When I was separated, a speaking engagement of mine was cancelled, on the topic of Christmas, because I was separated. (Yeah.)

And when I was separated, I was told I could not host a gathering in my home because my situation was “too fresh” (i.e. COOTIES!, i.e. DIVORCE IS APPARENTLY CONTAGIOUS!)

Not cool.

Mike Foster of People of the Second Chance talks about how, when you come upon someone going through a hard time, you can either add to their shame bucket or you can add to their second-chance bucket.

Going through a divorce as a Christian woman who was a writer and speaker and who had worked at a church and led women’s ministry was high on the shame scale for me as is. My shame bucket was filled to the brim. In fact, I was dripping shame drops wherever I went.

This organization that took away two opportunities from me (to be clear, NOT so I could have time to rest and heal up, but simply because they didn’t want to deal with my messy reality) poured so much shame into my shame bucket that it overflowed.

I was this-close to walking away from ministry of all kinds.

But then I remembered an old friend of mine. She ran the local women’s shelter and I had volunteered for her organization in probably a half dozen ways over the prior fifteen years, and for some reason, I thought to reach out to her.

I wanted — no, I needed — to be doing something for someone else for just a little while. Anything really. I contacted her and I told her my current circumstances and I asked if there were anything she needed help with, even answering phones or filing, I think I said to her.

She said no.

I remember thinking I was about to experience strike three, and that if I were, I was done. I was going to bench myself, indefinitely.

She said that she didn’t need me to answer phones. But she suggested instead that I teach a class to her current residents, whatever I wanted to talk about…like relationships and faith and stuff.

Wait, what???

But I’m broken, I told her. My life is a mess. I’m in the middle of my huge pain. My situation is ‘too fresh’. What if the girls catch what I have? How can I teach them about relationships WHEN MINE IS ENDING? How can I teach them about faith when it feels a little bit like God has up and left me and I thought he’d for sure want to answer the prayer to save my marriage but he didn’t so that means I’m a bit lost?

She poured into my second-chance bucket before I knew what a second-chance bucket was. She said, in that offering, that I was not done. And not only was I not done, that there were people who believed I had something to offer right then and there, that there were people who were not going to make me wait until I was all healed up (whatever that even means) to “let” me serve.

She saved me that day. She saved me from walking away – maybe just in my heart a little bit – from Christian leaders, from people with authority, from church ministry, from trying to help people in general.

And she brought me healing. What that one organization did to me in branding me as unusable, my friend undid all of that and said, You matter. Come share what you’ve got with others. It’s enough…you’re enough, even today, in your mess.

And I did.

And it was beautiful.

Do you feel benched? If so, have you proclaimed that over your own life, or has someone else done it to you? If it’s you, ask God to reveal to you who you are right now and what you have to offer, and then be prepared to respond. If it’s others, take the words of shame that have been spoken over you and bring them to Jesus and to a trusted, gentle friend, and ask them both to speak to you words of truth and healing.

Or are you reading this and there is someone in your life right now who is walking around carrying shame, either for what she’s done or what’s been done to her, or from horrible words being said over her life? You have the power to pour into her second-chance bucket with tender words of mercy, grace and love. Be someone’s shame-breaker today.

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