Posts Tagged 'Gossip'

The Scarlet Letter

By drewApril 11th, 2011Art, Blog, Featured, Marriage/Family, The Church1 Comment
Scarlet Letter Pic

I think it was about the eighth grade or so that we read the classic story of The Scarlet Letter.  Though I remember understanding the moral of the story, I had never felt what the stories main character must have. One thing we know how to do quite well is to ostracize people.  People who are different, look different, live different, they’re usually the first to wear our badge of shame.  I was a jock in Jr. High, a thug.  The school year picture from seventh grade was sort of angelic and innocent, where my eighth grade picture reveals someone completely different.  When I look at those pictures, I see a child wanting to be seen as a man, or at least someone searching for identity and acceptance.  I seemed to have found some of it in being tough, fighting, cussing, smoking, and rebellion.  I see those two pictures, and at first want to laugh.  To laugh about my immaturity, my lack of awareness or sense of fashion.  But I think it saddens me more than it entertains me.  Seeing these two is a peek into the days of my innocence lost. The beginning of caring about what people think, starving for approval, and the creation of a personality that someone else wanted. This was not exactly the child that was created by God and raised by my parents. In those days I was one of the guys that felt he had the right to label people and put people down to lift myself up. I’ve been on that side of labeling; of accusing and pointing out others ‘specks’ though in my own eye was a tree of sin and mistakes.

I haven’t thought about that old book since those years of awkward adolescence, until recently.  I didn’t have an affair or have some moral failure that would cause a community to cast me out, but I have felt shame, I have felt ostracized and lonely and as a result I’ve thought about all the poor souls that too have felt on the outside, guilty of wrong or not, they’ve, we’ve been pushed to the side and had to find life outside of the world we’ve known. I’ve become so much more compassionate for those who’ve been misunderstood, who don’t fit in, or for whatever reason has just been sidelined.  I didn’t feel this as a kid, I was usually picked early on during sports and never felt the shame of being the kid the last team had to accept.  I can’t imagine that feeling as a child, but I know now as an adult, the sting is as sharp and the sadness as valid.  For many who live a season of their lives with a “scarlet letter” it sticks for longer than the season of scandal and reaches into other years and aspects of life, creating a personality decorated with dark colors and sunken shoulders and overwhelming sorrow. These walking wounded may have actually had an affair or divorce or committed some crime, and so they each have been labeled with their own letter representative of the offense.  Yet others like myself, though not guilty of some heinous sin, still feel labeled. I was let go recently from my job.  Not for poor performance or anything inappropriate, but for preference or cutbacks or some other reason I’m still unsure of.  Since that happened, I’ve struggled tremendously with shame, sadness and self-doubt.  I know who I am, how I’ve lived my life with integrity and passion for excellence and holiness, yet I’ve found myself shaken to the core.  Part of it goes back to that little eighth grader hoping for approval and having not gotten it.  Some of the pain is from what feels like betrayal and a lack of communication.  My loss of community and position has made me feel like there’s a “scarlet letter” on my life.  It could be an “F” for fired, or an “N” for not good enough, or even an “L” for loser.  I’ve felt all of them, but in my heart I know none of them represents me.  These last several months have made me sensitive to so many who would never darken the doors of the church because they hide under their own letters, letters that have been put on them or letters they’ve put on themselves. Either way I’ve noticed how very easy it is to be found in those descriptions instead of what’s true.

The truth is that I am identified with Christ (Gal. 3:26, 28) that I’m hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) that I’m complete in Christ (Col. 2:9-10) that I’m His friend (John 15:15) that I am strengthened by Christ (Phil 4:13) that I’m chosen by Christ (John 15:16, Col. 3:12) that I’m an expression of Christ (Col. 3:4) that He has a purpose for my life (Col. 1:16, Ps. 138:8) that I’m loved by Christ (John 3:16, Eph. 1:4).  It’s also truth that God is still working on me (Rom. 8:28, Phil. 1:6, Col. 2:7) so I know that He has allowed every day I’ve faced.  Some days hold joy and love sweeter than life itself, and others pain, confusion, and darkness that find us on our faces crying out for help and healing. Both are being used of God to create in us the image of Jesus and who He is and a dependence on our God.

Have you ever felt labeled?  Do you ever feel like people have already made their mind up about you, without trying to know you or understand the situation? Maybe you’ve believed a lie, or forgotten the truth of who you are and who God is in you.  You, we are not alone.  Our prayers and songs and hearts ring out with the voice of experience.  We KNOW God is faithful, we KNOW God provides, we KNOW He loves us.  Without walking through moments and seasons of struggle, we would never know the depths of God’s love and goodness.

I think it’s time we change the letter. It still remains a “Scarlet” one however, bathed in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for us, redeemed by His love. “F” for forgiven, or “L” for loved, or even “C” for child of the Almighty God.  It’s not easy but we have to find our identity in truth, in God. We are more than how we feel or what someone thinks of us.  We will be found in Him, we will be identified by Him, we will live and move and have our being in the One who gives us life.

Psalm 23 (Message)

A David Psalm

1-3 God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

you let me catch my breath

and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through

Death Valley,

I’m not afraid

when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook

makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner

right in front of my enemies.

You revive my drooping head;

my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me

every day of my life.

I’m back home in the house of God

for the rest of my life.

* Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “The Scarlet Letter” (1850), regarded this painting, which William Walters commissioned from Merle in 1859, as the finest illustration of his novel. Set in Puritan Boston, the novel relates how Hester Prynne was publicly disgraced and condemned to wear a scarlet letter “A” for adultery. Arthur Dimmesdale, the minister who fathered her child, and Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s elderly husband, appear in the background.

Merle’s canvas reflects some of the same 19th-century historical interest in the Puritans as Hawthorne’s book, a fascination that reached its peak with the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863. By depicting Hester and her daughter, Pearl, in a pose that recalls that of the Madonna and Child, Merle underlines “The Scarlet Letter”’s themes of sin and redemption.

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