In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me
Be to me a rock of refuge
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Last summer, I sprained my ankle. I hopped home, iced it, and ran a half-marathon a month later.
Two months after that., I turned my ankle again. It was the same ankle, weakened by the first twist. This time I heard it snap. I was up running on it in two weeks.
I ran another half marathon and injured my knee. It was the knee on the same leg that I had twisted my ankle. I rested for a week or so, and then signed up for a full marathon.
A month into marathon training, I injured my IT band and couldn’t run for almost 8 months.
I look back – if only, if only, if only. If only I had cared for myself properly with the small injury, if only I had properly healed, if only I hadn’t pooh-poohed it as a small problem and then watched the cumulative damage creep up from my ankle to my knee to my hip.
I don’t always notice the way that small injuries in my soul build up, either. I don’t tend to take time to care for them until they’ve worn me down and cracked me open and I’m stuck taking months and months to care for what would have been a small fix if only, if only, I had tended to myself more gently after that initial wound.
When I think of my ankle sprain, I think of shame.
Shame is never one moment in our lives. It’s a lot of little moments, those brutal, small turns of phrases that people casually drop that fall into cracks in our soul and year by year, grow into trees that split the pavement and break us open. When we fall short, and that failure turns into a pattern that weaves a story of who we are and what our name is: fallen, failed, fearful. We don’t treat our woundedness, don’t tend to our sprained souls, and keep running, running, running on it, until
Shame works its way into our bones, year by year, decade by decade, until all those moments of embarrassment, failure, let downs, sins, rebuke, build up around us so that all we can see of ourselves is someone that has nothing to offer, someone that doesn’t deserve love, someone that isn’t interesting, isn’t good, isn’t smart, who has to say loudly that “everyone is out to get me” because deep, deep down, you are really scared that the reason you are suffering is your own fault, because you’re bad or stupid or sinful.
In You, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
One of the reasons that I keeping coming back to Psalm 71 is the that his or her story is a long story. The author is old and has grey hairs, and she has been worshipping and lamenting for a long time. She hasn’t known a moment without God: God was her midwife, “took her from her mother’s womb,” pulled her out bawling into the world and held her while she screamed about how cold it was.
It’s a long story, and damn it’s a bumpy story. She’s blunt that she’s seen pain and calamities along the way, and that’s she’s seeing them now, again. The struggles and the depths just keep coming. But just as she’s seen shame, again and again, she’s seen God’s faithfulness, again and again, and in this Psalm she comes recklessly and boldly back to God, demanding that God would revive, again, comfort, again, save, again. She turns to God again and again, and God comes to save, again and again. Her soul is wounded, and she turns for healing. She is attacked, and she retreats to shelter. She is shamed, and she begs for her honor to be returned to her.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me.
Shame has wounded our heart and wounded our souls. And we keep running, keep pushing ourselves beyond our capacity because we are scared that if we stop, our effectiveness in ministry or work or relationships will deteriorate – even while our effectiveness is already deteriorating because our cumulative shame is stopping us from loving recklessly and gently. We don’t stop because it feels selfish, and we see so much need in the world that we don’t have time to have our own needs tended – even while our untended shame makes us more selfish, gathering our defenses around us and making us less kind and less present.
We don’t stop because we think we can keep running and the cumulative soul damage will never catch up with us.
We don’t stop because what if the voices are true.
There it is – that deepest voice of shame that whispers that we can’t listen to the shame because it is all real.
And of course it is. Oh my dear, of course it is. You haven’t gotten this far in life without ruining things, breaking things, falling short, being wrong, being bad, being broken.
But running on that shame is not going to make it go away.
And what’s a safer place to encounter the dark and dirty parts of our souls but in the safe fortress of our God, surrounded by thick walls, set high on a rock, where our deepest identity can’t be shaken: the truths that Scripture tells us again and again, that in Christ we are saved, loved, valued, empowered, embraced, called, equipped.
Be to me a place that I can run and hide in, to be surrounded by your Love.
Be to me my rock, that doesn’t move when it snows or storms, that isn’t shifted by rising tides.
Be to me a fortress, a walled in place to rest in You, to sit and be comforted and revived.
Find me battered on the side of the road and scoop me up and carry me a ways.
Bring me to the rock of refuge, hold me there, and while I am sitting in safety, revive my heart.