Last week I made an unexpected phone call to an old friend, and five days later, countless thousands of people had heard about the conversation.
I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him. Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin. Jeffrey didn’t seem to care. We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes. This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.
I knew my accent would stand out when I moved to Washington, D.C. I didn’t think anyone would make fun of it. As I walked away from the break room and said, “Bye, y’all,” to a group of coworkers, I hadn’t gotten far away before I heard one of them say, “Byyyyye yawl!!” It stung.
The other day my seven-year-old daughter said something I wasn’t expecting: “Daddy, I know a bad word.” Oh no, I thought, my worst fears about the D.C. school system are already coming true. “Oh really?” I said casually. “What word did you learn?” “The S-word.” I cringed.
At 12 years old, I can assure you it was not my plan to have a meltdown in front of a handful of my seventh-grade classmates, some of whom I didn’t know very well.
My old friend Dawn emailed me with unbelievable news last week: She accidentally found Amanda. The last time either of us saw her was 17 years ago.
I was a sophomore in college when I began receiving a series of harassing emails from an unidentified person. Each one was loaded with expletives and insults that cut into my stomach like rusty razors, leaving me with a cold, sick feeling. The worst part was that it was clear that I somehow knew the person, who I assumed was male based on the tone of the emails.
The other night, I was putting my little daughters to bed, and I sensed that I needed to talk to them about shame. I figured we could discuss it the next day since it was already late, but I didn’t realize the Holy Spirit was prompting me for a reason. Before I left the room, one of my daughters said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
During my junior year at the University of Southern Mississippi, I invited a Yugoslavian student to a campus worship service that was organized by my church, which was predominately white. After the meeting, we were talking in the hallway, and he noticed a group of mostly black students meeting across the hallway. Then he asked something that caught me off guard. “Why do the white Christians and the black Christians meet separately?”
In 2009, I was at a friend’s birthday party when my vision suddenly became distorted. I could hear and see everyone, but it felt like I was in a dream. About 15 seconds later, I came out of it. I walked over to my friend, who’s a doctor, and tried to describe what happened. “Maybe you’ve got superpowers,” he said, and we both chuckled. Soon thereafter, I stopped chuckling.
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.
For a lot of my single years, I was hopelessly awkward. No doubt, there were still attractive things about my personality (or at least my mom says there were), but overall, I was kind of weird.
Yesterday, my wife and I had visitors over, and my newborn son started crying — probably because he was tired and needed to go to sleep. We tried to play it cool while attempting to calm him down. We even gave our visitors a shot at soothing him, but none of it worked. He kept on crying, so I finally left the room and went upstairs to console him. It took 30 minutes, and it required a lot of creativity.
When I was in my 20s, I was obsessed with the fear that I was not actually saved — that my so-called “faith” was nothing but an elaborate web of self-deception that would end in eternal damnation.
I spent a lot of my early Christian walk hiding the areas of brokenness of which I was most ashamed. It was like I believed the worst stuff would go away if I simply didn’t acknowledge it. All it did, however, was cover up the symptoms until my issues bubbled to the surface, causing me to sink into shame. But over the years, the Lord spoke a lot of comfort to me with this Bible story about a man who was seen as unapproachable.