Shame Like an Abscess

Shame Like an Abscess

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:7

I still work some urgent care hours, which means that I frequently meet patients who have a painful abscess. With such an infection – a collection of pus under the skin – antibiotics simply don’t work, so it must be anesthetized and then incised with a scalpel, expressing the purulent contents. Adult patients don’t enjoy this procedure, but they understand it. Kids, however, can’t understand the worst part of my job – that sometimes I must inflict pain to heal. If given the option, the child with an abscess would just put a Band-Aid on it and call it good. That Band-Aid may bring some temporary relief, but adults know that a Band-Aid doesn’t fix an abscess.

I’ve tried the Band-Aid option myself though. In my addiction, while wallowing in shame, I went to my doctor, asking for an antidepressant, which in my case, was simply a Band-Aid. I didn’t need antidepressants. I needed to stop using drugs. Later, when my life fell apart due to my addiction and I was drowning in the shame, I attempted to avoid consequences. I tried to stop my life from imploding and I tried to keep my problem a secret. When I finally was in treatment, those who observed my tremendous shame told me I must forgive myself. None of those vain attempts fixed anything though. They were all useless Band-Aids.

In today’s passage, Adam and Eve reached for the very first Band-Aid. In the story, they’d just eaten of the forbidden fruit when the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. They sinned. They felt overwhelming shame . . . and promptly got some fig leaves to cover their genitals. Nothing fixes sin like fig-leaf underwear, right? Adam and Eve should have addressed their transgression. They should have gone to God in repentance. They should have faced the problem. Instead, they constructed a fig-leaf Band-Aid and hid themselves.

While floundering in my shame, realizing that none of my Band-Aids were helping, I finally embraced the radical scalpel option. I realized that to properly address my shame, I had to amputate the source of that shame. I had to get sober. I had to return to my faith. I had to embrace recovery. I had to change my entire self, living a completely different life, for the rest of my life. That’s not been easy. Sometimes it’s been painful. What were my options though? If I wanted to find freedom from my shame, my only choice was to rid myself of its cause – no matter how painful that was.

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