There is no perfect metaphor. Whenever we try to understand or talk about some important aspect of our life, like our love for another person, or an experience like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, we often resort to metaphor in describing it. We say something along the lines of “my love is like….” Or “seeing that magnificent canyon was as if…” A story generated around the metaphor becomes mythological; “true-er than true.” And yet, our description, our story, is heard by another person, catches their emotions and thinking, leading to understanding. People go “aha” I know that feeling, that experience. So, when I say that my bat is a metaphor for overcoming shame, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Follow me.
I was ten or eleven years old, in Little League, going up against a kid who was at the upper end of the age limit and a really good pitcher. He was big. He threw hard, his curveball not always “biting;” sometimes, hitting the batter. I was afraid to get into the batter’s box, especially because once you stood in the ankle-deep divots made by previous batters, it was difficult to maneuver (like jumping out of the way of a non-biting curveball). Well, we were down 5-0 and I had a runner on first. My teammates were counting on me to get a hit, move the runner, keep the inning alive. It seemed like an impossible task. But, I got a home run! In fact, I was the only kid in the whole district to hit a homer that day! I made the evening paper! That old wooden bat is now a symbol for me of what I can do in my life – even in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.
Over the years, I have had to step up to any number of situations that simply seemed impossible at the time. A short list would include: getting into Yale Divinity School, having kids, raising up a self-supporting ministry in an area larger than the state of Massachusetts, starting life over after several financial disasters, overcoming a terrible personal tragedy…and more. At times, I felt as though my feet were ankle-deep in divots, making maneuverability all but impossible. I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to (or even how to receive help). Life was throwing me curveballs constantly. I was steeped in shame: feeling like I could never measure up, never be good enough, that I was so thoroughly incapable. But I had my old wooden bat by my desk all the time.
Slowly, I began to understand, thanks to various counselors, pastors and 12-Step groups, that I was actually very capable; and competent, and could be confident. I could live into being the person I already was in the eyes of God. At my disposal was a marvelous array of gifts – education, experiences, encounters with a variety of people, insights – that all contributed to my being able to face anything life could throw at me. I was equipped to handle even the nastiest curveballs life had to offer. Remaining positive and proactive during a 2 ½ -year period of unemployment, for example, was not only a long-haul season of epic proportion, it was like
trying to hit nothing but curveballs in a deep-divot batter’s box of desperation.
My “bat” during that period was my many years of a broad, liberal arts education – and more. I could do almost anything because I was unafraid of learning something new. I could adapt readily to any situation because I had moved numerous times and have had a rich history of multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic experiences and friends. My professional work in the area of clinical pastoral care, along with interactions with other therapists, brought me to a place of healing and peace, overcoming years of being immersed in a shame-based family system. I struck out shame with my “bat.” I am still swinging, though not as fearful of what may come my way in life. Actually, I look forward to those people and experiences. People shout: you got this!
What about you? What is your bat? Use it to strike out the shame in your life! As you continue becoming the person you already are, in the eyes of God, keep swinging. You got this!