This is also one of those posts where I need to give a disclaimer: the reason I am sharing the story below is because it sparked transformation in my heart. This is not to bring shame on this young lady...the intent is actually to break patterns of public shame in our society. As a matter of fact, I don’t and probably never will know the lady. As you will see in the course of reading this, I never even saw her face. She could sit beside me at Panera tomorrow, or be at the same birthday party as me and we talk for 20 minutes and I would never know. That said, let’s start with what happened before we go into what I learned.
A buddy of mine and I were supposed to hang out on Saturday. We decided to grab lunch. He currently eats vegetarian so it limits the options a little in Tuscaloosa. I normally love giving shout outs on here to different places, but because of the nature of the story, I will only say this: we were at a restaurant not next to campus (University of Alabama for those who don’t know…RTR!), but not too far away either. And it is typically more of family hang than a college place.
We were sat in this little corner and in my direct line of sight was a young lady, obviously passed out drunk with her head and arm sprawled across the table with her two friends. She remained that way until the two friends decided it was time to go. The young girl wanted nothing more but to stay in the booth and kind of fought at first…then she passed out again. At this point I decided it was best to focus on my friend and just leave these three to their business. The young man who was helping her, dragged her and then the story takes a turn for the worse.
The young lady was wearing one of those things you might see on the website shirt-or-dress. That is to say, she was wearing rather a short dress. I probably would not have noticed except for the audible gasps all around the room, which drew my attention back to them escorting her out. The reason for the gasps was in dragging her, he pulled up (unintentionally) her dress and she was not wearing any underwear. In other words she was exposed for the entire place to see. It was utterly terrifying. But my instinct in that moment is what I want to focus on here.
In that moment, and I think some of you have been here with me, all I wanted was to find a tablecloth, a shirt, anything just to cover her up and yell at everyone to stop looking. All I wanted to do was protect her. I wanted to yell at people to stop gawking. I wanted to carry her back to the car, yell at her friends for letting it get this far, find her best friend from high school, the one she really trusted, drive her to Tuscaloosa and watch over her in the ER. Ask that best friend if this was a problem, do we need to talk to her parents. Post a guard of men and women around that room so that no one could look down upon her. I just wanted the shame to stop.
And the thing is…I don’t know her. I never saw her face, yet my instinct in that moment was to cover her shame. And I think that what it revealed to me is that the Father heart of God was more appalled in that moment by the corporate sin of shaming her, than her getting that drunk. I think God was more distraught that no one seemed to want to help her, but they all wanted to talk about her. I think God was disappointed that I couldn’t get up out of my seat to help her because “they” might think I was with her. But…grace. God let that moment torture me for the weekend to teach me about grace and shame.
God allowed me look at what we all know happens and whisper, “I hurt for her. You should hurt for her. You shouldn’t judge her.” He allowed me to see that in the moment of public sin there are actually two sins happening: first, her sin of drunkenness, and second, our sin of judgment and shame. We sinned in that moment. Every thought of self-righteousness…sin. Every thought of judgment…sin. Every thought of pride that our kid would never do that…sin. Every worry that our son or daughter would be next…sin.
There is this thing called righteousness. We need to seek the Lord and change our heart toward sin. We need to let the love of God transform us and lead us into that path of righteousness. But we do not judge our brother and sister in their sin. We do not mock them for mistakes they have made. I am thankful that these two friends at least watched out for her. I am thankful that assumedly she was sexually not taken advantage. I am ashamed that we corporately however took advantage of her state to assuage our own egos and say, “At least I am not like that sinner.”
This is not a condemnation of drinking alcohol. This is not a plea to tell women to dress modestly. There are so many interesting views on both of those things. What this is…is a plea to look at someone like this young woman and remember that not only is she someone’s daughter, she is also imago dei…the image of God. She is our sister. She is our friend. She is our daughter. She is genetically just a few strands different than you. And you know what…she made a stupid choice. But so did the bartender…so did her friends…so did we in that restaurant. There were all these bad choices that culminated in a situation where as patrons of that restaurant we should have decided, “Let me either help, or at least divert my own attention away.”
Instead waiters and waitresses yelled apologies about this horrible thing, and parents whispered to each other and young men and women gawked, and some even laughed. And we heaped condemnation because someone made a bad choice. Who knows, this could have been the first time she had ever drank, probably not, but it’s possible. Who knows, she could be on some sort of medication that exacerbated the effects of alcohol. Who knows, she could have been hurting because of other decisions she made and she thought getting drunk would give her relief. We don’t know.
And so, let me draw this overly-emotive piece by saying, particularly to the Christians: Don’t judge this woman. Help her. Grab that table cloth. Help the young man carry her. Confront the bartender or waiter who served her. Just do something, anything, except join in the public sin of shame and condemnation…because you know what…Jesus didn’t. Instead, he looked down at the woman caught and adultery and whispered, “Where are your accusers?” And I hope we can ask the same thing.