I hate to face my Hall of Shame. That’s how I call, or at last how I feel about, my list of answered emails, Facebook comments and messages, SMS, unpaid bills, voice mail messages (I’m glad I’m out of Twitter, LinkedIn or any other place where those lists add up!). My Hall of Shame: little acts of kindness that have come my way (not counting the unpaid bills) but that I have not yet acknowledged, appreciated or answered, and that become a tribute to my lack of heart, thoughtfulness and/or time.
You know how it grows. You receive a great, thoughtful email, and are really happy to read it. And you think, “I’ve got just a couple minutes before I need to leave, and this person deserves a good response, so I’ll answer her next time.” But when you open your email again, something urgent dominates your attention. Then you don’t open your email for a couple days. Then the following week arrives, and you feel lousy for answering such a kind email a full week later. You answer the quick, simple emails, and leave the thoughtful ones for another time. And the list grows longer and more hurtful, a hall of shame pointing its finger to me.
The hardest part is that the the Hall of Shame is full instead of little flowers, of people who appreciate me and wanted to interact with me. It is not full of hateful messages, which should be best forgotten. Instead, it contains “I miss you,” “How are you doing?,” “Send my best to your wife and lot’s of kisses to the kids,” and the phrase that hurts me the most, (please don’t judge me!), “Looking forward to hearing from you.”
Nope, you did not hear from me. I let you down. You meant so well, you wrote words of love and appreciation, you dedicated your heart, time and words to me, but I did not correspond, and I’m now ashamed to answer you such a long time later.
But eventually I gathered the courage to face my Hall of Shame (which is like 20 minutes ago; I answered three emails now, and this article is actually a way for me to procrastinate answering the other 21…). And it isn’t as bad as I thought, I confess. I feel terrible for answering these lovely people only now, and terrible also for emails with deadlines that expired three months ago and which I can’t do anything about now, but I feel great about thinking about those people again and corresponding them now, however late. I like to be back in touch, to send my imperfect words, to overcome my shame. And I like also that Larissa, Troy and Ben (the 3 people I’ve just answered) will be happy to receive my email, and would have preferred to receive a late response than to receive none.
And what about God? Maybe that’s the list we would rather avoid the most, addressing the most-high and most-lovely God such a long time after we prayed last. We fear that he is impatient by now; we feel like lousy humans; we feel that he loves us so warmly and we so half-heartedly; that the list of sins has grown and that it presents an unsurmountable obstacle to our relationship.
But I bet he will be happy to hear from us again, however late, however feebly, however shamefully. Or for the first time. And he will be happy to meet our shame with his grace, and to remove our eyes from our guilt to his mighty splendorous renewing love.