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A Farmer is Healed of Shame and Restored to Community

In his novel Remembering, Wendell Berry tells the story of a Kentucky farmer named Andy Catlett. One warm summer evening, Andy and a group of neighbors are helping a younger farmer bring in a harvest of corn. Andy himself mans the corn harvesting machine.

At one point, the machine jams up and ends up drawing Andy’s right hand into its gears. In the confusion of the moment, Andy describes how he felt that he also had given his right hand to the corn harvester. Later, his wife asks him “What have you done to yourself?” With deep shame he replied: “I’ve ruined my hand.” Andy feels defective, and pushes away the very people that could help him heal and rebuild his life.

Andy Catlett eventually shared the shame of his hand injury with his fellow farmer Danny Branch. Berry's novel describes their relationship: “They learned how to work together, the one-handed old man and the two-handed. They know as one what the next move needs to be. They are not swift, but they don’t fumble. 'Between us,' says Danny Branch, 'we’ve got three hands. Everybody needs at least three. Nobody ever needed more.'"

Possible Preaching Angle:

In one way or another, many of us can relate with Andy’s battle with shame. We have our own version of the phrase “I’ve ruined my hand,” our own way of feeling defective, and our own community to hide from.

Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, “knew that they were naked.” As a result, they hid behind fig leaves to avoid the God who could heal them. But in his grace, God calls them out from their hiding, covers their shame with custom-made clothes, and restores them to community.

In Christ, our shame can be covered by Christ’s glory. We no longer need to keep up appearances, and therefore, no longer need to hide from our community. In fact, our vulnerability becomes a blessing to others.

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