Friday, February 7, 2014

Shame, Embarrassment, and Rejection

….” Hagar what’s wrong? Do not be afraid!....” Genesis 21:17b

Jamila was all locked up with pain and hurt.  I sat silently looking out the window praying and waiting for her to feel safe enough to talk about what was troubling her. She felt vulnerable disclosing what she was enduring.  Finally, after a very long time, she stated, “My husband’s family is on Skype every day and say bad things about me. They don’t like me.” “You can hear them talking?” I asked. She nodded her head and the tears ran down her cheeks.  She was walking through rejection and shame of not measuring up.  Her in-law family could decide her fate and there was nothing she could do about it. This is not an isolated story but is a composite of a few I know. The story of Hagar speaks into their pain.  I affirmed Jamila, “You are beautiful. You are a good wife and mother. You are quiet and take care of the home beautifully. You are an excellent cook.” I went on and elaborated that she needed to hear God’s voice, too, because He loves her and is pleased with her. I asked her if I could pray for her and she agreed.

Javed and Maryam are trying to make ends meet living on social assistance from the government. “We have to serve 9 dishes when we invite our Afghan friends. There are expectations.  Every weekend there are baby showers or people having parties for buying new homes.  We can’t give expensive enough gifts.” Their low- income level produces shame.

There are many reasons why a Muslim woman may feel shame about earthly situations.  She struggles with infertility or doesn't deliver a boy. She is ashamed she can’t read, is not highly educated, or doesn't know how to use the computer or drive.  She may walk with a limp or is excessively shy. Her nose is too big or her eyes too small. Her eyebrows are not formed attractively. Her weight doesn't come off. Her gold jewelry is not top quality. Her child has autism which her community can’t understand. A son may be in jail or involved with drugs. Their house is not in a new development and her furniture is not the best quality. There are no doctors, professors, or engineers in her family line. Perhaps she bears disgrace from her community for being divorced.

I know the pain of rejection, embarrassment, and shame, too. When I was 23 years old I came down with hyperthyroidism. The physical effects embarrassed me. I wanted to hide. I have felt shame from saying things in meetings which I couldn't retract. One time I meant to write that Christian women need to dress modestly when ministering to Muslim women but it was printed in 2,000 copies that we should dress immodestly! I wondered how I would ever rise above that embarrassment. The pain of rejection by Muslim and MBB women I have cared about has hurt me. But I have a Savior who understands and can identify with my rejection, embarrassment and shame issues.  I wish I could fix Jamila’s or Maryam’s  pain but I can’t. However I can walk with them in it and introduce them to the Savior.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for meeting me in my painful situations.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.