Grace – covers the shame and removes the stain… What better summary of a biblical trajectory and narrative can we read than with these words from the songwriter? Cover and remove in this story are powerful signifiers of truth that can break through in surprising ways in a world that holds tightly to achievement at all costs. How many stories have been told of those who were told they wouldn’t amount to much? Even the most creative and brilliant people tell of their stories of overcoming from encountering those who heighten the shame and expose the “stains”.
Shame in a university setting might come in different ways – through thinking differently than others such as the normative story of your discipline, and thus not receiving the awards or accolades of those in power if you are unwilling to play the game. Shame shows up when we face our own expectations in the mirror and they are found wanting to a self-imposed perfectionism or to our own inabilities.
Stains of life can haunt us as well, the other side of the coin to shame that can feel like an indelible imprint which remains with us and never stops haunting. Stains can be how we handled (or mishandled) a relationship, a scar on our person. Stains can be something truly debilitating from our past that lingers in the background radiation of our lives and we can’t seem to shake off, like a bag we keep dragging behind us. My parents’ divorce comes to mind, events we are currently living through many without homes and clearing rubble from war and disaster; or recently remembered events like 9/11, for ongoing recovery from loss in so many areas of the world, or for older folk of a war they remember each year having lost friends and loved ones. Into the shame and stains of our lives comes something intangible, something that can only be called amazing. Grace. Not just grace as an idea but grace as a person who stepped into the narrative and called blessing upon things that are not typical – he blesses those who mourn over – injustice, strife, insecurity, loss of identity, shame, all the stains of life. Jesus pronounces that there will be comfort. Strength enough for the day, courage to go on because the hope of comfort is a new heavens and earth, a world transformed in the present by nomads of grace; and in the days ahead when we find what we’re looking for. A place where all that is good in the world, what Sam says in LOTR is worth fighting for, goes with us. That means the shame and stains are truly left behind in a world where all things are made new.
So when the shame rises up – look up, when the stains re-emerge cry out for grace because
what is stained in us is fully covered by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Leaving us the freedom to resist those things that push schedules, conflict, agenda, and territory with generosity, kindness, peace, and grace.