miles beyond personal choice. It is at the heart of cancelling the first amendment. The Bill of Rights is now the Bill of Wrongs.
One thing that is evident is that shaming is a result of that cultural shift.
Any kind of contagious disease has always been a shaming mechanism. When one’s health becomes a threat - distancing has sent the message. From lepers having to yell “unclean” when they were in public, to the plague shutting society behind locked doors, to locking up mental health (see history of diseases affecting mental health) patients, to teens shaming each other for having a sexually transmitted disease.
Through counseling and conferences, our ministry has helped people navigate their history of shame through the forgiveness Christ gave at the cross. That has more often been a personal journey, but today it is more than that.
Distancing has become not just a spacing phenomenon, it has seeped into our family units. Understandably, under these conditions, even in our eastern Colorado and western Kansas communities, whole or portions of families are distancing themselves from others to deal with the shift. And, as a result, many of us have lost complete contact with friends and family. It’s just easier not to talk at all than discussing what new norms we’re having to deal with. Some would say that being friends or family is being redefined.
The distance has also become so politicized that finger-pointing and villainizing are standard as well. What if we said, “How dare schools open their doors creating an environment for spreading disease! How dare hospitals consider taking COVID cases, putting every patient, nurse or doctor in danger! How dare anyone gather for worship, weddings, funerals, baptisms or children’s programs, when someone else could be infected! How dare anyone visit their neighbor without being fully COVID tested!”
All of these are exclamatory (!!!) and also inflammatory. In other words - SHAME ON YOU.
The new trend is - one mask is not enough. Will anything now ever be enough?
I don’t know how anyone today, individuals or families, can operate without the forgiveness of Christ. Without that foundation, the alternative is a thick skin, just being hardened to criticism or silence.
Oddly, you would think that those who have had COVID could now move on with their lives and live freely. That was part of the premise of herd immunity. But it’s not so - many of these have had to hide their shame - walking a private path of endurance. You would think we would celebrate their survival - but somehow it seems a tainted victory. Almost like, “It’s not fair that you walk forward unaffected when others have died.”
Guilt and Shame have always been the deceiver's primary weapons of warfare. There is a reason Satan is called the accuser. He, through the messenger boy, sin, is constantly in our ear, even as believers, speaking lies, shame, guilt and fear into our lives.
But when Jesus says, “In this world you will have tribulation,” we can say - That’s for sure! But what do we say when He finishes the thought with, “but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Maybe we respond, “well I haven’t.”
Look at the full passage:
John 16:32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
I’ve given up on anything ever returning to normal, but I can tell you that counseling has taken on a new dynamic and there will be fallout for years to come. Yet, as a ministry we teach, “You can have peace.” We have received a supernatural peace from Him... which the world, health department, government or even vaccine can’t provide.
Our brave new world rests now in choosing who will deliver the peace. The accuser will never change his strategy - John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.”
Jesus pointed to being fully reliant on the Father in all situations. Even and especially when people distance themselves for what we are walking through. For Jesus it was crucifixion. For us…?
The final questions become, “Who will we trust?” What will we embrace, shame... or freedom in Christ?