Lent has never seemed so long to me before. Could it be that the changes I am called to make this year drag the time out? Could it be that I am waiting for so many things: to celebrate Easter, to complete this research paper, to graduate, to simply work without having school as well, to start exercising again, to have time to just be, and to get summer started? I wait to see how it will all turn out.
This morning I was startled awake by a noise from the general direction of the kitchen. It sounded like Becky had just heard horrible news on the radio or gotten a bad voicemail or something tragic. In reality, she she had simply cussed as the cat had knocked over the bottle of water she was filling. In my sleepy haze, it seemed much worse. A few minutes later, as I was finishing a book for class called A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America, which I highly recommend, she came into the bedroom and said, “Oh, great biblical scholar, *sarcasm* what does ‘confusion of face’ mean?” I had no clue, so I looked up this passage in Daniel in my bible. In her version, the red leatherbound RSV complete with pictures that she received at her confirmation or baptism, the word for shame or shameful thing is translated as confusion of face.
When I sat down here at the table to spend some time in the word (that sounds so evangelical), I sat here perplexed for a minute trying to figure out why the two translations would differ so greatly in their word choice. I then discovered that the Hebrew actually says that the shame is on our faces (boshet haphanim). When we carry shame on our faces, it confuses who we are. We are created in the image of God, but when we break that relationship with God, the shame, like the shame of Adam and Eve who sought to cover their beautifully naked bodies, confuses who we really are. We cannot see the image of God in each other because our faces are so confused by shame. I wonder if there isn’t some correlation to the practice of covering the body with sackcloth and ashes; if your face were covered in ashes to convey your shame at your sin, then your face would be confused. Twice in this prayer, Daniel talks about the shame on our faces, so I assume it was important to Daniel for the Lord to understand the extent of Daniel’s shame—although Daniel doesn’t say my shame, he says our shame, making the sin he is confessing communal not personal. Perhaps, we need to pray more communally, which goes back to my issue yesterday of bearing the shame for others. If our prayers are communal, the shame is communal. It takes a whole village to raise a child. It takes a whole people to confess a shared sin.
I am sure that the expression shame on our faces somehow evolved into saving face. Isn’t saving face trying to avoid being shamed in public?
What can I say? This is beautiful. A woman comes and transfers her shame and her guilt and her sin onto her savior. How much more beautiful does Scripture get? The beauty is in Jesus’ willingness to accept her shame while using it to teach the Pharisees about love and forgiveness. The beauty is in this “sinful woman’s” willingness to expose her own shame and desperation in a way that humbles all those in the room. She literally cries her sin and shame onto Jesus’ feet. I could go on for about twenty pages about this story, so I will stop and just ponder its beauty in my life.
My goal today is to begin to absorb the shame for others and to try to revel in the beauty of things.