Shake It Out (Doing What You Got To Do)

Genesis 38:6-26: Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household. After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him. When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.

When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.” “And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked. “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said. “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.He said, “What pledge should I give you?” “Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said. So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’” Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.” About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. (NIV)

“I have wrestled with my demons and woke up with only me.” – Melissa Etheridge, “I Want To Be In Love”

I’m to a point in my life where I almost avoid getting a word.  I know that sounds bad, but it seems like so many of them have nothing to do with me at all, so I lose interest.  I don’t like “general word.”  If someone is going to get me a word, I want it to actually apply to me in a way that is for me, not for everyone.  “God loves you” isn’t specific enough.  “God loves you even though people on FB get on your nerves,” that’s a little better.  Something that really addresses something I am dealing with or am going through, that I’ll pay attention to.  Call me the woman at the well, but if you want to get my attention, you better call out “everything I’ve ever done…” or at least SOMETHING relevant.

So, when I am told something applies to me and none of us have the first clue of how or what it’s about, I do what any dutiful individual would do – I sit up all night and…think about it.

OK, maybe that’s not the best solution to a situation, but it’s what I do.  In the process, I go over things, I remember things.  Sometimes I remember stuff I have long forgotten, at other times there are things that always come to mind.  Moments of self-consciousness, awareness, questions of uncertainty – and then that becomes what I think of.

Florence And the Machine’s hit song, “Shake It Out” always comes to mind in a situation like this.  I don’t question I have my issues.  I don’t talk about them, I learned a long time ago to keep my issues drawn, as she sings in the song.  Holding it all in is probably not the best approach to things, but in this day and age, it’s hard to find people to trust.  I hate being pitied, I hate being patted on the back and handed a Bible verse, as if what I go through really doesn’t matter, and I hate that look that people give us when we know, we just know, that they aren’t really interested in what we’re going through.  We don’t talk, we don’t share, we don’t trust…and our regrets collect like old friends, reliving our darkest moments.  They are familiar, haunting, but something about them brings back a sense of memory that is almost comfortable.  We reminisce them, remember how we felt, remember where we were at and what came about it, and wrap ourselves in the familiarity of what we once were.  We don’t share them because we don’t know who we can go to in this world, to relive those moments and not feel like we are being judged or criticized, and come away with the cathartic aspect of healing that is so overlooked today.  It’s great to tell someone to go talk to God, but God gave us other people for a reason.  We are also told to “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed….” (James 5:16, KJV) and, let me clarify here, “faults” is far more than just sins.  “Faults” relates to anything that we have either done or encountered that we perceive might have been our fault or feels faulty, anything we perceive to be a failure or have failed, anything that illicit fault, shortcoming, or failure within us.  This verse encourages us to talk, one to another, to trust, to engage, not just as a part of accountability, but as part of healing.
Just maybe I – and by extension, we – aren’t as “healed” of things as we’d like to believe we are.  I wonder if part of this is because the “HOW” of healing is so often overlooked in favor of the being healed.  Sure, we love the idea of having someone lay hands on us and the things that affect us are never an issue again…but I question how often that happens.  Sometimes our issues are deeper than our symptoms, and sometimes God wants to do a deeper work within us than just magically erasing the things that affect us on the surface.  We don’t talk about the “HOW” of healing because I think it doesn’t fall into the “twelve steps to healing” category.  I think it’s a power and a work that we really don’t understand.  It’s simple to tell someone to change their thinking, to look at something differently, to tell them all the things we like to say, but it’s a lot harder to look someone in the eye and stand behind them through their healing process.  The healing process of others often brings things up within each one of us, and too many people want to pretend their haunts are not there instead of being trustworthy to others, that in so doing, we might find a place of healing for ourselves.

Maybe we aren’t as healed as we’d like to be because we are still waiting for that person we can trust to help us through what we go through and we haven’t found it yet.

