If only it were as easy as those Beatles make it out to be…
Why is it that “Help” feels like another four letter word we’re not supposed to say? No matter how much and how far we’ve progressed forward, it fascinates me how we still correlate helplessness with weakness.
No, not all of us. And I’ve spoken often of how vulnerability is truly a strength. So why can we agree with that statement, but still feel the need to cover up our helplessness? Why can we agree that vulnerability is truly a strength, and still feel shame when it comes to asking for help?
Helplessness tends to speak to failure (on our part), and failure (on our part) tends to speak to worthlessness.
“and [they] were naked and felt no shame…” – Genesis 2:25
It’s interesting that the verse above tends to correlate the bit about feeling shame with the bit about being naked. As if it was their nakedness that they weren’t ashamed of, until they were. As if they didn’t have any self consciousness about their nakedness. Perhaps this has to do with what happens later, when “their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Gen. 3:7)” and made clothes for themselves. And then later, Adam’s response to God as to why he was hiding: “I was afraid because I as naked; (v.10)” But it doesn’t mention shame in correlation to these verses. Simply that they “knew” they were naked.
So what if the story actually means to convey that they were naked, and also that they felt no shame? What if those two facts were separate truths?
Or what if it wasn’t their nakedness that they were trying to cover up after “their eyes were opened,” but instead it was their shame? (Maybe they were just too “young” then to understand or comprehend that that’s what they were doing.)
I think the confusion of correlation with that Genesis 2:25 verse conveys the same sort of confusion of correlation we have between helplessness and worthlessness. And so to ask for help isn’t to expose our nakedness, but expose our shame.
If you watched the music video at the start of this post, did Ringo Starr stand out to you like he did me? Sitting in the back, doing nothing productive but holding an umbrella? Constantly trying to get his face in view of the camera?
To me, Ringo was the only one in that video that truly displayed, truly manifested, the message of the song. Not hiding in the back. Put in the back. And striving to be seen. Help. I need somebody.
You ever feel like Ringo?
Personally, shame and coverups are a recurring theme in my life. Being physically and sexually assaulted on a bus in middle school, I was left with scars on my chest and torso. These were specifically done so that every time I saw the scars, I’d remember everything else that happened.
Every time I was naked and exposed, I’d see those scars.
And remember my moment(s) of utter helplessness.
And it worked.
And I did everything I could to cover up.
Not my nakedness, but my shame.
(I’ve preached a sermon on the full story years ago, so if you’d like it, click here)
Here’s what I find interesting about the close of the story of the “Fall of Mankind” in Genesis. We so often feel like it’s our fault that we’re not what we “should” be. We hear God calling and we hide. We see ourselves naked and exposed, and we cover up rather than be reminded of the truth. We don’t want to be around God because being around the Divine means that we (have the opportunity to) continually see ourselves as we (think we) are—incomplete, imperfect; inhuman.
We are the reason we’re in this helpless spot. It’s our fault. And we would rather cover up than be reminded of that shame.
But is that the story?
Is that how the close of the Genesis story of the “Fall” ends? With shame? And a nakedness and exposure that constantly serves to remind us of all that happened before?
If you’re John Edwards—or anyone that adheres to and follows the “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” doctrine—you are. It’s our fault. We screwed up. God came a’lookin’ for retribution. And God WILL get the pound of flesh owed.
God didn’t leave the humans naked and exposed. Nor did God leave them to their own devices to try and continue clothing themselves.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” – Genesis 3:21
It’s as if the very shame they themselves continued trying to cover up, God covered for them.
In 1985, Berry Gordy released “The Last Dragon,” a Motown karate film. It’s been one of my favorite films since childhood. The protagonist, “Bruce” Leroy Green, has been training his entire life in martial arts to reach “the final level.” To glow (both metaphorically, and, it turns out, literally) by being a Master.
The problem is, he doesn’t believe in himself. And the whole movie is a quest for him to realize that he is what he’s been seeking all along.
I moved to Colorado Springs to get my Masters in Divinity in the hopes of pastoring a church. Not because I knew what it’d look like to do so, but because that was the path I believed I was to follow. The path I believed was mine.
I took the long way ’round.
I got my Masters, just not in Divinity. And began teaching almost immediately at the collegiate level. And the more I did that, the more I realized how closely it resembled what I had longed to do.
Eventually, I got ordained (online), and became a Reverend. And have sense been striving to convey to everyone just how much they matter. How much worth they truly have. And to begin to form a community of those who—as I do—seek that reminder.
A “church,” if you will.
I effectively forged my own path to what I’ve been longing to do.
It wasn’t. And isn’t. Not quite.
If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know that this semester I’m not teaching. Which is giving me a lot of time to think and process. What I’ve come to is this: I believe I’m being asked to willingly board that bus again from so long ago.
And I don’t know how it looks, or what it’s going to entail. But I’m willing. And I’m doing so.
And I think I’m finally ready to begin actively forming what I’ve longed to do for as long as I can remember.
So this is my call for help.
I’m asking for help.
But not just help. I’m asking for participation. The home page to this website has a call to join me in “Dreaming the Impossible Dream.” But it was never more than that. Never more than a call.
This time I’ve begun laying the groundwork.
I began a Patreon page, and this is my call to you to become a patron. Help support me, and honestly, lets form this community together.
It’s unconventional. And I still don’t know how it’ll look, or what form it’ll take. (Twitch live streams? Chats? Videos? Podcast? More writing content?) All I can say is that this is the beginning.
And I’m willing.
I’m surrendering to getting back on that bus, powerless and vulnerable, and into the unknown.
And this time, I mean it when I say this: “Will you join me?”
All this time I’ve been looking and searching for that community, I’ve talked about it as if it were some far off “someday.” But it’s not. It’s “at hand.” There is one place I have not looked, and it is there, only there…
So it’s time to start.
Though…I do not know the way.
Will you join me? Will you help me bear this? Might I have your sword? Your bow? Your axe? Maybe just your company.
It will be…a community of those who find themselves always in the back.
It will be…
A Fellowship of the Ringos.
And let us figure out What Happens Next, TOGETHER.
->and the world will be better for this…