Shame and Failure

ShameEveryman deals with things between two extremes.

Some men, can deal with life fine.  They remain unstressed, balanced, connected, and adjusted.  Others, not so much.

For some, trepidation comes and they crumble.

Some men, like Washington Irving’s character Rip Van Winkle, deal with things by avoiding them.  He hunted squirrels, shared gossip at the town square, and walked in the woods, all the while his farm fell apart, his wife beckoned, and kids wore worn out clothes.

Some get angry, like Stan Lee’s character the Hulk.  When things go awry, his anger is on display.  His exposure to gamma ray’s caused him to have a short fuse and when trials come he falls apart.  It is no coincidence that one of Saul’s defining characteristics was his anger.

Some isolate and retreat.  When a line to gain is drawn and they fall short, they withdraw.  Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mocking Bird, has a scene just outside of the courthouse where Dill has passed out.  Along comes the town drunk, Mr. Raymond, who always carries with his a bottle in a brown sack.  A sip from the bottle in the sack revives Dill.  Upon questioning, it is discovered that the bottle in the sack is a Coca-Cola.  The man doesn’t care about his label, the reputation, or the town.  Let him be; isolation.

Some achieve and advance, like Ernest Hemmingway’s depiction of the Old Man in The Old Man and the Sea.  Over 80 days has passed since he landed a fish.  The dry spell drives him farther from shore than ever before.  He was going to fish harder and deeper than ever before.  It’s a tragic tale about a driven man.

Some men are adept at all of them.  I am one of them.

What people don’t know is the shame that men carry around with them.  This last weekend, my alarms didn’t go off and I overslept for sunrise service.  I awoke to two church members knocking on my door.  I felt nothing but shame.  On the day that celebrated Jesus’ overcoming death, I could not let him overcome my shame.

A few months ago, when I took a new position and moved.  Upon arrival, 4 men were assembled at my new house to unload my one chair, microwave, and two boxes of books that my broken foot had allowed me to pack.  I repeatedly told them that I didn’t have anything to unload, but they insisted on being there to help me unpack.  I pulled up and 1 min later we were done.  I had wasted their time.  I was mortally embarrassed because I was a failure and I felt nothing but shame.

At the end of October, after years of hearing how I was accident prone, a klutz for lack of a better term; I broke my foot.  I have multiple capable and handy uncles who can do all things building, constructing, and mechanically. I have never been labeled with them.  I enrolled at Washburn Tech to try to learn a skill that would give me real world knowledge that could be of use.  Not much real-world application is drawn from parsing Hebrew verbs.  So I went to class…and got my foot rolled over by a semi-truck.  I failed and felt nothing but shame.

At the end of December the previous, after my Birthday date at Fuzzy Taco’s in Lawrence, I sat on our bed when my wife of 3 years informed she was leaving me for the night.  I was shocked.  The next day, it turned in to a week; and after the week, 3 months. I drove to Lawrence the moment she told me on the phone.  I disappeared.  Ignored calls from everyone.  Went to my parent house to find her sitting with Mom.  Her last words to my Mom:  “Divorce was not an option!”  Nov 9: we divorced.  I had failed, and I felt nothing but shame.

The summer prior, after getting off work, something was said about my building or fixing something.  I had been on the road for 6 weeks straight and when I wasn’t on the road, I was at working at the grocery store.  The fight started late that night but the dagger came early.  She told me about having to call other husbands to help her do things.  I wasn’t there to do things for her.  I couldn’t do things for her.  I got angry and slept at my parent’s house.  We had a brief conversation on facebook messenger.  I was a failure and felt nothing but shame.

Earlier in the summer, I was having radiator problems on my red Dakota pickup.  It had 222,000 miles on it.  I replaced the hoses and it still blew up.  I hoped on my bike stormed out on my wife and the dog and rode my bike 12 miles to Meriden.  I was supposed to be at a Rodeo Bible Camp and they were blowing up my phone.  I couldn’t do anything.  I came to a bridge and jumped.  The pool off water was deeper than I reached and I splashed down after a 20ft free fall.  Dried off, I rode to my parent’s house.  We took my wife’s car to camp.  I dropped my off at camp and went to the Pilot gas station to gas up.  My card was declined.  I had no money.  I transferred some from my parents account (sad hugh!)  It got me to camp. I went to camp that night where they donated me a truck.  It was an unwarranted gift.  Now I was a man who was unable to provide a means of transportation.  I feel like a failure every time I set foot in that truck and I feel nothing but shame.

I have crawled into a whiskey bottle, tried suicide, depression pills, counseling, and everything in between.  The shame that started well before I left Central Park has always been around.  It seems daily that something comes up that reminds me that “I’m not adequate!”.  Case in point: I pulled into our Maundy Thursday service on Wednesday (four days prior to oversleeping), and someone pointed out the rattle of my broken muffler on a truck I couldn’t afford.  A reminder of all the shame.  I had heard the rattle and checked the engine that afternoon but didn’t see the muffler.  Shame!

Jesus took that to the cross I know, but its hard to grasp or should I say, let go of!

2 thoughts on “Shame and Failure

  1. As I read this it literally broke my heart. I so wish you could see yourself as I see you. I see a man who has given countless hours, days, months, and years to other people’s ministries with little to nothing asked in return. I see a man who stepped up and donated his own funds to help kids go to camp or schools. I see a man who handed out bull ropes to kids who didn’t have one. I see a man who knows his Creator and has a talent for teaching about him. I see a man who heart is so big for everyone else that he would gladly give you the shirt off of his back, and probably has. I see a man that has so much knowledge of the Bible that when he speaks about it Pastors take notes. Most importantly I see a man who Loves God and in the end that is all that will matter. Now I don’t know for sure who in your life has placed this shame in you but I would like to meet him so I could dot his eye. Shame is not something we should feel for the way God has created us. If people are shaming you for who you are that is on them not you! We are all flawed, each and everyone of us. Personally I just move from failure to failure hoping that I will stumble upon what God wants me to do. There is no shame in failure; only knowledge! Love You Buddy!

  2. Oh, Travis! You are gifted! You have a gift for writing; sharing your knowledge and real life applications of Biblical truths! You have a gift for speaking; your devotions and sermons are deep but speak clearly to the hearts of your audience! Another gift you have is…..you are HUMAN! We stumble, we create chaos, and we praise God that He loves us and holds us in His arms even when we are dirty and scarred up!

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