The lyrics to “Shake It Out” (found below) parallel the decision to finally shake off the demons that haunt us and, once and for all, leave whatever it is that haunts us behind.  I like it because it discusses the HOW, the process that she goes through to get the devil off her back and stop reliving that which haunts her.  The decisions we’ve made haunt us if we haven’t released ourselves from them because we can never go back and undo them.  In our modern society, our modern church and our modern world, we live alone with our demons.  We carry our guilt, our confusion, our regrets, our hopes for what might have been, and ultimately, the hurts that we can’t talk about freely because we can’t face the pain and someone else’s judgment.  Somewhere in here, in the midst of our self-help society and our overly psychological way of trying to crawl inside people’s heads and “fix” them…we’ve forgotten how to be there for each other.

We ground ourselves in realizing that we’ve all had to do what we have to do sometimes and that every one of us has done something (or many somethings) the best we could, with what we had, and it didn’t work the way we’d hoped.

Now we need to see people in the Bible and in our lives in exactly the same way: with a demon to shake off their back.  Some of them did and do it well, some didn’t and don’t, and some we don’t know one way or the other.  We need to stop looking so much to the miracle and examine the process of Bible people who didn’t just get a “miracle,” but got handed a situation where they had to do what they had to do, and what they did.

Last year at Women of Power’s PowerFest, Apostle Yolanda Davis taught on Tamar in her message, “Flying With One Wing.”  In the message, she made the statement, “Tamar did what she had to do.”  As I stayed up last night and thought long and hard on whatever the issue might be, her words came back to me, along with the lyrics to “Shake It Out.”  I realized she was right: Tamar did what she had to do.  Her first husband was so wicked, God killed him.  Think about that: she was forced to marry a man (because that’s how marriage was handled back then) who was just wicked!  He probably didn’t treat her right (a good argument that men who beat their wives better watch themselves, because I am guessing he wasn’t wicked everywhere but with her) and then after his death, she had to live with yet another one who didn’t do right by her.  She’d never known love, safety, or security in her relationships.  Then, they are all gone and her father-in-law continued not to do right by her.  She didn’t have a miraculous pregnancy from heaven, she didn’t find herself another husband, and nobody felt bad for her that the men she was with kept doing wrong because they didn’t want to do right.  The Bible never told us it was easy for her to do what she had to do, or comfortable for her to do it, but she found herself in a world full of unrighteous men, trapped and locked in a culture that wasn’t going to give her an easy or a good solution to her situation.  We don’t crawl in her head and see her process before or after; all we see is the results of her carefully thought-out plan, one designed to gain the results she desired.  She didn’t miss a beat; she knew she had only one chance, and she was going to get it right.

We don’t read about how hard it must have been for her later on, pregnant by her father-in-law (maybe people didn’t think as much about that back then), then a single mother of twin boys.  I’m sure she had many days with haunts, with challenges, where she wondered what would have happened had her past been different, and yes, in desperate moments, crying out to God, wondering why that miracle never came her way.  She shook one demon off her back and had to deal with a reality that every one of us has to deal with: in doing what we have to do, we don’t always get the choices, the options, or answers we desire.  We do our best with what we have…and have to live with the results, either way.

There are many stories in the Bible, such as the story of Tamar, that are questioned by scholars because they don’t understand why they are included in the Bible.  Some believe Tamar is included because it provides a time frame lapse for the chapters around it, others believe it expounds on the evils of certain intimate issues (of which they are wrong), and still others think it’s in there for some other reason.  I believe Tamar and other stories like it are in the Bible to let us all know that there were plenty of God’s people throughout history who weren’t handed a miracle, but had to do what they had to do, too.  Just like me, just like you, just like all of us.  Tamar (and others like her) are in the Bible for us.

Tamar is there for me.

When we need to “Shake It Out” and we haven’t met that person just yet who is there to help us – we can go to our family in the Bible for hope (God isn’t going to take away our ministries because we’ve got issues) and security (God still loved them and worked through them) and learn we aren’t that different from our ancestors in the faith as we heal from our lives and bury our demons, once and for all.

(c) 2014 Lee Ann B. Marino.  All rights reserved.
Shake It Out – Florence And The Machine

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around
All of his questions, such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaaah!
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, ooh woah!

And I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, ooh woah!

(shake him off)
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
(shake him off)
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
(shake him off)
It’s a fine romance but its left me so undone
(shake him off)
It’s always darkest before the dawn

Oh woah, oh woah!

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my rope
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me, ohh

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, ooh woah!

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh woaaah!
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh woah!

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