Choosing the High Road

by Joanie Butman

When God wants to address an issue in my life, He often places it right in my lap where it’s impossible to ignore. Obviously, shame has been the most recent one. I’d like to share one last story that precipitated my recent reconciliation with a long-buried struggle with shame. It began with an inspiring and heart-warming testimony from an African American pastor who had a 20-year career as a police officer in a predominantly white community. In fact, he didn’t receive his calling into official ministry until he was in his 70’s! That said, he probably ministered to more people in his role as law enforcement than from the pulpit.

Anyway, he described the challenge of being an African American during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s. He spoke of the steady barrage of derogatory racial comments from his fellow officers and his lack of progression through the ranks during his 20-year tenure. Yet he remained committed to his position and tolerated the efforts to make him (and his family) feel ‘less than.’ When asked how he managed to maintain his dignity amongst such obvious disdain, he responded, “I’m not going to run fearful because of who I am because I trust in whose I am. God is my protector.”

Even so, he spoke of his retirement from the police force when he was awarded a gold ring for his service. The Reverend explained that he couldn’t wear the ring bestowed upon him because there was so much shame attached to it. He hid it in his drawer where it stayed until years later when God’s redemption plan for him surfaced. The officer who led the pack, degrading him for years with racial slurs, approached him and asked him to sing at his mother’s funeral, which marked the beginning of healing on many levels. It was only then that he could take that ring out from hiding and wear it with pride. His new calling into ministry earned the respect denied him for so long from his fellow officers. He may not have their back any longer as a member of the police force, but he now covers them in an even more life-saving manner by tending to their souls

One of the most encouraging comments he left us with was his deliberate decision to always choose joy regardless of his circumstances. Surprised, one of the attendees asked him to share his secret for remaining joyful amongst such difficult circumstances. He responded, “This joy I have? The world didn’t give it to me, and the world can’t take it away.” Amen to that!

There is no doubt in my mind that shame is a cancer of the soul. Left untreated, it will consume you. What kind of circumstances are you facing that threaten to rob the joy that is yours in Christ? I’ll leave you with the Reverend's creed he chooses to live by, “Trust and obey, there’s no other way.”